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Can wild card who tapped in to voter unrest deliver now?

By Claire Williamson

It was a day that America could never have anticipated - but it was a moment of history set to change the world forever.

Former reality TV star, billionaire and property tycoon Donald Trump tweeted "it all begins today" as he prepared to be sworn in as the 45th President of the United States.

It marked the culmination of an election which broke all conventions.

The 70-year-old was a key protagonist in one of the most divisive and sensational races to the White House. Both he and his opponent Hillary Clinton's campaigns were blighted by scandal and ridicule. But despite all this, Trump managed to tap into a growing sentiment of discontentment and dissatisfaction felt within the white working class.

He made grand promises and, while creating division with his inflammatory remarks, he managed to unite the "Trump movement".

I had a privileged front row seat at proceedings on the final week of the US election campaign as I travelled through Washington D.C., Richmond in Virginia and Detroit, Michigan.

Initially there were few who confidentially predicted Trump's victory - but it wasn't until I experienced a Trump rally for the first time that it became apparent just how much of a serious contender he was.

The vigour of the crowd was overwhelming, while the juxtaposition of one of America's wealthiest men being accepted as a man of the people, became and remains a solid part of his appeal.

Trump's supporters were passionate and engaged. So much so that on the eve of the election they queued from 6pm in order to see him at an event that wasn't scheduled to start until 11pm - Trump didn't make it to the stage until 12.30am - and the venue was packed. But despite his loyal followers, he goes into office with one of the lowest approval ratings of any incoming president in history, according to a poll by the Washington Post/ABC News.

I witnessed Trump transform from candidate to President-elect - where his language changed dramatically overnight. Gone were the provocative comments and instead his victory speech was measured and presidential.

But now, watching his first address as President, he appeared to once again speak directly to his supporters who won him his votes.

He painted a dystopian view of the America they live in, describing gangs, drugs, poverty and branding it "carnage".

In the next breath he promised that only he could lead them to the Utopia - which will have jobs, prosperity, unity and, of course, the catchphrase of his campaign - America being great again.

In order to keep the persona that his supporters identified with, he distanced himself from politicians, saying that they have "prospered" while America suffered.

The Washington Post observed that, from the beginning of the address, he had launched back in to the "populist" language of his rallies - in fact, they said it was more prominent here.

He strikingly said: "January 20th, 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again."

As he attacked the institutions, and even his own party, it was almost back to the initial stirring campaign rhetoric.

While Trump is undoubtedly an unpredictable wild card and his speeches appear sporadic, there is a common theme.

He tells the nation that he will fight for them "with every breath" in his body and be their voice. And for the most part they have no reason to doubt him - as Trump has nothing to lose in this.

One supporter during the campaign in Michigan said Trump was a "rich man who doesn't have to do this".

Just like the UK with the Brexit vote, America is taking a step into the unknown.

And, as political commentators have discussed this week, the problems facing a new leader are rarely products of their own actions. However, as Trump has promised that now is the time for action and not words, will he be able to bring to fruition his ambitious promises? Or will he become the very thing he has slated?

America's motto is "out of many, one" - the world awaits its chosen one's next move.

Belfast Telegraph


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