Professors from Vanderbilt University can comment on various facets of the inauguration of President-elect Donald Trump on Jan. 20.
Protests at inauguration could exceed those of 1969 against Nixon
Tom Schwartz, professor of history, says that the number of protesters at the Trump inaugural could be unprecedented, in particular the amount of female protesters motivated by Trump tweets and statements they believe to be sexist.
“In 1969 the protestors were loud and disruptive, but they weren’t that numerous,” Schwartz says. “It reflected the intense polarization of those years because of the Vietnam War and Nixon himself, who was widely disliked and distrusted as ‘Tricky Dick.’
“Like Nixon, Trump frequently appeals to the ‘silent majority’ or ‘middle America’ against the elites,” Schwartz says. “That portends a presidency that will seek to govern more by dividing and pitting groups against each other rather than a more unifying strategy. The thing to remember is that it might work—Nixon was re-elected with 60 percent of the vote.”
Managing the federal bureaucracy is a mammoth task
David E. Lewis, William R. Kenan Jr. Professor of Political Science and chair of the department, says Trump seems unaware of one of the mammoth tasks he’ll soon have—managing a $4 trillion budget.
“The president-elect’s public statements suggest he neither understands the budgetary nor management challenges confronting the next president,” Lewis says. “The new president has to take control of a $4 trillion budget that is woefully and structurally out of balance and must provide funds for his stated priorities such as immigration and defense.”
Trump’s first budget is due to Congress in early February. About 2.8 million civilian employees working in hundreds of agencies—each with its own history, problems, and responsibilities—will be impacted by the budget.
“This is like the president-elect being hired to take over not just one business but 200 all at the same time,” Lewis says. “Failures in these areas have the potential to derail his agenda and limit our ability to respond to potential crises.”
Will Trump give a conventional inauguration address?
Vanessa Beasley, dean of The Martha Rivers Ingram Commons and associate professor of communication studies, says that the inaugural address is always a unique rhetorical opportunity for new presidents, who must balance the needs of uniting a post-election and divided nation with articulating a distinctive vision for moving the nation forward.
“Above all other forms of presidential discourse, this is a speech in which a new chief executive is expected to follow institutional traditions,” Beasley says. “The occasion itself is marked by key historical precedents and institutional norms that must be acknowledged; to deviate too much from them would raise questions for any new president about whether or not this person understands this job.
“Given the nature of many of Trump’s past oratorical performances as a candidate, it will be fascinating to note the extent to which he follows—or breaks from—the foundational rhetorical traditions at the heart of this speech.”
How many of his promises can Trump implement?
John Geer, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of Political Science and co-director of the Center for the Study of Democratic Institutions, can speak about the fate of the promises Trump made during the campaign.
The long list of promises includes building a wall on the Mexican border, deporting undocumented workers, replacing the Affordable Care Act with a Republican-approved health care delivery system and reviving the coal industry.
Trump’s ‘outsider’ status could shift more power to Congress
Dana Nelson, Gertrude Conaway Vanderbilt Professor of English and American Studies, says the fact that Donald Trump is not a Washington insider is likely to provoke more checks from Congress on his executive actions.
“Unlike Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, Trump is viewed as an ‘outsider’ by those in Congress,” Nelson says. “While the GOP lawmakers will certainly work with him, they will be alert to any executive overreach. I think he’s going to be the target of more ‘checks’ by the legislative branch than other recent presidents.”