Donald Trump was sworn in Friday afteroon as the 45th president of the United States. His presidency began right where his divisive campaign left off.
"We assembled here today are issuing a new decree to be heard in every city, in every foreign capital and in every hall of power," Trump said in his confrontational and deeply nationalistic inaugural address. "From this day forward, a new vision will govern our land. From this day forward, it's going to be only America first — America first."
He went on to frame his incoming presidency as a bulwark against the foreign influences that have allegedly decimated American morale and sucked the nation dry.
"We must protect our borders from the ravages of other countries making our products, stealing our companies and destroying our jobs," Trump said. "America will start winning again, winning like never before."
Trump interspersed vague platitudes like “no room for prejudice” with promises to turn inward from the world, all the while describing the U.S. as a wasteland rife with crime and violence.
"And the crime, and the gangs, and the drugs that have stolen too many lives and robbed our country of so much unrealized potential," he said. "This American carnage stops right here and stops right now."
The racial subtext was as clear in Trump’s address as it was at his Republican National Convention speech in July. He paired each reference to America’s ills with the alleged perpetrators — a cast of villains familiar to anyone who’s been following his rise, namely foreigners, Washington elites and inner-city (read: black) criminals.
Trump dashed any hope that he might temper his fearsome rhetoric as he matured into the presidency. This is the same Trump we’ve seen every day for the last year and a half. The same Trump who nominated nearly two dozen inept, underqualified and deeply callous corporate cronies to his Cabinet and whose hearings we watched unfold this past week.
This was a preview of the presidency Trump promised Americans they would get. But as the crowd in Washington cheered him on — a sea of white faces, many wearing Trump’s signature "Make America Great Again" hats — it became increasingly clear that the threat here is not just Trump and his Cabinet, but the complicity of an electorate that’s been willing to swallow his lies and applaud threatening stances. Fighting them will be the biggest challenge for many.
There’s no turning back now. Today, millions of Americans take solace in a different kind of hope than that which defined President Barack Obama’s swearing-in eight years ago — a hope that the incoming administration will perhaps permit us to survive it and won’t lay waste to American democracy itself in the president's rush to fuel his narcissism and fill his own pockets.
It’s a hope that will fight as hard as it can to sustain us for the next four to eight years. But if we’re being totally honest with ourselves, we have no idea how bad this is going to get.