On Tuesday, Feb. 5, President Trump issued the 2019 State of the Union Address.
Although a large portion of his speech was spent calling for unity in the divided U.S. government, the President found a way to reiterate his intentions of pushing for the harsh immigration reforms that have polarized Congress since the beginning of his presidency.
“We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution, and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good,” said Trump. He did not, however, recognize the increased tension between Democrats and Republicans in the wake of the recent government shutdown.
President Trump’s speech was, according to his team, founded upon the concept of America “choosing greatness,” and Trump reportedly expressed frustration that the speech was “too gentle on the Democrats.” He also refused to take his writing team’s advice regarding congratulating Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi on her recent installation. He addressed his frustrations in an off-the-record conference on Feb. 4, in which he mocked several Democratic representatives, calling NY Senator Chuck Schumer a, “nasty son of a bitch” and referring to former U.S. Vice President Joe Biden as, “dumb.”
The mention of the President’s apparent desire for cooperation appeared distant as palpable tension descended between parties before and after the speech; prior to the State of the Union Address, Trump and present Democrats quarrelled over the difficulty of the current political environment, with Democrats voicing concerns that calls for bipartisan teamwork would do little to mend the tension of the divided government.
During the speech, Democrats looked on as Republicans stood, chanting “U-S-A, U-S-A” as Trump promised to reign in immigration, place further restrictions on abortion and prevent the U.S. from resorting to socialism. Speaker Nancy Pelosi, along with the majority of other Democrats, remained quietly in her seat behind the President throughout the speech.
After introducing a series of guests, including former astronaut Buzz Aldrin, a police officer shot in last year’s Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and the family of a couple killed by an undocumented immigrant, President Trump turned his attention to the women of Congress. Pelosi, along with many House Democratic women, wore white, the color of the suffrage movement, to honor the 131 women recently sworn in to Congress—the largest number in U.S. History.
“That’s great,” Trump told them. “Congratulations.”
Instead of directly addressing national concerns regarding Robert Mueller’s special counsel investigation into Trump’s campaign connections with Russian intelligence, the President noted them in passing as he spoke about other topics.
“An economic miracle is taking place…and the only things that can stop it are foolish wars, politics, or ridiculous partisan investigations,” said Trump. He did not withdraw from his quest for the southern border wall, and pointedly addressed Speaker Pelosi, who has rejected the wall as “immoral.” Trump devoted just under a quarter of his 82 minute speech to a discussion of the border wall but offered no mention of a path to amnesty concession for the Democratic Party.
“This is a moral issue,” said Trump in a dig at Pelosi’s comment. “No issue better illustrates the divide between America’s working class and America’s political class than illegal immigration. Wealthy politicians and donors push for open borders while living their lives behind walls and gates and guards.”
He concluded the address by calling the American people to join him, saying “I am asking you to choose greatness.”
Democrats invited their own guests as well, in an attempt to call attention to the consequences of the current administration’s policies. These guests included employees that went without paychecks during the government shutdown, undocumented immigrants that helped build Trump’s properties and transgender soldiers that would be banned from military service under Trump’s new policy. The Democratic response was led by Stacey Abrams, who lost a tight race for governor of Georgia in November’s election. Abrams expressed anger at Trump’s attempt to call for unity when his administration has resulted in such political division.
Abrams challenged Mr. Trump’s pursuit of extreme immigration policies, saying, “we know bipartisanship could craft a 21st-century immigration plan, but this administration chooses to cage children and tear families apart.”
She also drew in the racial undertones of Trump-era immigration reform the President’s history of racially charged commentary.
“We must hold everyone from the highest offices to our families accountable for racist words and deeds and call racism what it is—wrong,” said Abrams.