Steve Murad and his wife, Ann, are from Grand Rapids, Michigan. Together with five of their six children, aged from one to nine, they are kitted out in matching red hoodies.
On the front of their hoodies is a picture of Donald Trump. On the back it says: “Trump is our president.”
They, like the rest of us, waited hours, on the west side of the Capitol, to watch Donald Trump claim the presidential office.
Murad says he’s there with his family to support Trump because he wants a president to take care of the people. “And I don’t want him to change his rhetoric.” Murad is drawn to the President’s black-and-white messages.
The big question at the inauguration was whether the thousands of people here are Trump people or Republicans. Being one doesn’t necessarily mean being the other in this new political order. Trump has shaken the country and the GOP to their core. On
the west front of the Capitol it’s clear enough that these are Trump people. Trump flags, Trump hats, Trump T-shirts and hoodies, Trump placards. This is the Trump movement descending to watch their man become the 45th President.
Trump didn’t disappoint them. Breaking more rules of political decorum, 45 delivers an inauguration address that upsets the elites but gratifies his supporters. This is no fake speech. It’s pure Trump.
Conservative commentator George Will says it’s a bad speech. Like others in the DC bubble, he would. The crowd around me disagrees. No bowing to the immediate past president from Trump as he points out what’s wrong with the country.
The cameras zero in on Michelle Obama looking decidedly grumpy. Hillary Clinton sits there, ashen. A hard day for her, arriving at the inauguration as the wife of former president Bill Clinton.
This is a speech for Trump’s supporters, not the Republican Party. We will bring back jobs, Trump says. Cheers rise. We will get people off welfare and back to work. Bigger cheers. We will protect our borders. Louder cheers around me. Buy American and hire American. American first, he says. The crowd roars. We don’t set to impose our values
on others, he said. But we will shine as an example and we will speak openly about the challenges of Islamic terrorism.
“That’s it,” responds the man behind me, as the crowd cheers.
I will never let you down. More roars.
When it’s over and Trump steps off democracy’s porch at the top of the Capitol, the national anthem plays. People stop and stand. “Hat off, Deegan,” Murad says to his eight-year-old son. And the hat comes off.
Later that day, a cab driver born in Afghanistan tells me he listened to Trump’s speech on the radio. He thought it was “awesome”. “You know the part I liked? Get people off welfare and back to work. And the other part? Change the power from Washington and hand it over to the people.”
That’s it. Get the economy working for the people and drain the swamp of power from DC to the people. Simple messages that delivered Trump the presidency.
Later that evening, at the Freedom Ball and the Liberty Ball, thousands and thousands of people are here for Trump. Our queue in the cold snakes around the block and back again, inching towards the entrance of the mammoth Walter E. Washington Convention centre. It’s chaos but everyone is excited. “In the south, we make our closest friends in queues,” a woman from North Georgia tells me.
By the time we arrive, some women in their fine gowns have already discarded their heels to save their feet, slingback heels swinging from their wrists. There’s not a Tom Ford frock in sight. He won’t dress Melania. So property businessman Steve Wynn, Trump’s friend, threw all his Ford pieces out the window. It’s understood that a few days earlier in New York a quiet boycott of Ford’s clothes was kicked off by a few Aussies.
Thousands and thousands of people wait, again for hours, to catch a glimpse of Trump. The military band plays. More champagnes are downed. But it’s hard to get to the bar. So many people you can’t move. The TV broadcasters have set up camp above the crowd. CNN’s Anderson Cooper is brave to be here as the crowd starts screaming “CNN fake news”. “CNN is bullshit!” shouts the twentysomething woman next to me — and much worse. When Fox News’s Sean Hannity stands up, the crowd cheers. When Fox’s newest addition Carlson Tucker turns to the crowd, more cheers.
And then the impatience sets in as the music continues. “Trump! Trump! Trump!” the crowd chants. The poor time-filling singer on stage says just a few more minutes as Trump is still at the sister Liberty Ball. Here at the Freedom Ball, the vibe is raucous. A woman near me rings her mother: “I couldn’t tell you I’m here, but I am!” A shy Trump voter maybe? Trump arrives; the crowd is mesmerised. He delivers the same messages. The roars rise up at all the right moments. And then he and the stunning first lady, Melania, dance to Frank Sinatra’s I did it my way. Up yours, Washington elites.
On the road back to New York next day, Rush Limbaugh’s on the radio. He’s talking about an advice column on PJ Media: “How to Talk Trump With Your Terrified Progressive Adult Children.”
He laughs. So do I. What a four years it’s going to be.
Originally published in The Australian