CHULAK: To ‘Make America Great Again,’ Trump must unify nation

Opinions Column: The Hard Truth

On Jan. 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States — but if anyone thought that Trump’s inaugural address would be a contrast to the controversial and divisive rhetoric of the campaign, they were mistaken. He continued to bash the political establishment on both sides of the aisle and promised to restore power to the American people. He launched attacks on the establishment because they have “reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost” and described the United States as a broken system teeming with poverty, crime and hopelessness. Trump painted a bleak image of our country, all while presenting no clear solutions to any of these problems. Trump claims to be the change America needs in Washington, D.C. because he will “drain the swamp” and not represent the political and financial elite. But based on his cabinet nominees, it's clear that Trump has no intention of draining the swamp, but rather expanding it.

As last week's confirmation hearings concluded, many of Trump’s cabinet nominees failed to clarify the potential conflicts of interest they will bring into the new administration. Rex Tillerson, outgoing CEO of the energy conglomerate ExxonMobil and the nomination for secretary of state, has been criticized for his relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, who awarded him the Order of Friendship, a state decoration of the Russian Federation. Sen. Jeff Sessions (R-Ala.) has been nominated to be the attorney general. Sessions has received sharp criticism for allegations of racism and was even denied a federal judgeship earlier in his career. The Republican senator has also waged war on immigrant, LGBTQ and minority communities his entire career. Betsy DeVos, Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Education, is a billionaire who has done nothing for underfunded public schools, and has advocated for the expansion of privately run, but publicly funded, charter schools. Georgia State Rep. Tom Price (R-6) was nominated to be the secretary of health and human services. But, in congress, Price fought hard against former President Barack Obama’s most notable achievement, the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Price has said he would work to repeal the ACA, which would leave millions of Americans uninsured. Andrew Puzder, the former CEO of CKE Restaurants and a staunch opponent of minimum wage increases and labor regulations, has been appointed to U.S secretary of labor. Trump has also chosen Wilbur Ross, who has an estimated net worth of $2.9 million, for secretary of commerce, Steve Mnuchin, former partner of Goldman Sachs, for secretary of treasury and Linda McMahon, the former chief executive of World Wrestling Entertainment, to lead the Small Business Administration. If this is what an anti-establishment cabinet looks like, I am afraid to know what the establishment looks like.

Although Trump’s anti-establishment rhetoric may have worked on the campaign trail when he was running against former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, this will not work in the White House. Trump will continue to proclaim his disdain for the establishment, but whether he admits it or not, he is very much a part of that establishment. Trump is a billionaire real estate developer who used his wealth and influence to buy his way into the public view. Throughout the campaign, he attacked and degraded his opponents, who he often criticized for being ineffective and out of touch. The reality is that Trump is no different from the Washington establishment he claims to be taking on. Wealthy his entire life, Trump has never had to deal with the struggles of poverty or discrimination. He has never attended public school, taken out a loan for college or worked a minimum wage job.

While it is easy for the president to claim that he is going restore the power back into the hands of the people and assist them, it is far more difficult for him to give concrete policy proposals as to how he is going to do this. As we transition into a new administration with one of the most unpopular presidents in modern history, many wonder what can Trump do to earn the admiration and trust of the American people? If  Trump truly wants to be a champion for the working people, he must raise the federal minimum wage. If Trump wants to repeal and replace the ACA effectively, he must guarantee health care as a right for all people, not a privilege. If Trump truly wants America to be safer, he must condemn any discrimination and violence against women, people of color and LGBTQ communities. Trump has promised he will make America great again, but if he is going to honor his word he needs to be leader, not a divider.

Daniel Chulak is a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences junior majoring in environmental and business economics with a minor in German. His column, "The Hard Truth," runs on alternate Tuesdays.

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