To mark the opening of a parliamentary session in the United Kingdom, the Monarch is invited to give a joint address to the Houses of Commons and Lords. The sovereign typically gives a bland speech about the joint houses of parliament representing the best of British unity and representative democracy. America, despite its historical disdain for the monarchy, loves royal pomp and circumstance. The State of the Union (SOTU) at its core, is a copied-and-pasted version of the monarch’s address to open parliament. It typically includes the same stale message and vague optimism that the nation is on the precipice of a new era defined by the current leadership’s agenda. While the British crown need not worry about its approval (at least, not since the Bolsheviks quieted down), the SOTU, if done properly, is the most reliable approval bump of the year for the American president. The president bets all his political capital on the SOTU, and relies on his speechwriters to give him a winning hand. Luckily for President Trump, his writers did just that.
Trump had a nearly impossible task given the two and a half years of divisiveness that has surrounded his political career: to put forth a unifying message and do so with sincerity. The combination of storytelling, distinguished guests, and an appropriate amount of Trump’s signature off-prompter comments painted a picture of a distinguished leader personally addressing his nation.
President Trump began by introducing heroes of the nations’ various natural disasters, proclaiming, “We love you,” as they were recognized with great admiration. He then introduced an Ohio couple who, thanks to the restructuring of corporate and pass-through tax rates, was able to expand their business and hire over a dozen new employees. Their humble Midwestern charm gave a face to the abstract benefactors of the bill and denounced Nancy Pelosi’s assertion that the tax bill boiled down to mere “crumbs” for the American people.
The president deftly wove together an epic story of success and heartbreak that drove his message and agenda home, perhaps culminating in North Korean defector Ji Seong Ho’s triumphant stand with his crutches held high over his head.
Many were unsure of what to expect from such an unpredictable president, as Trump is not known for his adherence to the presidential or ceremonial. However, Trump competently delivered a very presidential speech that made the him look unifying and compromising, while exposing Democrats as pig-headed in their fierce opposition. Democrats refused to stand as their duly elected leader entered the room, nor did they stand as the chamber exploded in empathetic applause for the grief-stricken family of a man brutally murdered by an MS-13 gang member – another casualty of unchecked immigration. They grumbled and moaned as Trump spoke of record labor force participation and low unemployment for minority communities and women. Nancy Pelosi maintained her stern-faced scowl throughout the speech, clad in black as if attending a funeral in memoriam of her own relevance.
Democrats’ blatant disrespect for the President of the United States didn’t buy them much. Immediately following the speech, a CBS poll stated that 97 percent of Republicans, an astonishing 43 percent of Democrats, and a critical 72 percent of independents approved of the speech. Not to mention that Trump’s approval rating has skyrocketed to 49 percent since Tuesday night, according to Rasmussen. It would seem that the nation has taken notice that the party of inclusion and diversity refuses to rejoice at progress, simply because the man in office holds different beliefs than they do.
The American public is sick of petty partisanship, evidenced by the popular reaction Tuesday night. The speechwriters in the west wing saw this and delivered a State of the Union that outlined the president’s conservative agenda, while stressing the need for unity. If Trump continues to offer opportunities at bipartisanship, given the precariousness of the left’s current position, he will place himself firmly in command of the narrative going into 2018 and beyond.
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Special thanks to my coworker Nick Briscoe for his help in writing, researching, and editing this article. Nick is the Manager and Director of Media at the Reid Law Firm in Birmingham, AL and is a recent graduate of the University of Alabama. Nick plans to attend law school in 2019.