By Staff Writer Seth Tamarkin.
Like the Oscars and Grammys before it, the annual State of the Union has become an overly long TV staple that seems as unnecessary as ever. When Americans can find out the President’s thoughts on issues every single day from his Twitter account, the event really loses its luster.
Given the pressure of speaking before both the Democrat and Republican parties, as well as millions of Americans, the President usually recites a painfully scripted speech that tries to stay safe.
Due to President Donald Trump’s erratic and controversial nature, many were hoping he would buck that trend. Instead, the POTUS delivered a tepid address to the public.
For the second year in a row, Trump’s speech clocked in at an unholy hour-and-20-minutes. Compare that to Obama and Bush’s speeches which were usually between 48 and 60 minutes.
To be clear though, if Trump was saying anything that the public couldn’t receive from his Twitter rants, then the length would be welcome. Instead, the President delivered a neutered version of his charismatic tweets and Fox News interviews.
Yes, he opened his remarks with a rare plea for unity, stating “Victory is not winning for our party. Victory is winning for our country.” However, his ideas for unity sounded a lot like his standard stump speeches.
He remarked how “ruthless coyotes, cartels, drug dealers, and human traffickers” were coming in from Mexico in droves and chastised democrats for fighting for abortion protections because they were killing “living, feeling, beautiful, babies.”
All these standard Trumpisms were missing his usual belligerent charisma, instead opting for a droll drone as he discussed his usual talking points. It didn’t help that every 5 or 6 words he said resulted in standing ovations from the Republicans.
One odd ovation was when the Democrats celebrated openly when he noted how 58% of the jobs added last year were women. “You weren’t supposed to do that,” he smiled.
Another interesting takeaway was Trump’s renewed promise to pull troops out of Afghanistan and Iraq, a move that his Republican colleagues scoffed at. Of course, he has been promising this move since his inauguration, as did Obama during his Presidency, so the sincerity of that statement is yet to be determined.
The other unique statement from the President came when he attacked the emerging progressive left. “America will never be a socialist country,” the President opined, while far too many Democrats wildly applauded his remark.
The camera then turned to Progressive icon Bernie Sanders, who looked like he was ready to throw hands with the Commander-In-Chief.
Speaking of Senator Sanders, him and former Georgia Democratic gubernatorial nominee Stacey Abrams delivered their own responses to Trump’s address. Sanders did it on his own terms on social media, while Abrams’s was the official Democrat response to Trump.
First up was Abrams, the first black woman to give a SOTU rebuttal, who blew Trump out of the water with a short, concise speech that said infinitely more with much less time.
In only ten minutes, she called the government shutdown a “stunt,” roasted the GOP’s tax bill as “rigged against working people,” and called out Trump’s calls for unity on immigration by pointing out that the GOP “put children in cages.”
She also brought up an oft-overlooked but urgent issue: voting rights. As Republicans throughout the country sign laws that permit voter suppression, Abrams came out guns blazing, saying, “The foundation of our moral leadership around the globe is free and fair elections, where voters pick their leaders, not where politicians pick their voters.”
After her was Bernie Sanders‘ livestream. While Abrams did not rebuttal Trump’s address so much as give the Democrats’ platform, most of Bernie’s speech was a direct rebuttal.
He gave his usual schpiel on the economy, but also boldly declared Trump’s SOTU as “racist” given Trump’s hostile comments towards Mexicans. Responding to Trump’s socialism jab, Bernie recited, “As Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said in 1968: ‘This country has socialism for the rich, and rugged individualism for the poor.””
CNN and other Democrat publications stoked fears that Bernie would attempt to “overshadow” the first Black woman to give a response, but actually they worked in tandem with each other. While he rebutted Trump’s untruths, she eloquently gave the Democrats’ vision for the country while also highlighting areas where the two parties could come together. Best of all, their combined responses were a full hour shorter than the President’s. Hopefully next year, they are all that concise.