NECC Observer

The student news website of Northern Essex Community College, Haverhill and Lawrence, Mass.

Trump delivers a stately address

Not once, but a few times bellows of “USA USA” echoed across the floor of Congress, at times with voices from both sides of the aisle. While this bipartisan jubilance might easily be mistaken for a conciliatory moment, the State of the Union Address was the setting of the scene for a year of campaigning and highlighted conflicts that are sure to cut at the heart of campaigns on both sides.   

Such an article as this ought open with a caveat, I personally have supported the President, and still do. Now that my personal opinion and bias is stated and obvious, my analysis of the Address will be, to the best of my ability, divorced from personal political opinion. This is about how the President performed, and what I believe he is seeking to accomplish, and how this speech will impact the looming election season.

President Trump’s speech was much longer than I expected. Despite not being an exceptionally eloquent orator, the address was well written and prepared. Given the speaker, off the cuff moments were probably inevitable and certainly discernible, but not too long or frequent to be cumbersome or distracting.

…”the State of the Union Address was the setting of the scene for a year of campaigning and highlighted conflicts that are sure to cut at the heart of campaigns on both sides. “

The President did make several overtures of unity, cooperation and bipartisanship, though not necessarily to appeal to his opposition. Rather, I believe the President’s aim was  to show both the undecided center and unconvinced or disillusioned Republicans that he is able and willing to present a more diplomatic and political figure to the American people than his Twitter feed portrays. This political positioning is President Trump looking to claim the role of the outstretched hand at the beginning of the election season. Many would consider this gesture long overdue, and even too late for more centrist Republicans, those not as entertained, perhaps, by the Twitter wars as Trump’s younger meme-making populist support. No matter if genuine or purely political, or what opinion receives this message, it is a solid perception tactic, and may do much to unite the Republicans behind a single message and candidate.

For all talk of bipartisan cooperation, Trump did not hold any punches against his far-left opposition. In no uncertain terms he declared to the Republican’s roaring approval that “America will never be a socialist country.” Consistent with strategy that served him well during 2016,  the President echoed his base as he stated that he did not believe these activists and politicians would have to live with the consequences of socialist economics and open-borders policy the way the working class would.  In employing the language and arguments of the layman, the president created an image of solidarity with the blue-collar voter, which is sure to be effective with a large segment of his voter base.

I have heard it many times stated that Trump is “a money President,” and he was sure to capitalize on this label by focusing intensely on economic successes of his administration thus far. In addition to the generation and return of manufacturing jobs and a recent boom in investment, Trump was sure to point out record female and minority employment, in order to turn the mainstream media narrative of his administration on its head.

The President left the issue of late term abortions to the end, a topic which has been a consistent battleground between the further contingent of both wings of the political spectrum for a long time. The President’s appeal was strongly worded and far from equally received across the aisle, leading me to speculate that topic will be a keystone subject for both sides going forward.

Astonishingly, a CBS viewer poll rated 76% viewer approval of the speech, a decisive optics victory for the Republicans, and a thunderous opening salvo of the 2020 election.

This optics win arrives amidst a storm of controversy in the Democratic camp. I don’t want to stray too far from the topic of this piece, but an aside is important to place this speech and it’s reception in context. Virginia’s political establishment is in freefall as controversies mount, potentially threatening to flip the state red once ballots are cast. Candidate Elizabeth Warren’s nagging heritage controversy is a spectre that will hang over her for the whole of the campaign, and will hamper and drive criticism of the entirety of the party should she win the DNC primary. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s Green New Deal is already exceedingly divisive, and may well be the crack in the ice that will cause Democratic schism.   

The State of the Union Address is a powerful tool to set the agenda and parade achievement before the American voter, and President Trump delivered an effective speech that invigorated his existing support, and made a strong display of his administration’s successes and strengths to the American public at large.

The Address was well received even by mainstream media viewers.

Should the Republicans congeal around President Trump and present a common front, with a unifying message and popular platform, they will prove a fearsome opponent for an embattled and increasingly fragmented Democratic party.