Americans must hold Trump to high presidential standards


Photo Courtesy of Lily Katz

Trump supporters gather in the Courtyard Cafe at the Illini Union to watch the inauguration of the 45th President of the United States, Donald Trump. Columnist Isabella Winkler believes it is crucial to stay critical of the nation’s leaders.

By Isabella Winkler, Columnist

I felt a sinking feeling finally hit me while watching the Obamas bid farewell to the nation during President Donald Trump’s inauguration on Friday.

I realized that the rhetoric Trump has been spewing for the last two years is no longer just rhetoric. What used to be uncertain about the future is now happening — Trump’s promises are no longer empty.

The hardest part is not only adjusting to a new president who is so far-removed from reality, but moving forward as a nation seemingly more divided than during any other recent presidency. Even through the obstructionism and filibustering that pained Barack Obama’s administration, the nation never seemed this disconnected.

What we can learn from Obama’s presidency is how to be critical of who we trust to lead our country. While Obama was a hero for many, he wasn’t perfect and didn’t fulfill all of his endless promises. But the vile criticism he received had less to do with his accomplishments and more with partisan gamesmanship. President Trump even claimed that there would never again be a black president after Obama.

Underneath the blatant racism and desperate analysis of his every move, there was absolutely legitimate criticism. The Affordable Care Act had downfalls, Obama left his climate legacy potentially reversible and some Chicagoans felt he did not deserve to pat himself on that back for his work in inner-cities.

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It is possible to like and support the president while still being critical of him. Jumping to his defense when he rants on Twitter or admits to sexual assault is not productive for the common cause. Even more, his inconsistent views that changed throughout the course of his campaign need to be kept in check.

We can expect our new president not to be as graceful in accepting criticism, as proven by his juvenile deflection of every rumor about him on Twitter, but it is important to criticize what actually matters. Just as it was important to do for Obama, we must focus on Trump’s real strengths and weaknesses.

President Trump’s followers have proven to be loyal under any circumstances, which makes it seem they won’t hold him to a high standard during his presidency. If people truly think that Trump will make America great again, then they must hold him accountable to fulfill that promise.

A common theme in his campaign was taking strong, extreme stances and then reverting back to moderate rhetoric. For example, he flip-flopped his initial claim that he would dismantle environmental agreements when he said he did see the connection between human behavior and climate change and would keep an open mind about the Paris agreement. But one of his first acts as president was announcing an end to Obama’s climate and pollution regulations.

He also described his relationship with Vladimir Putin in 2014, saying that he “spoke, indirectly and directly, with President Putin, who could not have been nicer.” In August of last year, he claimed to have never met Putin

His promise to “drain the swamp,” a catchline that caught on with his fans, was also left unfulfilled: A big chunk of his cabinet has sat on boards for companies that spent millions on lobbying combined. Most concerning is his Secretary of State pick Rex Tillerson, whose ties to ExxonMobil and history of lobbying the government are pretty swamp-ish.

Sunday morning, Kellyanne Conway revealed that President Trump will not be releasing his tax returns, an issue that was much debated during his campaign. In September, Vice President Mike Pence released his own returns and assured that President Trump would be doing the same. Not only is his failure to release his tax returns dishonest, it raises concerns about his alternative priorities or agendas. 

His inconsistencies are alarming not only because they demonstrate the wandering course he has taken to become president, but they also showcase his lack of knowledge on important issues. He just says what he thinks other conservatives want to hear and hopes it will stick.

Calling out Trump’s contradictions is critical moving forward. While his supporters remain convinced that he is our savior, the truth is that his unpredictability is no asset to the country. Just as concerned citizens helped keep Obama in check, we mustn’t let ourselves blindly follow President Trump — his supporters included.

Isabella is a sophomore in ACES.

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