3 things to watch for in Trump's inauguration speech
© Getty Images

For months and months, people have analyzed Donald TrumpDonald John TrumpWith VP pick, Biden can't play small ball in a long ball world Coronavirus hits defense contractor jobs Wake up America, your country doesn't value your life MORE’s style and tone and argued that a change was coming. Wait until the general, they said. Wait until after the election, they said. Wait until the inauguration, they said. We’ve watched and watched, waited and waited, and in his first press conference since being elected we were met with more of the same. Yes, Donald Trump the candidate is Donald Trump the president-elect…and will likely be Donald Trump the president.

ADVERTISEMENT

But alas, we will ask one more time (with eyes closed and fingers crossed) as Inauguration Day quickly approaches: will he match his tone to the office he’s about to occupy? For a man who has said repeatedly that he wants to be a “president for all Americans,” his pathway to achieving that goal is rocky at best.

 

If we’ve learned one thing during Trump’s campaign for and transition to the Oval Office, it’s to expect the unexpected.

Here are 3 things to watch for as Donald Trump takes the oath of office on Jan. 20:

1. Trump’s response to criticism

We’ve watched Trump respond to criticism for months, most notably via Twitter. However, Inauguration weekend is shaping up to be Trump vs. #NeverTrump on steroids. Not only have keynotes and celebrities started a boycott, but President Obama announced he will criticize Trump. This is a shocking break of protocol from past presidents and certainly won’t help to "unify" -- something Obama claimed he wanted to do in last week’s farewell address.

Further, we anticipate dozens of protests (hopefully not violent or hostile) on the National Mall, including the "Million Women March," which plans to vocally oppose VP-elect Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceNew York Times defends reporter after Trump swipe: Her 'reporting has stood the test of time' Trump approves disaster declaration for Michigan despite sparring with state's governor Trump digs in on criticism of Democratic governors MORE’s strong pro-life stance.

How will Trump respond to this hostility in a live setting? He’s caught between his supporters who cheer the bullying and the rest of the country who wishes he’d practice self-control. We’re guessing it will be too cold to tweet without gloves, so we’ll watch and listen for a response in his prepared remarks as well as his pre and post interviews. 

2. Trump’s main message

The bread and butter of Trump’s campaign message spoke to the segment of America sick and tired of Obama’s leftward movement over the past eight years. He gave voice to their anger and painted a doom and gloom picture of what they’ve experienced with the promise to “Make America Great Again.” 

Focusing on what’s wrong with America got him elected, but will his message on Inauguration Day be hopeful and forward-thinking? Will he give his own version of “a shining city on a hill” to unify all Americans, those who voted for him and those who didn’t?

Trump made shifts after the primary in anticipation of the general, backing off and modifying some of his promises. And we’ve seen more of the same since his election. If met with criticism and protests, will he continue this movement in his inaugural speech? Will we watch as he distances himself further from his hardline campaign promises? If so, what issues will Trump address and how? 

Something to notice will be his use of personal examples and stories about how his vision can “Make America Great Again.” Since Trump has little policy experience, his message will be more effective if he can tout his business experience and "show" more than "tell" exactly how he plans to reform.

3. Trump’s audience

Trump’s audience on Jan. 20 will be completely different than his campaign trail and victory tour audiences - largely center-right, tired of Washington and the Establishment. He knows how to speak to and about these people, and he hasn’t strayed from home base because there hasn’t been a need. Now there’s a need.

His inaugural audience will include the country and the world, set against a city that overwhelmingly voted for his opponent. How will Trump find common ground with the people who didn’t vote for him in November and don’t support him now? Will he bite his tongue and take the high road? Will the seriousness of the office he’s about to occupy finally take hold?

4. (Bonus!) Trump’s hair

If it’s windy, we can expect quite a treat. Although he probably uses tremendous amounts of hairspray by the best brand in the biz, so…

There’s a lot to notice, which is maybe overwhelming. Let’s consider the big picture – will we be greeted by a different, more serious and thoughtful, Donald Trump on Inauguration Day? If so, how will that change be evident – in his reaction to protestors, the message he delivers, and/or the impression of the audience? No matter what, it’ll be a show worthy of social media posts for days. Grab the popcorn, an Urban Dictionary (“bigly” anyone?), and live it up. President Donald Trump is here to stay … for at least the next 4 years.

Beverly Hallberg is the president and founder of District Media Group where she conducts media training for members of Congress, CEOs, policy wonks, and politicos. She is also a visiting fellow in communications at The Heritage Foundation and 2016 winner of the William F. Buckley Award.


The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.