By Akosua K. Albritton
President-elect Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the 45th US President 12 noon, on Friday, January 20, 2017. His rise to political power was unforeseen by most American households. Millions enjoyed him as chairman of the board for The Apprentice, repackaged Celebrity Apprentice for 15 seasons. His televised demands for President Barack Obama to present his birth certificate probably startled many viewers but did not have people come to the conclusion Mr. Trump was challenging the President to a duel for the Presidential seat. But how would he win that duel with Mr. Barack Obama doing his second term in office?
Choosing a different path to victory, Donald Trump played on the emotions of those living in so-called America’s Heartland who saw their landscape go from green—land and cash—to rust. He stated he would build a wall to stretch across the US-Mexico border, close entry into the United States for Arabs, make the Japanese pay for their defense, and had some African-Americans cringe when hearing the slogan “Make America Great Again”. He even said he would prosecute Hillary Clinton. His promises, bravado, and political strategy paid off when he won the election from the votes of the Electoral College.
The “60 Minutes” audience studied Trump’s composed, thoughtful side, on November 13, 2016. A side many hadn’t seen since the days of Celebrity Apprentice. Ms. Stahl asked the President-elect would he carry out actions he stated on the campaign trail. Mr. Trump explained in so many words that he said and did what was necessary to win the election.
Since November 8, Trump has steadily selected people for his cabinet. He works from Trump Towers which has created traffic nightmares in midtown Manhattan. Traffic snarls disrupt commerce and industry. His current selections include Michael R. Pence, Vice-President; Reince Priebus, Chief of Staff; Stephen Bannon, Chief White House Strategist; Jefferson Sessions, Attorney General; Benjamin Carson, Housing and Urban Development Secretary; Hugh Thompson Rice, Health and Human Services Secretary; Elaine Chow, Transportation Secretary; and Betsy DeVos, Education Secretary with 14 seats still to be filled.
Is Donald Trump building The Cabinet that will make America great again? Is his vision of “greatness” the same as the vision held by an American living in a city, suburb, or village? Does his vision of “greatness” include panoramas for America’s diverse communities to enjoy? This writer contacted elected officials, college research centers, and professors for their assessment of how the pending administration and social justice agents are preparing for the next four years. St. Senator Kevin Parker (SD 21) and Chair of Medgar Evers College Public Administration Department Prof. Wallace Ford responded to the query.
Professor Ford was appointed Chair of the Public Administration Department on January 24, 2014. For the past decade, in addition to teaching at Medgar Evers College, Professor Ford has taught Masters of Public Administration and Masters of Business Administration candidates at Columbia University’s School of International and Public Affairs, Metropolitan College of New York’s School of Public Affairs, Pace University, John Jay College and La Universidad Externado (Colombia).
St. Senator Parker’s @senatorparker public service career is characterized by a commitment to a better New York. As the Special Assistant to former New York State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, Senator Parker managed intergovernmental relations in New York City, and was the liaison between the Comptroller; city, state, and federal elected officials. Before taking office, Senator Parker was a New York City Urban Fellow and also served as Special Assistant to former Manhattan Borough President Ruth Messinger; Legislative Aide to former New York City Councilmember Una Clarke, and Special Assistant to Assemblyman Nick Perry. As Project Manager with the New York State Urban Development Corporation, Senator Parker financed minority and women owned businesses and promoted community business redevelopment.
- President-elect Donald Trump used what is called populist rhetoric during his campaign for the US President’s seat. Given his upbringing in an upper income household and his father giving him $1 million to start his business career, do you believe that he is able to relate to the average middle American citizen?
St. Sen. Parker: Trump won the presidential election, which reflects that there is a large population of Middle Class American citizens who believe Trump can relate to them and their needs. As the president elect Trump will have four years to showcase his ability to meet the needs of Middle Class American Citizens, particularly those in Brooklyn.
Prof. Ford: I believe that Donald Trump can relate to many Americans because he understands their wants and needs as the marketer that he is….he has spent his entire career creating imagery and a self-narrative that appeals to many Americans – allegedly self-made, presumably a rule breaker and a deal maker, ostensibly a playboy lover and devoted family man. His inherent contradictions do not deter his fans and customers, who now happen to be voters.
- Some media outlets and thought leaders have made note of Trump’s choice to reside in sumptuous Trump Towers in midtown Manhattan rather than the White House. Does this choice in residence suggest a stance in his politics or constituent relations.
St. Sen. Parker: I do not see any disadvantages in having the President close to my constituents. Trump prided his campaign on being a non-conformist to traditions and customs of American politics. Now as the President Elect he is continuing with his message of being non-traditional.
Prof. Ford: Donald Trump has few, if any, deeply held political beliefs. He is choosing to reside in Trump Towers for the same reason NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg chose not to live in Gracie Mansion…..he thinks that his residence is nicer and he will spend as little time in the White House as possible.
- What have you gathered to be Trump’s agenda for African-Americans?
St. Sen. Parker: I think this election presents a vats opportunity for the African American community. During his campaign Trump did not discuss a detailed agenda but he spoke about making improvements to inner cities and African American communities. It is important that we make him accountable for the next four years in serving our community.
Prof. Ford: Aside from his “what do you have to lose?” sideways pitch, Donald Trump has had little in the way of announced public policies that would specifically benefit African Americans….I think that he is working on the “rising tide lifts all boats” theory to wit, if America does better, African Americans will do better.
- Do you know of a Black think tank, lobby group, or fraternal/religious/social organization that has presented its Black agenda to Mr. Trump before or since he won the presidential election?
St. Sen. Parker: I am sure there are some but this is now the opportunity to get our agenda on the table since he has not been sworn in office. The various groups that advocate and show concerns about issues in our community should use this time to get their agenda in front of him, which is certainly my plan.
Prof. Ford: No….and wouldn’t count on that happening during the first 100 or first 1000 days.
- What is your impression of the latest cabinet appointments? For example, Betsy DeVos serving as the Education Secretary?
St. Sen. Parker: His cabinet appointments would not have been my first choices. But as the presidential elect he has his prerogative and we should give them the opportunity to do their job and work with them to see that they serve our community in the most effective way.
Prof. Ford: Donald Trump’s appointments – Betsy DeVos, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions, Stephen Bannon – indicate the looming danger of a Trump presidency. He is empowering a range of right wing individuals who are philosophically and personally committed to creating changes that will dismantle governmental and popular orthodoxies ranging from civil rights, to environmental protection to women’s right to choose to the mandate for a social safety net.