Leader comment: Trump plays the patriotism card

US President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in as President on January at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
US President-elect Donald Trump is sworn in as President on January at the US Capitol in Washington, DC. Picture: AFP/Getty Images
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So remote looked the prospect of a Donald Trump presidency for much of last year that yesterday’s inauguration had an almost surreal quality.

A man frequently reduced to nothing more than a spray-tanned caricature by his opponents in the months leading up to November’s election is now officially the US Commander in Chief.

Just as with the referendum on European Union membership, there are those who look set never to accept the result of the most incredible vote in living memory. But the time for wailing and gnashing of teeth is now over and the world must work with President Trump.

It will not be an easy task. Mr Trump stood on a platform of Making America Great Again and there were plenty of indications in his meandering inauguration address of what that might mean in practice.

He promised protectionism and warned foreign powers which had in the past “ravaged” the American economy, stealing jobs and leaving hopelessness and despair in their place. He spoke of closed factories which dot America’s rust belt states like “tombstones”, a failing education system and cities plagued by drugs and gang violence.

Aside from one extraordinary press conference dominated by lurid allegations of what may or may not have happened in a Moscow hotel room, Mr Trump has sought to strike a conciliatory tone since his election two months ago.

He has strived to appear more measured, more statesmanlike and less keen to employ the sort of straight-talking rhetoric that won him the top job.

But for those hoping President Trump will bear little resemblance to candidate Trump, there was plenty to be anxious about in yesterday’s 15-minute speech.

There was no mention of “crooked Hillary” or an explicit promise to “drain the swamp”, but there was enough to worry the established order in Washington DC and other world capitals.

It is those left behind by globalisation – described yesterday by the new president as the “forgotten men and women” of America – who secured Mr Trump the White House.

Mr Trump has been given a mandate by those who feel disenfranchised and cut off from the successes of the American economy.

It would be folly for him to simply turn his back on those who have secured him the world’s most powerful job and that means things will have to change, for better or for worse.

In an attempt to appear a unifying figure, Mr Trump spoke of protecting the hopes and dreams of children from the “urban sprawl in Detroit to the windswept plains of Nebraska”.

He said that while Americans must speak their minds openly and disagree honestly, they must always pursue solidarity.

That will be no easy task as he inherits a country which looks more divided than at any point in the last 20 years.

The new president has a huge job on his hands – for all our sakes, we wish him well.