Congressman Jeff Fortenberry

Representing the 1st District of Nebraska

Fort Report: The Wind-swept Plains of Nebraska

Jan 23, 2017
Fort Report

When presidents give their inaugural addresses, we are accustomed to lofty narratives, to visionary ideals, to sweeping language. President Trump spoke differently. The only sweeping thing in his speech was his reference to the wind-swept plains of Nebraska. Of course I perked up in my seat.

President Trump’s speech was a striking and direct call for a new healthy nationalism. He spoke to the people, about the people, and for the people. A certain awkwardness marked the beginning. Not only was his style confrontational from the outset, but it began to rain right as he started, creating an uncomfortable moment. Then all of a sudden the rain stopped, and his speech gained momentum. He discussed in the harshest terms some of the stark realities we are facing and how they might be resolved.

Defining problems is always the easiest task. Finding solutions is much harder. While the President’s speech lacked specifics in that regard, nonetheless there was power in the attempt to articulate an America lost to globalized supply side elitism, an America lost to drugs and crime, an America lost to systems that no longer serve all persons. It just seems that no matter how hard people work, they just cannot get ahead.

Our new President’s speech was similar in theme to his campaign, with a matured sense of gravity. It was an authoritative call for a new national unity for all, for the forgotten. The idea that America can do better—and will do better for everyone—was clearly conveyed. I recognize that the tone of the speech will not have universal appeal. It was to the point, direct, and firm. It was not a delicate, textured speech. But he was clear: “The American carnage stops right here and stops right now.”

We are witnessing a renewed focus on reviving America’s economy. The multinational corporations of the world are on notice: they cannot play both sides of the balance sheet, for us and against us, and that the benefits of exchange with us will have to be fair for all. Frankly, this creates the possibility for authentic relationship with peoples around the world, rather than a transactional one. If this objective can be achieved, it is a constructive change. A healthy American nationalism will lead to properly ordered international engagement: for our benefit and the benefit of others.

It should also be noted that the President spoke before the entirety of government, including the House of Representatives. The President’s authoritative style, communicating the desire to devolve power centers from Washington to Wall Street, interestingly repositions Congress to its appropriate role in governing society through the power of the people. It is statistically shown that the majority of Americans believe that it is the job of Congress to do whatever the President says. This is not true. Congress is an independent and coequal branch of government that makes the law, which is interpreted by the judiciary and enforced by the President. This balance of power has been out of balance for a hundred years—and perhaps now a realignment begins.

Whether you love President Trump or loath him, or whether you are some place in between with certain apprehensions but hoping your president succeeds, today was an extraordinary American day. We saw the successful and peaceful transfer of power.