The past week has been a target-rich environment for someone who comments on politics. Me, I’ll take the State of the Union address. Not only is it potentially the most significant of the happenings, it allows me a few hours without interruption by breathless revelations from the tangled web woven by Jeff Bezos’ private parts; his mistress; the National Enquirer and the Washington Post. It also gives surcease from the dumpster fire that is Democratic party politics in Virginia, and from the innumerate lunacy that is the Democrats’ latest plan to shoehorn the country into a command economy: their proposed Green Bad Deal. All of it deserves to be sent to the LaLa Land where bad ideas and worse behavior are banished.
The State of the Union speech was, from beginning to end, the one President Trump had to give: well-organized and, with exception of a couple of bumpy segues, smoothly delivered. It was a bit too long, but that may have been due to audience reaction: applause filled approximately 22 minutes of the 82-minute speech.
The words were positive, forward-looking, conciliatory. The use of gallery invitees was very good, possibly the best since Reagan. There was a lightness about the delivery and a sense of surprise, even occasional delight. Who remembers the last time a State of the Union message paused to allow Congress to sing “Happy Birthday” to a visitor? No one. It’s never happened before.
The message was also significant. Time and again the president made the point that this country is, far and away, the best in the world. Most poignant was the tale he retold from the World War two experiences of a guest that night: Judah Samet, whose family was being shipped by the crumbling Nazi regime from Belsen concentration camp to another, when the train came to a stop. They prepared for the worst, but then his father cried out “It’s the Americans!” and they knew they were saved. This vignette perfectly illustrates something that all Americans once knew, but that we hear far too little these days: despite missteps and mistakes, despite problems and detours and criticism for wrongs real and imagined, our country is an enormous force for good in this world. The president knows it, and is neither ashamed of it nor afraid to say it — another reason his supporters are loyal in a way that surpasses all understanding on the America-is-always-guilty-of-everything Left side of the aisle.
From the outset, President Trump used striking language to remind us that we can do anything we decide to do, provided we work together in the national interest. The contrary was clearly stated as well: when we fight among ourselves, when we waste our time, energy and treasure on vengeance and “resistance,” we fail not only ourselves but our forbears and our children. Whether this idea has an audience, time will tell.
It certainly didn’t seem so on the night. The Neo-Suffragettes of the RESIST! party sat on their hands through most of the presidential appeals for unity and compromise, applauding only themselves and scowling, selfie-ing, chatting among themselves, reading and generally ignoring the circumstances for the rest of the speech. It was a remarkable display of ill-will toward the embodiment of a co-equal branch of government, to say nothing of manners worthy of a gaggle of twelve-year-old divas-in-training.
State of the Union messages are historically not very significant. Only a handful of them offer memorable rhetoric or powerful exposition of policies, and most of these come from long-ago presidents. That said, in modern times – say, since 1960 – the occasion allows presidents to do something all media outlets despise: talk over their heads directly to the American people. That is one reason the punditocracy is generally dismissive or outright negative: the speech may expose them for the narrow, pinch-faced, pettifogging, error-prone partisans they are.
In this case, they – and their Democrat masters – were right to be concerned. Certain in their prejudice that a snap poll would show public derision, CBS conducted one such immediately following the speech, and was shocked. Seventy six percent of those polled agreed or strongly agreed with the president. Seventy-two percent agreed or strongly agreed with him on his approaches to immigration, legal and illegal, the latter including border barriers. Backfilling began immediately and continues today, because this simply cannot, must not, be true.
Perhaps it isn’t. Perhaps people are simply reacting to the delivery. But perhaps, just perhaps, people saw something they liked: a president calling for unity, cooperation and hard work by all for the security, prosperity and future of our great nation. They saw the opposite as well: a faction determined to resist everything, out of revenge for a failed politician’s losing campaign.
And on Tuesday last, they made a choice between the two. Fair warning.
Morgan Liddick writes a weekly column for the Summit Daily News.