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Let’s not be surprised by Trump’s ineloquence, no matter how grating it is

It’s almost as if people were surprised that the man didn’t suddenly come out with some deep and thoughtful line of poetry

Peter Harrison

Published: Updated:

A lot of commentators have expressed their views about President Donald Trump, his inauguration speech and his lack of eloquence – but what were they expecting? Shakespeare?

It’s almost as if people were surprised that the man didn’t suddenly come out with some deep and thoughtful line of poetry. Of course if he had, the world would be calling him a phony, slamming him for being a liar in some way – although as I write this it appears we’ve already reached that stage for different reasons.

For what it is worth when I watched the inauguration speech I was somewhat perplexed. Like many I felt that I was watching some kind of point scoring exchange, more in keeping with a group of teenagers. All it seemed to lack was for Trump to turn to the former presidents and exclaim: “My policies are better than yours - so there…”

And yes, I do believe the reports that the number of people in attendance was significantly fewer than when Obama gave his first speech in 2009.

But no matter what the size of the crowd, it was a crowd of people who agreed with what he was saying. They were, after all, the same people who attended his campaign trail rallies, in which supporters were encouraged to attack those who dared to speak out against him and his fans.

Democracy being what it is, President Trump gets to stay in office for at least four years, unless he does something terrible enough to get him impeached. If he is to be removed after just one term in office, then a convincing alternative is needed.

The people who voted for Trump believe that they have gone unheard and unrepresented for years – that’s despite the well documented improvement in the US economy, the fall in unemployment and narrowing in the gap between the haves and have nots, as well as the fall in crime.

The facts are there and usually would be indisputable – but disputed they are. It seems the progress made in the US since 2008, when it was sinking deep into the bowels of one of the worse recessions in recent history, counts for very little among those who voted Trump.

Those voters were apparently of the belief that the US has fallen into a state of ruin in which gangsters rule the streets. A state of ruin where the ordinary people go unheard.

It seems the progress made in the US since 2008, when it was sinking deep into the bowels of one of the worse recessions in recent history, counts for very little among those who voted Trump

Peter Harrison

Learning to relate, or at least listen

Trump’s hardcore supporters will likely remain as such unless a viable alternative is provided. That alternative will have to be someone they can relate to - or at least, if not relate, someone they can trust to be considerate when addressing their needs.

The problem is that right now I don’t see that happening. Right now the moderates are busy mocking Trump for his ineloquent speeches, mocking his team for their lies and mocking his supporters for their apparent low intelligence and tattoos. The moderate middle classes are currently in a state of point scoring and smug “I told you sos” at every given gaffe that comes from the presidential camp.

It’s important to let people know why it matters that the press ask difficult questions - it’s part of the democratic process. It’s also important to highlight the inconsistencies when we in the media are lied to by the very same people who accuse us of writing false news.

But this group of people – the apparently disenfranchised – are not going to be convinced by a group of the middle classes criticizing them and/or Trump for the way they speak. This argument is not going to be won by patronizing people and making them feel inferior.

We’ve entered uncertain times both in America and across the wider world. The discussion about environmental issues has taken a massive blow with climate change deniers now holding office. And poor nations are likely to be left even further behind as the supposed developed world argues among itself about who should help more (or less). I don’t believe the global society is over – but it does seem to be in a state of disarray at present.

The moderates need to regroup, rethink and come up with something that convinces the voters they are the ones to lead in this new world order. Four years might seem a long way ahead, but if they are to succeed in overthrowing Trump at the ballot box they need to start now.

And we all need to come to terms with the fact that deep meaningful speeches from the US president are – at least for now – a thing of the past. Trump might not be a poet, eloquent, honest, or in the slightest bit considerate to those who don’t agree with him – but clearly there’s something people like about him – otherwise I wouldn’t feel the need to be writing this.
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Peter Harrison is a British photojournalist whose career spans three decades, working for print, digital and broadcast media in the UK and the UAE. He's covered a broad spectrum of subjects, from health issues and farming in England, to the refugee crisis in Lebanon and the war in Afghanistan. He is a senior editor with Al Arabiya English.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.