This week our nation will experience a wonderful American political tradition, as we witness the peaceful transfer of executive power. The new President will assume office riding a wave of voter enthusiasm not seen since Reagan. For an accurate barometer of that enthusiasm, one should look beyond even the popular vote totals and the Electoral College. The Republican Party now holds 33 Governor’s offices, 32 State Legislatures, and has control of both legislative branches and the Governorship in 24 states. This week’s inauguration is the epitome of America’s rejection of the liberal brand of false hope and negative change. Instead, the people are passionate about the potential for positive change that President Trump represents.
In many ways, the President-Elect has defied both political and conservative orthodoxy. Some still marvel that a candidate who defied conventional political wisdom will soon take the oath of office. As one who ran against the grain in my own state and defied the polls to win election handily, I don’t find his success at all baffling. In order to understand the President-Elect, one needs look no further than his slogan and central promise to “Make America Great Again.”
That slogan has been derided by some. “Apparently, Mr. Trump doesn’t think America is great,” Hillary Clinton chastened in one of her campaign appearances. What Hillary Clinton failed to grasp, and what voters clearly understood, was that the key word in the slogan is again. Both Mr. Trump and the electorate are perfectly aware that America has been great at many points in its history. They embrace the fact that America is still the best country in the world in which to live. However, they also sensed that the greatness of America has faded in recent years. By the same token, Clinton and Obama’s failure to see how much their policies were contributing to America’s waning greatness, speaks volumes about their own worldview.
The “Make America Great Again” slogan, even as it was emblazoned on a simple red ball cap, sent the message to people that Donald Trump loves America. That would seem to be expected in any candidate seeking the highest office in the land. Yet, many in this nation had the palpable sense that for the past eight years, they had been led by someone who placed more emphasis on the country’s flaws than on its virtues. Mr. Obama tended to admonish the nation more often than he lifted it up. On the other hand, Donald Trump never hesitated to declare his love for the country and those individuals who work hard every day to keep the nation vibrant. When Kentuckians heard Donald Trump say he loved them, they believed him. They sensed his sincerity. We are proud that Kentucky was the first state to be called for the President-Elect.
President-Elect Trump has earned even more credibility with voters by those he has chosen to surround him. His first major decision was arguably his best, choosing Mike Pence as his running mate. Mr. Pence has, in recent years, become a close friend of mine both professionally and personally. I know him to be a man of great character, strong faith, and deep intellect. Mr. Trump astutely named Mike Pence as Chair of his Transition Team. Likewise, Mr. Trump has made it clear that he wants Vice President Pence to be intimately involved in the daily work of the Trump administration. These decisions speak to the President-Elect’s talent for finding excellent people to fill key roles, and to his willingness to embrace the good counsel that they provide.
Those attributes have been made all the more apparent by the long list of excellent cabinet appointments that have been made by the Trump team, not the least of which are Kentuckians Elaine Chao as Secretary of Transportation and Scott Pruitt for USEPA Director. President-Elect Trump has selected an exciting team of individuals with outstanding private sector accomplishments and combined them with the likes of Pence, Pruitt and Chao, who have successful track records in public service.
As I travel around Kentucky, I see an optimism and enthusiasm about the future of America under new leadership. That enthusiasm was on full display when I introduced the President and Vice President-Elect at an appreciation rally in Cincinnati. At the rally I stated that people in Kentucky, Ohio, the United States and across the world have been waiting for someone to step up, to stand up, to boldly say what needs to be said, and to speak the truth unapologetically. One of those truths is that America is about to show the world once again how great it can be when its people are empowered.
Matt Bevin is the governor of Kentucky.