Trump’s inaugural was instructive in this way: America has chosen a man for whom traditions and norms mean nothing (less than nothing when he finds them constraining). He used the center stage of American public life to belittle nearly everyone seated around him. They have “reaped the rewards of government,” prospered at the expense of the people, celebrated while families struggled, and are “all talk and no action.”
These, of course, are the only people who can take action — legislative action — after the Obama-era executive orders get rescinded. Trump certainly did not appeal to members of Congress for help. So he must be counting on “the people” to intimidate their representatives into supporting the Trump agenda. I wonder, for example, how Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell might respond to this pressure tactic, particularly after being treated to Trump’s rhetorical version of the Red Wedding on the West Front of the Capitol. (Non-“Game of Thrones” fans will need to look this up.)
Though I doubt the inspiration is conscious, Trump’s inaugural address owes a great deal to philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau (or at least one interpretation of him). Rousseau wrote of leaders who incarnate “the general will.” Trump argues that the American people have been betrayed by the venal people they elect and reelect. Because the normal processes of democracy have been corrupted, bringing America to the brink of ruin, a strong hand is required.
In Trump’s speech, there are just two uncorrupted actors: the people and the president.