Trump inherits a polarized nation


Max Goldberg/Iowa State Daily

President-elect Donald Trump smiles as he takes the stage during a rally as part of his USA Thank You Tour, in Des Moines during the evening of Dec. 8. Trump spoke about the general election, how he would repeal Obamacare, bring jobs back to the US, and reform care for veterans. 

Chris Anderson

Donald Trump will swear on Friday to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, officially becoming the 45th president of the United States of America. What to many was a long-shot, idealistic dream or even worst nightmare will become reality at noon in Washington, D.C.

Trump has had perhaps one of the most unorthodox political journeys a president has had to date. His journey reflects exactly who he is and the spirit he has promised to bring to the Capitol: that of a political outsider.

Steffen Schmidt, political science professor at Iowa State, believes Trump may have trouble adjusting to the political landscape of Washington.

“The most unusual thing is that we’ve never had, or hardly in history, a president who didn’t have experience in the public sector,” Schmidt said. “It’s very unusual to have someone who’s used to giving orders in a family business and having them carried out and controlling everything in their economic and social environment. That’s not how the public sector works.”

Schmidt said so far, Trump has been successful in doing and saying things presidents normally can’t get away with. Whether this will carry over to his actual presidency remains to be seen.

One problem Trump could run into early during his presidency is that of low public support. Although it became evident by Trump’s upset victory last November that polls can be wrong, current polling data shows Trump has the lowest approval rating of all recent first-term presidents taking office.

According to Gallup polls, 40 percent of Americans hold a favorable opinion of Trump, compared to the 78 percent Obama had in 2009 before taking office.

Schmidt said low approval ratings can be detrimental because Congress pays attention to those numbers.

Schmidt also said serious issues with approval ratings could have damaging impacts on Trump’s ability to keep congressional Republicans on his side due to their fears of their own electability.

“Republicans are saying, ‘If we jump into bed with Donald Trump on everything, it could drag us down’,” Schmidt said.

That being said, Schmidt noted it that was clear Trump touched a raw nerve in many voters pertaining to their dissatisfaction with the current establishment.

Republicans, with Donald Trump at the top of their ticket, swept the 2016 elections and are now in control of Congress and the presidency. They also will have a good chance to control the Supreme Court in the future.

“There’s going to a completely different perspective in the Republican administration to what Obama has been doing for the last 8 years,” Schmidt said.

As president, Trump will be responsible for appointing leaders of various federal agencies. Trump’s appointee for secretary of education, Betsy DeVos, may have influence over social environments at schools like Iowa State.

“There is really going to be a lot of changes in things related to education, related to diversity, related to affirmative action,” Schmidt said.

As head of the Department of Education, Devos would hold influence over funding to public universities and regulations concerning them. Schmidt believes in the coming years, there will be a push back on the atmosphere of political correctness and diversity seen at schools like Iowa State.

Schmidt said Trump’s willingness, or lack thereof, to heal the wounds he created during the election could be what defines his legacy as president.

Trump’s rhetoric has been what some might call inflammatory and has definitely angered some groups, one being his former opponents. Schmidt said Trump may run into problems with is his political opponents from the Republican Primary, including Marco Rubio or Ted Cruz.

But Schmidt said Trump is seeing even bigger problems within the opposing party.

“Democrats, they’re giving [Trump] the finger in a way I’ve never seen before,” Schmidt said.

So far, more than 50 congressional Democrats have vowed to “boycott” Trump’s inauguration, which Schmidt said is unprecedented.

Another group Trump could see problems with is the media. Trump has criticized the media numerous times during his campaign for biased reporting and allegations of “fake news.”

“To have pissed off so much of the media, it’s got to come back to bite him,” Schmidt said.

Gavin Aronsen, graduate teaching assistant in journalism and mass communication at Iowa State, traveled to Washington, D.C., to experience and report on Trump’s Inauguration. Aronsen is reporting for the Iowa Informer, an alternative media source he helped create.

“It’s really unprecedented for modern American history when you and your cabinet picks aren’t inspiring a lot of hope,” Aronsen said. “A lot of these people are unqualified to put it lightly.”

Aronsen, through his reporting experience and those he has worked with, has developed a view of Trump similar to that of someone deeply troubled by the character of our next president.

“He’s shown who he is, he’s the same person he’s been his whole life,” Aronsen said. “He’s for decades been a thick-skinned, narcissistic man who seeks validation. I think based on his campaign, there’s no indication he will act any differently.”

To Aronsen, the silver lining in Trump’s presidency is the journalistic backlash against Trump’s persecution of the media. Aronsen cited evidence of donations to non-profit media rising and great investigative journalism in a world of “fake news.”

“I don’t know what will come of this when it comes to my reporting, but it’s a historic moment in American history,” Aronsen said. “It’s a very stark contrast [compared to Obama’s inauguration]. I think a lot of it is due to racial backlash against Obama, although not solely that.”

Austen Giles brings a more positive view of Trump’s America to the table. As the former president of ISU Students 4 Trump, he has been an outspoken supporter of Trump throughout his campaign.

Giles believes Trump will deliver on many of his campaign promises. To Giles, there are many things to be excited about during a Trump presidency.

“Economy improving, job stimulation, Supreme Court justice picks, border security, and honestly, the welfare of the nation,” Giles said when asked what excited him about a Trump presidency.

To Giles, Trump’s approval rating is a non-issue. Giles believes the rating may not be entirely accurate. But a challenge Trump could face is healing a polarized nation. Giles criticized Trump for his recent Twitter fights with Rep. John Lewis.

“This is a transition period he didn’t need to start a bunch of fights,” Giles said.

But Giles believes Trump will be able to work across the aisle and fix problems in the United States.

“If anyone knows how to make a deal and compromise, it’s gonna be him,” Giles said.

To Giles, Trump already has shown his dedication to “Make America Great Again.” Giles praised Trump on the return of factory jobs in the United States, including the Carrier deal in Indiana. Giles also was inspired by Trump’s decision to cut inauguration ceremonies short and get to work as soon as possible.

“It means he’s ready to work,” Giles said. “That’s a great work ethic, that’s a great mentality.”

The Trump Administration

Vice President Mike Pence

Mike Pence served as governor of Indiana before being chosen as Trump’s vice president. Pence is much more of a traditional conservative than Trump and helped to balance out Trump and garner traditional GOP voters during the campaign. Pence has described himself as “a Christian, a conservative and a Republican, in that order.”

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson

Rex Tillerson, much like Trump, has never held public office before. Tillerson’s foreign policy experience comes from his employment as CEO of ExxonMobil from 2006 to 2016. Tillerson has been criticized for his close business ties with Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions

Jeff Sessions has represented Alabama in the U.S. Senate since 1997. Sessions is considered to be one of the most conservative members of Trump’s cabinet and is in staunch opposition to controversial issues such as illegal immigration and marijuana legalization. Sessions is expected to carry out Trump’s ‘law and order’ message and to be tough on crime.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis

James Mattis is a retired U.S. Marine Corps general. In the past, Mattis has spoken out against Russia’s intent to break up NATO. This is in stark contrast with the views of Trump, who recently called NATO “obsolete.”

Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos

Betsy DeVos is the former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party. DeVos has been a strong supporter of the option of private or charter schools when it comes to education and is expected to support them. DeVos has been criticized by teacher unions and Democrats for allegedly trying to destroy public schools.

White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus

Reince Priebus served as Republican National Committee chairman during the 2016 elections in which Republicans gained the presidency and both houses of Congress. Preibus criticized Trump during his campaign for his inflammatory rhetoric, But he has also praised Trump numerous times, even calling him a role model.