In January 2017, Donald Trump was inaugurated president on the steps of the U.S. Capitol, and he spoke to thousands of his supporters in the form of his first inaugural address.
He talked about the problems he wanted to fix. He talked about his priorities. He most memorably talked about his “America First” perspective and lamented “American carnage,” which he said “stops right here and stops right now.”
ThinkProgress interviewed Trump supporters on Inauguration Day to find out what they hoped he would do.
Some said Trump was the last, best hope to change the country from broken politics, rising debt, and fears about immigration. Ronald Borta, of Warrenton, Virginia, said simply: “Anything has got to be better than this.” Dan Storch, from Saint Augustine, Florida, said he supported Trump “because he wants to start over, he wants to build a new America, a better America, a better political system.”
Others thought he needed to do what he could to bring people together. Alex Robinson, from Chicago, Illinois, said, “I think the first thing he needs to focus on is unifying the country.”
Two years later, how has this vision fared?
“American carnage stops right here”
Trump’s most famous line, “This American carnage stops right here and stops right now,” has not fared incredibly well. He spoke of “mothers and children trapped in poverty in our inner cities, rusted out factories, scattered like tombstones across the landscape of our nation, an education system flush with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge, and the crime, and the gangs, and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential.”
Has this “carnage” — urban poverty, a struggling education system, and criminal violence — been alleviated?
Since Trump became president, the poverty rate has virtually stagnated. There was no statistically significant drop in the nation’s official poverty rate from 2016 to 2017, according to U.S. Census Bureau figures.
One particular brand of American carnage is gun violence, which recently hit historic highs. Centers for Disease Control data released last month and analyzed by the gun violence news site The Trace showed that there were nearly 40,000 gun deaths in 2017, the highest absolute number in at least 50 years. Much of the increase was caused by suicides, but there were also several tragic mass shootings in 2017 and 2018, including Parkland and also the Vegas shooting, which was the most deadly in history. Trump’s administration has been quiet about policy responses to gun violence.
“New roads and high roads”
“We will bring new roads and high roads and bridges and tunnels and railways all across our wonderful nation,” Trump said.
The Trump administration failed to kick off so many alleged “infrastructure weeks” that it became a recurring joke to say that every week was infrastructure week. Finally, last February, the administration released a plan that would push 80 percent of the cost onto states and cities, which is much higher than in past years. The plan was dead on arrival in the GOP-controlled Congress.
“Bring back our dreams”
“We will bring back our jobs, we will bring back our borders, we will bring back our wealth, we will bring back our dreams,” Trump promised.
In the last two years, Trump has taken credit for the rising economy. In fact, manufacturing jobs in America have been rising since 2010 — a rate of increase that has remained consistent since Trump took office. The coal industry, however, which Trump pledged to revitalize, saw more mines close in his first two years than Obama’s entire first term. Farmers have also taken the brunt of Trump’s trade war with China — soybean exports have dropped 98 percent in 2018.
“No room for prejudice”
“When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice,” Trump said.
The growth of far-right extremism has been increasing for years, even under President Barack Obama, but it grew exponentially after Trump became president. So has far-right violence. Trump’s family separation policy, Muslim ban, comments describing countries in Africa “shithole countries,” and attempts to curtail voting rights are also examples of his administration making plenty of room for prejudice. The president has encouraged supporters to call themselves nationalists, even apart from the usual trade protectionist framing in which that term is used in normal speech. Trump’s “both sides” response to the 2017 violence in Charlottesville earned him praise from white supremacists.
“Education system flushed with cash”
Trump lamented “an education system flushed with cash, but which leaves our young and beautiful students deprived of all knowledge.” Yet in each of Trump’s budget proposals since he was inaugurated, his administration has attempted to cut the Education Department’s funding. Congress refused to accept the cuts and instead increased funding each year to earn Democratic support.
In the first two years of the Trump administration, public education has been deprioritized in favor of for-profit schools. Betsy DeVos, Trump’s education secretary, has made great strides in helping for-profit schools instead of the students they so often defraud. In September, a judge ruled that her attempt to delay a rule protecting defrauded students was “arbitrary and capricious.”
“Never be ignored again”
Trump concluded his address with an assertion that “all Americans, in every city near and far, small and large, from mountain to mountain, and from ocean to ocean” would “never be ignored again.” But after two years in which the president has focused exclusively on pleasing his most ardent supporters while castigating everyone else, this assertion is less an inclusive invitation to all Americans and more a nod to the “forgotten man” from his campaign speeches.
Borta, the Trump supporter from Virginia who ThinkProgress interviewed at the inauguration, said “most politicians come in with a huge number of promises and end up doing almost nothing, so if he does a tiny little bit on his first day, that’ll be a vast improvement.”