A State of Trump - by Greer Clem
Trump's first State of the Union went pretty much as expected with a heavy focus on tax cuts and the American workforce. Here's a rundown of the takeaways:
When Trump enters the chamber and is announced as president it is a shock to the gut. Yes, we are reminded every day of the sad fact that he holds the highest office, but to watch elected leaders cheer and whistle for him is a painful reminder of where our country stands. This reminds me, however, that Trump is just one man; he alone did not create the world we live in. Those enabling his agenda for their own ends are the true threats to our democracy.
Trump jumps right in and says that his election brought a new tide of optimism and swift action to our country - "righteous action." The speech is already setting religious undertones that will carry throughout as Trump appeals to his conservative base. Everyone stands after his claim of swift action and the camera pans to Melania. She looks miserable as she often does.
Trump declares that, over the past year, we have faced challenges "we could never have imagined." Except that we could. The threat of a nuclear North Korea was the predominant point Barack Obama made to Trump when he left office. The threats faced throughout this past year have not been unforeseen but merely exacerbated by a rampaging twitter account and lack of diplomacy. Trump then quickly mentions the hurricanes in Texas and Puerto Rico and the shooting in Las Vegas. True, these are not disasters we could have predicted, though little has been done to address them. Federal aid to Puerto Rico ends tomorrow, despite Trump applauding relief efforts as heroic. No gun legislation has passed since the Vegas shooting and shootings continue to occur daily. Trump does, however, personally address a guest, Ashley, a military officer who rescued over forty people from the floods in Texas. He says, "We are with you, we love you, and we will pull through together always." This is the intimate, familiar rhetoric lauded by the Trump base and gets strong applause.
Trump calls upon both parties to come together to seek common ground and, for the first time, the camera pans to Nancy Pelosi. Her expression is that of one attending the funeral of an ill-liked coworker. She's wearing a Time's Up pin and all black. Trump remarks on the strength of Americans and nearly the entire chamber rises, including Pelosi and Corey Booker, though their expressions remain grave.
Trump brings up a subject he says is very important to him: that African American unemployment is at it's lowest rate. The camera pans to the Congressional Black Caucus, none of whom are standing or clapping. Having Trump take credit for increasing African American employment is a dark irony that needs not be explained here; if you don't get it, you're on the wrong website.
He launches into his expected talk about the success of the tax cut and how it is returning jobs to Americans. He transitions this to healthcare and says, "We repealed the core of the Obamacare mandate. The individual mandate is now gone." Republicans throughout the room jump to their feet, none more quickly than Ted Cruz, who apparently has forgiven Trump for his snide remarks about his wife and insinuations about his father. The camera turns to Tim Kaine who looks as though he's just waved his sixteen year old daughter off on a date with a convicted felon.
Trump continues, "No matter where you come from, this is your time." Let's not forget that, to Trump, this statement is true unless you are from a shit-hole country. If you're from Norway, however, you're in high demand. Trump then says "in God we trust" and introduces a twelve year old boy who put flags on veterans graves. He says this child reminds us why we salute our flag and "why we proudly stand for the national anthem." Republicans throughout the room stand, but perhaps democrats remember that a high school student who kneeled during the anthem is heading to court this week. This is a pointed jab, a reminder that Trump does not forgive and forget.
Trump moves to American jobs saying, "We have ended the war on beautiful clean coal." This is a lovely sentiment except for the fact that "clean coal" is an oxymoron. He says that all the jobs are coming back to America, especially in manufacturing. There is no mention of sustainable energy or advanced fuel technology.
He then introduces the parents of two girls who were killed by members of MS13 on Long Island. Watching these parents weep as the president outlines the horrific events that took their daughters from them is hard. Trump says these girls were murdered by "illegal unaccompanied alien minors." While infiltration of MS13 is a necessary issue to be addressed, Trump here uses it as a justification for harsh immigration reform. In actuality, the majority of unaccompanied minors who come to the US are refugees fleeing violence or persecution in their homelands. Restricting unaccompanied minors who are allowed entrance to the country is not effective immigration reform but rewriting how America views refugees and children escaping to safety. This is a complex point to come back to: how do we address gang violence in immigrant communities without blacklisting an entire class of refugees?
Trump says he wants to extend an open hand to work with members of all parties to protect our citizens "of every color, background, religion and creed." He says, "Americans are dreamers too." He does not say "Dreamers are Americans too" or even that all Americans should be allowed to pursue their dreams. His prioritization here is clear, and though he then says that his administration is doing more to protect Dreamers than the Obama administration, it's tough to buy since GOP-run congress just held the Dreamers hostage in order to demand increased border security and military funding.
Returning to immigration, Trump says he will be ending the visa lottery which "randomly hands out green cards without regard for the safety of the American people." Trump's implication is clear: immigrants bring violence and danger into the country, violence and danger are not the products of native-born Americans. Clearly he hasn't take a look at the profiles of the Las Vegas shooter, Sandy Hook shooter, Columbine shooter etc. Trump goes on to say he will be ending chain migration, which he alleges allows immigrants to bring distant family members into the country easily. However, current immigration law dictates that one may sponsor children, spouses, parents and siblings. There are no distant cousins coming in to the country because of chain migration loopholes. This is also family reunification and the term chain migration is a farce.
Trump finally gets to North Korea, one of his preferred subjects. He says that we will continue to build our nuclear arsenal so that is will be "so strong as to deter any other nation." This one's for you, Kim Jong, a pointed reminder that Trump has a bigger red button. Trump continues to say that terrorists across the world must be "annihilated," language typically avoided by heads of state and diplomats because it sounds both violent and extreme. He says he will be keeping Guantanamo open which gets big cheers from the GOP and looks of grave concern from the seated Dems.
Trump finally wraps it up by launching into a rambling segment on how America was founded by a small group of people with big dreams. He says "It was a small cluster of colonies caught between a great ocean and a vast wilderness. But it was home to an incredible people with a revolutionary idea: that they could rule themselves." Actually, it was home to hundreds of thousands of Native Americans, but Trump ignores this entirely. He concludes, "As long as we are proud of who we are, and what we are fighting for, there is nothing we cannot achieve. As long as we have confidence in our values, faith in our citizens, and trust in our God, we will not fail." It's a decent ending. It doesn't linger in your mind or leave a particular impact, but it's fitting and traditional. And with that, we are released, finally at the end of Trump's first State of the Union. What began as a more coherent and cohesive Trump devolved slightly into the rambling, repetitive Trump we are more accustomed to. Most importantly, we are reminded for what feels like the millionth time that the America Trump sees and the America we are living in are two completely different worlds.