Trump Delivers His First State of the Union Speech

February 1, 2018

Every year since 1913, the president has delivered the State of the Union address in front of Congress to explain how the administration is working to advance their policies. Earlier this week, president Donald Trump delivered a fairly routine State of the Union address flaunting his achievements regarding taxes and disaster relief, praising the military and police and urging bipartisan support for his immigration deal.

For such an erratic and unpredictable administration, the address was run-of-the-mill. Apparently, even Trump can make his words sound good on paper. How much faith, however, can the American people have in them? “Trump can talk the talk, but can he walk the walk?” The American people continue to ask this question, slowly losing or gripping on tightly to their hope. While it is good that the president, somewhere in his heart, wants the American people to be united, he is doing little to do anything about the growing chasm that splits us in half. Instead, he continues to push his own agenda without compromise, and expects bipartisan support. Unfortunately for Trump, to have bipartisan support, you have to hear both sides.

At several points during his speech, Trump referenced traditional patriotic and religious values, making it difficult for some Democrats in attendance to remain seated. These platitudes may serve to unite the American people, but their underlying message is still one of divisive and partisan rhetoric. For instance, his support for our law enforcement comes at the expense of the families whose lives have been devalued and destroyed by the actions of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE.

The president, following in the tradition popularized by Reagan, brought out several guests for the occasion, including a veteran, a victim of MS-13 gang violence, a business tax cut recipient, an ICE agent and first responders to the various natural disasters that occurred within last year. For Trump, these people acted as human representations of his central policy initiatives, namely, increased military spending, criminal justice reform, tax reform, immigration reform, and disaster relief. For the opposing worldview, however, the guests highlighted the shortcomings of the administration’s efforts in these areas. It is difficult to ignore the irony of putting the spotlight on brave first-responders, while at the same time ignoring the one-third of Puerto Rico that is still without power nearly five months after Hurricane Irma struck.

Fortunately, the economy is slowly improving. How much of that improvement is a result of Trump, however, can be argued. Trump has still not renegotiated NAFTA, a major campaign promise. While he brags about stopping the leak of jobs from a few corporations, the jobs he has saved pale in comparison to the jobs he promised to bring back and has not.

Stock market charts continue to rise, but what does that mean for ordinary Americans? Unemployment is falling, but the jobs that are being created are low-paying or only part-time jobs. C.E.O’s and Wall Street investors are growing so rich—at the expense of American families—that they may be able to finally buy a conscience.

The Democratic response to the address, delivered by Representative Joe Kennedy, was harsh and highlighted the many problems that are still prevalent in the United States. Though there was certainly passion in the words, those same words have been repeated hundreds of times over the past few years and it is unlikely to see any healing to our nation for a long time.

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