New Brunswick

'America first:' Trump speech was economic populism, says political scientist

A political scientist at St. Thomas University in Fredericton said Donald Trump's inaugural speech reminded him of Roosevelt's speech during the Great Depression

Jamie Gillies said Trump wanted to appeal to voters in the American mid-west

Newly inaugurated U.S. President Donald Trump pumps his fist at the conclusion of his inaugural address on Jan. 20, 2017. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

A political scientist at St. Thomas University said President Donald Trump's inaugural address on Friday was economic populism, and compared it to another president's speech given during tough economic times.

Jamie Gillies said the United States have not seen a speech like that of Trump's since Franklin D. Roosevelt took office during the Great Depression of the 1930s.

"It is probably an unusual comparison but Trump's message is about jobs and giving power back to the people," he said.

"And we haven't seen that in a long time in Washington."

Pledging to make decisions that benefit all Americans

As Trump was sworn in as the 45th president of the United States Friday, he pledged to end what he called an "American carnage" of rusted factories and crime.

"From this moment on, it's going to be America first," the Republican president said as he took over from Democrat Barack Obama. 

"Every decision on trade, on taxes, on immigration, on foreign affairs will be made to benefit American workers and American families."

Jamie Gillies said the United States have not seen a speech like that of Trump's since Franklin D. Roosevelt took office during the Great Depression of the 1930s. (CBC)

Gillies said Trump was likely trying to appeal to voters in the Midwest who supported his message of redistributing political and economic power by taking it from the rich and returning it to the common people.

But he may have also wanted to send a message to Washington that he is an outsider and that his policy decisions will be filtered through economic populism, he said.

Policies will have to come quickly

That may be easier said than done, though.

If President Trump wants to act on his promises, he will have to move quickly, said Gillies.

"I think that is a problem in the sense of governing in Washington because he is of course surrounded by elites," he said.

"If he does do this economic populism, he would be in a sense a traitor to his class, not unlike Franklin Roosevelt."

He added that if anything, he expects Trump will quickly want to move on trade policy.

"And as Canadians we probably should be prepared for that," he said.

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