It didn’t get a lot of attention – and maybe that was intentional – but a new website from President-elect Donald Trump’s transition team went live last week. It’s too soon to judge the Trump administration’s aesthetic sensibilities, but the new site provides some clues.
“It could’ve been stolen from the Reagan campaign of 1984, how ‘It’s Morning in America again,'” said H.W. Brands, an American history professor at the University of Texas-Austin and the author of Reagan: The Life. Brands says that sunrise imagery is “at striking odds from the whole theme of the Trump campaign which (was) that ‘It’s getting really near midnight now,'” Brands joked.
The sun “cliché,” as Brands calls it, didn’t begin with Reagan. During the 1787 Constitutional Convention, Benjamin Franklin noticed a half sun on the back of presiding officer George Washington’s chair. “Franklin remarked that artists, over the years … have had a hard time distinguishing in their art between a rising and a setting sun,” said Brands. “Franklin said, throughout the course of the convention, he had wondered whether that sun was actually rising or setting.”
As the convention concluded successfully, Franklin is quoted as saying “Now I have the satisfaction of knowing that it is, indeed, a rising and not a setting sun.”
Brand design expert Meredith Post was also reminded of President Reagan’s “Morning in America” campaign when she saw the new Trump website. She sees a “very establishment” look to the site, which she says stands in stark contrast to the Trump campaign site. “It was very in-your-face … bold, and brash.” The new site, she said, feels “soft” by comparison. “Even just looking at the color palette and tone of voice and language that’s being used … It’s just so much softer,” said Post. “I get that he’s trying to speak more broadly to the audience and appear more approachable and open and, to me, that’s great that’s the attempt,” said Post.
Both Post and Brands think the site seems hastily put together. “I’m not quite sure they were really prepared to make this site,” she said. She looked up the origins of the flag and sun photo, for example, and found that “It’s a free stock photo that anyone can use.”
H.W. Brands was struck by the positive nature of the photo of President-elect Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence standing side by side, smiling.
“It wasn’t the smiling Trump that people elected. It was the frowning, glowering, angry Donald Trump that people elected,” he said. “So far he’s done the right thing,” Brands said, adding he believes Trump set a “low bar” for himself “in terms of never having acted presidential at all and now if he acts even mildly presidential it looks like ‘OK, he’s really turned a corner.'”
Attempts to reach the Trump transition team were unsuccessful.