100 Days of Trump: A tale of two countries

Richard Chambers considers what he's learned during his time in the US

100 Days of Trump: A tale of two countries

100 Days of Trump

In the end, the tears speak the loudest.

Whether it be Mexican immigrant Carmen Zuvieta, inconsolable at the thought of other families being broken apart by Donald Trump’s deportation plan; 85-year-old retiree Richie Check dabbing tears as he dismisses the President’s promise to bring back the glory days of his beloved Bethlehem Steel; or the silent sobs of ‘John’ as he recounts the pain of missed funerals and weddings back in Ireland after 17 years of living illegally on the East Coast - sorrow and fear isn’t hard to find after 100 days of Trump.

Many of the most ardent supporters of the 45th President will greet their sadness with a scoffed “good” or a “tough.”

So far, Donald Trump has shown a ruthlessness in the face of stories like these ones. That fact isn’t just accepted by supporters of the 45th President - it's celebrated.

That’s left us at a point where two Americas exist. Typing under the cherry blossoms of the Tidal Basin in Washington DC feels very different to the dust roads and strip malls of deepest Texas.

The President’s predecessor, Barack Obama, once appealed to his countrymen to unify and show they are more than a collection of red and blue states. It’s cliched to say at this point, but that goal has never been further from realisation.

We are now living in the days of the 'Great American Identity Crisis', where the things that separate most Americans are now more important to them than the matters that bring them together.

Fear and anger in Rust Belt America

Nowhere was that contrast more apparent than in the Rust Belt of Pennsylvania, where the loss of coal and steel jobs in recent years was a major touchstone for disillusioned people willing to ‘Make America Great Again’.

Motivated by fear and anger, the Trump supporters there have an insatiable appetite to dish out some beatings and humiliation.

This is the antidote, they feel, to the shame they’ve felt at loss after loss for years on end.

When your factory closes and relocates to Mexico, the Trump supporter will roar with visceral blood-lust for a wall (and of course the Mexicans will have to pay for it). 

It's the angry, clenched fist of America striking back at a world it feels has done it a disservice.

Donald Trump’s constant campaign of anger, which he has carried through to the White House, managed to capture the hopes of this section of society. 

Whether it’s calling out neighbouring countries on Twitter, the tiresome tirades against ‘fake news’ organisations and critical coverage, or endless attacks on Democrats, this anger speaks directly to a huge part of America.

The problem with anger is that it’s a volatile bedfellow. The promise to restore their pride and re-open the factories, mines and mills that used to be the centre of these communities is a tall order. The failure to deliver upon it could spell disaster both for the American economy and the rookie President.

Can Trump maintain support?

Already, those in the know are starting to cast doubt on Trump’s ability to deliver.

“What it will take to bring coal back is a national energy plan”, says Ed Yankovich of the United Mine Workers of America, “and the Republicans in Congress are never going to agree to that… I guess they (industry workers) were hoodwinked. What this guy did was serially-lied. He’s a business man. He had to know. He had to know better.”

But despite this, coal and steel communities are not likely turn their backs on Trump, at least in the short term.

From speaking to hundreds of voters who gave the Republican a chance in November, there is a remarkable willingness in many to excuse failures to deliver on key pledges.

Whether it be dumping NAFTA (‘the worst trade deal ever’, no less), ‘staying out’ of Syria, or labelling China a currency manipulator, the US President has completely turned his back on a number of key campaign objectives.

This doesn’t seem to matter a jot to the most fervent of ‘Trumpers’. They are ready to blame the Republicans in Congress (particularly Speaker Paul Ryan), the media, or just about anyone else but their guy.

One wonders how long this will last.

One of the most Trumpian catchphrases the President used on the campaign trail was that America would ‘win’ so much its people ‘will get tired of winning’. I’m not sure there’s even been so much as a yawn yet.

The ‘other’ America is where the change is happening. And it’s not pretty.

An opposition?

The fear that has gripped migrants of all backgrounds, whether they be undocumented Mexicans, Irish or Honduran or refugees fleeing the bloodshed of Syria, is very real. We have already seen families broken and Irish people, working and paying tax in the US for decades, now considering fleeing back to our country. This is not the America they came to.

The problem for this moderate and liberal America is the lack of new leadership.

Hillary Clinton, despite her defeat in November and previously losing a Democratic race, hasn’t stepped off the playing field to allow a new generation of leaders to come through.

Perhaps there is a reason for that. Who is that leader?

Many names have already been mentioned as potential challengers for 2020 (Bernie, Liz Warren, Cory Brooker to name the top three), but none of them have been able to consistently tackle the President on issues he should be very vulnerable on.

It’s important for both of these two Americas and the accountability of the office of President that someone finds a voice and finds it soon. 

This might read like a depressing citation of the Land of The Free, but America didn’t end in November 2016. The hopeful spirit of opportunity is still as deep as ever.

The problem for America is that the u-turns, the policies of division, and exclusion damage its ability to be a defining voice on the world stage. The uncertainty of their once ‘perfect Union’ is chilling at a time when the world is crying out for its leadership.

Will Trump’s next 1,360-odd days do more to deliver American unity in a dangerous world than his first 100? He, and the rest of the world, must certainly hope so.