Usually before a major moment of political theater — be it a convention speech, a debate, a State of the Union or an Inaugural Address — there is a lot of talk about what the main player, the candidate or president, can do to reach out, to win over, to unite and to persuade.
I’ve seen rather less of this in the lead-up to Donald Trump’s inauguration, mostly because reaching out is not usually the Trump way. Not for him the “We are not enemies, but friends,” of Lincoln’s first inaugural, one assumes. Instead he’s promised a short, “Jacksonian” speech, which probably means a paean to the national interest and promise to defend hardworking Americans against various malign forces, foreign and domestic.
That message won him the election but not the public’s trust; it inspired Americans to vote for him despite their fears of what his presidency might bring. So reasserting it makes sense, but it’s not likely to make much of a difference to how he’s perceived (not favorably at the moment). This is the most surreal inaugural in modern American history, and there’s no speech in the world that will transform it into a unifying or reassuring day.
The country will warm to its new president (and forgive his Twitter feed) if the economy grows and the world grows more peaceful; if not, not. Trump’s public rhetoric has never made him broadly popular; his Inaugural Address will not be the exception. The only thing that can do that is results.