President Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night seemed, at first, to be geared towards bipartisan remarks; however, the President mixed unity with tough talk in some divisive moments during his first SOTU.
Some members of the Democratic Party showed dissent right off the bat. As Trump discussed the state of the economy, he said that the unemployment rate was the lowest the U.S. has seen in 45 years, and that the African American unemployment rate is at the lowest ever recorded. Cameras then pivoted to members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who stared down the President and offered no response to his statement.
Trump briefly touched on the environment, stating that “we have ended the war on beautiful, clean coal.” That’s right, the President praised one of the most polluting fossil fuels on earth for its beauty and cleanliness.
The President’s most impactful rhetoric began with a story of two teenage girls who were murdered by members of the MS-13 gang. Trump said that loopholes in immigration policy allow criminals to come easily into the U.S., and that open borders have “allowed millions of low-wage workers to compete for jobs and wages against the poorest Americans.”
According to the Pew Research Center, there are about 8 million undocumented immigrants in the U.S. workforce; however, the country’s borders are not open.
Northwestern political science professor and director of the Center for the Study of Diversity and Democracy at NU said prior to the SOTU that “President Trump has been all over the map on immigration in recent weeks, so we can expect that he will use the speech to finally clarify his policies.”
Indeed, Trump laid out a four-pillar approach to immigration that he expected to serve as a “compromise” for both sides of the aisle. Here’s a breakdown:
1. “A path to citizenship for 1.8 million illegal immigrants who were brought here by parents at a young age.” Trump claimed that this would cover over three times more people as the previous administration.
2. It “fully secures the border. That means building a great wall on the southern border and hiring more heroes...to keep our communities safe.”
3. An end to the visa lottery, “a program that randomly hands out green cards without any regard for skill, merit or safety of the American people.”
4. Protection “for the nuclear family by ending chain migration.” He said that under the current “broken system,” immigrants can bring in “virtually unlimited number of relatives.”
Though meant to be a “down the middle compromise,” these pillars were met with audible groans from the Democrats in the room.
Jaime Dominguez, a political science lecturer at NU, said that Trump “understands the importance of bringing Democrats on board” with immigration legislation, but that “he will have to walk a fine line” regarding in order to avoid throwing the House into disarray. It seems that Trump has not toed the line close enough, but time will tell how Democrats react to this latest statement on the charged topic of immigration.
Next, Trump touched on the country’s opioid crisis, stating that “we lost 64,000 americans to drug overdoses” in 2016. More than 75 percent of these were drug overdoses, which is an issue that Trump has declared a national health emergency but has done little to combat.
Finally, the President addressed the totalitarian regime in North Korea, saying that he will “not repeat the mistakes of complacency and concession that have led to danger in the past.” This is consistent with his hard stance on North Korea.
Before wrapping up his speech, Trump briefly mentioned women, calling them “strong” and “brave moms” and saying that “our task is to respect them.” This section of the SOTU seemed a bit rushed and diminutive considering the prevalence of the #MeToo and #TimesUp movements in recent months.
Trump’s State of the Union Address proved more divisive than cooperative, which is consistent with Trump’s presidency thus far. Though he received a lot of support from politicians in the room, some staunch Democrats refused to stand and applaud with the rest, indicating Democrats’ resilience and opposition to future legislation.