He had already kept one of his campaign promises: Donald Trump had demanded a wall along the U.S./Mexican border, and even insisted that the Mexican government would build it. Sure enough, the moment Trump was elected president, hordes of Americans decided it was time to live elsewhere. Millions believed that the bitter cold made Canada uninhabitable, and they decided, instead, to head south. Suddenly, the border was flooded with “los ilegales” fleeing the United States. The Mexican government had no choice but to build a wall.
Construction was well underway by Friday, Jan. 20, 2017, as Donald John Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States. It was a singular triumph for a man who had to go to war with entrenched interests every step of the way. Not only did he take on the Democrats and their nominee, Hillary Clinton, but the big-money people in his own Republican party put up a ferocious fight against him. They considered him a loose cannon, since he loudly declared that he didn’t need them because he was so rich. Of course, he declared everything loudly, true or not. The masses of people who voted for him didn’t care whether he was bellowing fact or fiction; they were just angry, and now the president would be The Donald. His vice president would be The Carly.
Once he named Carly Fiorina as his running mate, Hillary Clinton had been easy. No matter how hard Hillary tried to convince voters that she was trustworthy, people didn’t believe her. The questions just wouldn’t go away. In part, that was due to the fact that her answers were so clumsy that they always left a hint of deception. Even by Inauguration Day, there still were unreleased emails.
Neither Trump nor Fiorina had a credibility problem. It didn’t matter that they’d blatantly lie; all their followers wanted was “plain talk” about complicated issues to assuage their fear of powerlessness. Donald Trump, in particular, had convinced them that nastiness was toughness, that facts were fiction.
They’ll be studying his campaign of hate tweets for a long time. While there certainly were precedents in other countries, never had a candidate for president of the United States so openly appealed to bigotry and ignorance, and won. He got off to a great ugly start, and his momentum just grew stronger. All he had to do was spew invective at minorities and combine that with simple-minded insults for anyone who dared question him, and he soared.
His supporters got bolder. A key moment came in Birmingham, Alabama, at a rally attended by thousands. When a black protestor tried to shout, all Trump had to exclaim was “Get him the hell out of here!” That was the signal for some in the audience to beat up the demonstrator. Trump’s take on it? “Maybe he should have been roughed up.”
He won easily, in large part because those who would vote for his opponents stayed home on Election Day, afraid they’d get roughed up themselves. The inaugural crowd was amazing, if you consider a sea of white faces amazing. Latinos and Muslims were not allowed; the only African American was Ben Carson, who would become secretary of state, which, after all, isn’t brain surgery.
The oath of office was administered by Ted Cruz, who would be taking over as Chief Justice as soon as President Trump disbanded the Supreme Court and appointed a new one. His address was remarkably short: “My fellow Americans,” he began, “I will be bombing the sh-t out of ISIS. But before that, I am suspending the Constitution. We don’t need it. Believe me.” He got thunderous applause, not only in Washington, but in Moscow, where Vladimir Putin was hugely impressed. Finally, he would be dealing with someone who understands him.
Bob Franken is a longtime broadcast journalist including 20 years at CNN