Revisiting Trump’s Inauguration Speech on the Shutdown’s 34th Day

Let’s look at the America he promised and the America we got.

Photo illustration of Trump speaking, but the effect is shattered glass. Like he broke his promises.
Photo illustration by Slate. Photos by Alex Wong/Getty Images; photopsist/iStock/Getty Images Plus.

Two years ago this week, Donald Trump was sworn into office. His inaugural address on Jan. 21, 2017, painted a picture of America that was darker and more sinister than many of us had imagined. America, according to Trump that day, suffered from seething corruption in government, rampant criminality in the streets, and hopeless mistrust between its citizens.
For many of us, his description was an America we didn’t really recognize, a cesspool of greed and fear and hate. He also positioned himself as the man who would fix it.

Two years later, we are padlocked inside the longest shutdown in American history, with 800,000 federal workers who rely upon Trump’s government about to miss a second paycheck. Emergency food resources and domestic violence shelters are stretched beyond capacity. Air traffic controllers and pilots warn of horrifying risk for imminent crises. Members of the U.S. Coast Guard are now forced to get food from food pantries. Hundreds of federal workers protested Wednesday in the Senate, culminating in 12 arrests. Considering all of this, I decided to revisit the president’s speech to understand whether we’re closer or further from the apocalyptic vision he put forth in 2017.

Trump Inaugural 2017: On the work ahead

We will face challenges. We will confront hardships. But we will get the job done.

January 2019: The federal government has been partially shutdown for 34 days because Senate Republicans and Donald Trump will not negotiate its re-opening until he is given $5.7 billion for a border wall.

Trump inaugural 2017: On representative democracy

What truly matters is not which party controls our government, but whether our government is controlled by the people. January 20th 2017 will be remembered as the day the people became the rulers of this nation again. The forgotten men and women of our country will be forgotten no longer. Everyone is listening to you now.

January 2019: On the 34th day of the government shutdown, polling conducted by CBS News, finds that 71 percent of Americans “don’t think the issue of a border wall is worth a government shutdown, which they say is now having a negative impact on the country.”

Trump inaugural 2017: On corruption in government

Today we are not merely transferring power from one Administration to another, or from one party to another—but we are transferring power from Washington, D.C., and giving it back to you, the American People. For too long, a small group in our nation’s Capital has reaped the rewards of government while the people have borne the cost. Washington flourished—but the people did not share in its wealth. Politicians prospered—but the jobs left, and the factories closed. The establishment protected itself, but not the citizens of our country. Their victories have not been your victories; their triumphs have not been your triumphs; and while they celebrated in our nation’s capital, there was little to celebrate for struggling families all across our land.

January 2019: As the shutdown grinds on, Trump’s daughter Ivanka (a senior adviser to the president) has received five new trademarks from the Chinese government for child care centers, sunglasses, and wedding dresses. Meanwhile, President Trump is himself the subject of multiple ethics and corruption probes that focus on his use of his position to enrich himself and his brand, as are multiple current and former members of his administration and his family.

Trump inaugural 2017: On government

At the center of this movement is a crucial conviction: that a nation exists to serve its citizens.

January 2019: Nine out of 15 federal departments are closed, as well as dozens of agencies. The FDA is not doing routine inspections of seafood, fruits, vegetables, and other foods at high risk of contamination. Federal funding for food assistance programs for women, children, and infants, and those living on Native American reservations has been suspended. Workers at the FBI, the Drug Enforcement Administration, the Bureau of Prisons, Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard, and the Secret Service are working without pay, while warning of the acute danger of doing so.

The Violence Against Women Act, which supports resources for survivors of domestic violence expired last month. The 19 Smithsonian museums, and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, are closed and losing $1 million per week. The National Zoo is closed. Some national parks have closed, and some of the parks that remain open have suffered irreparable damage to wildlife and trees. Immigration courts have closed, forcing judges to postpone already backlogged hearings that had been scheduled months in advance. The Environmental Protection Agency has halted inspections of chemical factories, power plants, oil refineries, water treatment plants, and thousands of other industrial sites.

Trump inaugural 2017: On empathy

This American carnage stops right here and stops right now. We are one nation—and their pain is our pain. Their dreams are our dreams; and their success will be our success. We share one heart, one home, and one glorious destiny.

January 2019: Billionaire Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross claims he doesn’t understand why furloughed federal workers have to go to food banks to feed their families. Lara Trump says federal workers should tolerate “a little bit of pain, but it’s going to be for the future of our country.” White House economic adviser Kevin Hassett said furloughed federal workers who are not getting paid during the partial government shutdown are “better off” because they didn’t have to use up their vacation days.

Trump inaugural 2017: On restoring civility

At the bedrock of our politics will be a total allegiance to the United States of America, and through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other. When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice. The Bible tells us, “How good and pleasant it is when God’s people live together in unity.”

January 2019: Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger, a Republican, defended the morality of a border wall by saying, “Look, I have four walls around my house and they keep bad people out and critters out.” Hate crimes have increased by 17 percent in the past year, and according to the Anti-Defamation League’s latest “Murder and Extremism” report right-wing extremist murders in the U.S. hit a record high for the first time since 1995. Over 10,000 immigrant children have been held in custody at shelters across the nation, to deter migrants from entering the country. (Four lawsuits are proceeding against the Trump administration on their behalf.)

It was a pretty remarkable speech. But two short years later, Donald Trump hasn’t solved America’s problems. Today we live in a country in which government workers are forced to work without pay, then called “volunteers,” while others are sent home as non-essential. The economy is slowing down as a result of the shutdown, while Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin declines to testify about its economic impact. The government that should be caring for our most vulnerable and protecting us all has been shuttered to punish the opposing party for governance. He’s just made our problems more tangible and real.