The Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics hosted a preview of the upcoming Presidential Inauguration Tuesday night. The event featured a panel of experts who discussed what to expect from President-elect Donald Trump and the unpredictability of Trump’s actions thus far. Unruh Director Robert Shrum moderated the panel. He was joined by Lisa Korbatov, the vice president of the Beverly Hills Unified School District; Adam Nagourney, the L.A. bureau chief of The New York Times; and Dan Schwerin, Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton’s former director of speechwriting.
The panel began with a conversation about historic inaugural addresses and how they have usually been kept short and stuck to what will be the big themes of the incoming president’s administration. All three panelists emphasized that past inaugural addresses have always stuck to a unifying message for the country, a call to heal the wounds of the campaign and a sense of moving on together as one country. Schwerin expressed that even after a campaign as polarized and bitterly fought as this one, unity should be Trump’s number one message, but expressed his doubts that the President-elect would continue this tradition due to his propensity for bucking established traditions and his volatile personality.
Schwerin, unlike the other panelists, believed that Trump’s speech will emphasize unification.
“I’m hoping to hear from him a message of unity,” Schwerin said. “And I think he will deliver it.”
However, Korbatev argued that even if Trump does attempt to unify the country with his speech on Friday, the majority of the people who opposed him so bitterly in the general election will not listen. They’re still licking their wounds after such a fraught election, and to Korbav, that is to be expected. She said she believes that, Trump is not going to be talking to them anyway.
“[Trump] is not going to talk to the left — they’re not going to listen,” Korbatev said. “He’s going to talk to the middle and talk to those people who feel forgotten and left behind because they’re the reason he won the election.”
The panel also discussed Trump’s opposition, and the choice of over 50 elected Democrats boycott the Inauguration. While this boycott wasn’t the first of its kind, it was the first to garner this kind of press attention. The panel was split in its reaction to the boycott. Schwerin said that American democracy allows them the freedom to choose, while Nagourney took the side that if they chose not to go, they should not have dramatized it in the media. Korbatov called the Democrats who chose not to go “shameful” for not fulfilling their duty as elected officials.
The panel ended with the three panelists discussing whether inaugural addresses ever live up to the expectations that surround them beforehand. Schwerin claimed that inaugural addresses are rarely very good, and usually not the best speeches of a presidency, even for experienced speakers like President Barack Obama and Clinton. According to Schwerin, too many suffer from the fatal flaw of trying to capture the magic of Kennedy’s grandiose inaugural address, and they inevitably fall short. But Nagourney said that Trump’s speech is unpredictable.
“Inaugural addresses do not necessarily live up to the hype,” Nagourney said. “But who can predict what will happen with this one?”