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The Speech: President Trump, defying expectations that he would give a speech filled with concessions to the bitterly angry Democrats, gave a full-throated, detailed (and long) defense of his first year in office and offered a vision for the future. It was a bravura performance.
In one of the better State of the Union speeches in recent memory, the first-time politician Trump pushed all the right buttons, and probably reminded a lot of people why they voted for him instead of his supposedly invincible opponent.
After hearing Trump demonized and vilified in the media for the better part of a year, average Americans were no doubt surprised to hear a confident president with an extensive resume of successes express his affection, admiration and, yes, devotion to the country he plainly loves a great deal.
“Over the last year, we have made incredible progress and achieved extraordinary success. We have faced challenges we expected, and others we could never have imagined,” Trump said, very early in his speech. “We have shared in the heights of victory and the pains of hardship. We endured floods and fires and storms. But through it all, we have seen the beauty of America’s soul, and the steel in America’s spine.”
We don’t know for sure how average Americans viewed his speech. But we do know that it was the kind of speech that Americans like. It was clear and plain-spoken. His ideas were based on common sense and normal American decency, not weird ideologies that bear no relevance to every-day American life.
In nearly every instance, whether talking about:
North Korea’s nuclear threat and its inhumanity to its own people;
Or the daily indignity suffered by American veterans served by an often-incompetent and uncaring VA;
Or the thrill of having tax cuts passed that would put $4,000 back in each household’s pockets for saving, spending or investing;
Or proposing more spending on vocational training for young people;
Or the $8 trillion increase in stock market value since he was elected, which, he noted, is “great news for Americans’ 401k, retirement, pension, and college savings accounts”;
Or “leveraging” $200 billion in federal money to create $1.5 trillion in infrastructure improvements;
Or pointing out the every-day heroes of the shootings in Washington, the hurricanes in Texas and Louisiana, or the fires in California;
Or talking about repealing the Obamacare individual mandate, a “cruel tax” that hits those earning less than $50,000 a year hardest;
In almost all these cases, Trump focused on average Americans, real people. He seemed genuinely touched by their sense of duty and sacrifice. And by the possibility that their lives might be made better.
Pollster Frank Luntz, a frequent Trump critic who did not support him in 2016 —and who, as a numbers guy, is not known for his mawkish sentimentality — even tweeted the following: “Tonight, I owe Donald Trump an apology. Tonight, I was moved and inspired. Tonight, I have hope and faith in America again. It may go away tomorrow… But tonight, America is great again.”
This is probably not what Washington inside-the-beltway types and leftist media elites wanted to hear. It’s definitely the last thing the far-left that has captured the Democratic Party wants to hear.
As we noted, the media in recent weeks repeatedly called on Trump to “reach out” to angry Democrats. And, to a degree, Trump did just that.
“Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve,” Trump said, reaching of his hand across the aisle to the Democrats.
But, based on the Democrats sour reaction even when Trump announced initiatives, such as infrastructure rebuilding, that are at the core of Democratic politics, it didn’t really matter. The assembled Democratic politicians looked like they had just bitten into a lemon. They, apparently, have decided not to cooperate with Trump on anything — and signaled it loudly on Tuesday.
During Trump’s speech, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi and her No. 2, Steny Hoyer, mostly sat stone-faced, occasionally passing comments to one another.
Even when Trump told America what most of the liberal media hadn’t reported, or had buried in their pages and on their web sites — that Hispanic and African-American unemployment rates were at their lowest ever under Trump — Black and Hispanic Democratic congressional representatives sat looking grim, mostly without clapping.
Such stunning economic success should be celebrated. That it isn’t, especially by those who pretend to represent the African-American and Hispanic communities, only shows how poisoned the Democratic Party has become by its own extreme ideology.
Chicago Democrat and Rep. Luis Gutierrez even stormed out of the room after chants of “U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A,” rose up, mostly among Republicans. His angry march out of the room perfectly summed up why average Americans increasingly feel alienated from the Democratic Party, which seems no longer capable of even simple patriotism.
In any case a lot of Americans were probably surprised by what they saw and heard after a year of nonstop Trump demonization: A man in full, flawed but street-smart, full of love of country, ready to defend it, full of ideas, and eager to go forward. An American.
Of course, it is possible to oppose policies by any president. Our country was built on that. But we would hope that the shrill, non-stop, outrageously venomous vilification of Trump by the media and his political foes would stop. It’s damaging the country by dividing us along political lines, something that hasn’t happened to this extent in 150 years.
The perpetual calls for Trump’s “impeachment” by constitutional illiterates in the Democratic Party have become boringly routine. It’s the only response of a party that can’t answer a foe’s obvious policy success, or his popular pragmatic conservatism. It’s the equivalent of yelling “fire” in a theater when you don’t like the movie.
So, did President Trump win over Democrats on Tuesday? No. Contrary to the media’s desires, he was really speaking to moderates and independents, not Democrats.
But any Americans who were listening with an open heart and open mind no doubt heard much to like, and even more to deeply admire: A president who loves his country, is avidly fixing its problems, and wants the continued help and support of the American people to do so.
It’s been quite a while since we’ve had a president like that.