Opinion

What’s the state of our union? Right now, nobody seems to know

The White House | Flickr

It’s undoubtedly fact America has been in the face of political turmoil for quite some time now. Every year, our political parties polarize more, and as of November, our government was yet again divided, with Democrats having taken the House of Representatives this past cycle.

President Donald Trump stepped into the House Chamber last Tuesday and delivered his second State of the Union address since his election back in 2016, but this time addressing a Congress he no longer had control over.

Like any politically savvy member of society, I spent that night with eyes glued to my screen, analyzing every word and facial expression made in that chamber. There were many underlying issues with Trump’s speech that set an ambiguous tone to America’s journey for the next year, and in truth, nobody —not even U.S. political leaders — knows what’s going to happen.

So, what is the state of our union, according to Trump? Well, his address didn’t seem to give too much insight into that. Actually, it seemed to give a glimpse into just how divided the nation is, and how a mediocre speech filled with false statements and fake smiles can’t cover up the obvious tension the government is facing.

At the beginning of the address, Trump tried appealing to the nation by talking of a unified government. “We must choose between greatness or gridlock, results or resistance, vision or vengeance, incredible progress; or pointless destruction,” was one of the opening lines of his speech. At this point, the image he gives is one of hope for a working bipartisan government, but from there it went downhill into old Make America Great Again territory. 

In the past, presidents addressing a newly divided government have been conciliatory or idealistic; Trump was neither. With Bill Clinton’s address to a divided government in January of 1995, he appealed to Republicans, and continued to do so the rest of his term. After his party lost in the 2010 midterms, Barack Obama gave a speech in which he tried to brush aside the division of party and gave grand ideas Congress couldn’t work with properly.  

To appeal to both parties, Trump glossed over issues like the opioid crisis, paid family leave and childhood cancer. He did this in a “Trump” fashion, with all talk but no comprehensive plan or budget to back up his claims. It seemed as if he threw these issues into his address to act as a cushion for the topics he really wanted to rally for: immigration and abortion.

With Trump’s speech, there were two sides of a coin. On one side was talk of a government that could work together, and on the other side was a cry out to his strongest supporters, making sure he maintained his base for this next year leading up to the 2020 election.  

Trump’s SOTU really set up his re-elect. His statement, “we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country,” addressed the ongoing movement of Democratic Socialism, with multiple new Congress men and women identifying with this party.  

So, which portion of this speech are Americans supposed to believe? Im banking on the latter half. With having notoriously attacked the Democratic party the past few years, and preaching of polarization and resistance to cooperation, it seems unlikely one address could change his attitude. 

What seemed to have missed the cut into his address was the recent government shutdown, the longest one to have ever occurred in U.S. history. He also barely acknowledged his recent statement about shutting the government down again in the next few weeks, due to the still undecided funding for his border wall.

It seems to be quite unclear what route Congress is going to take when it comes to policy making this next year, but with a divided government that isn’t abnormal. What was out of place was Trump’s beginning plea for a working bipartisan government, when he has spent his whole term undermining that notion.

What seems clear though, is almost everyone is highly anticipating this next election. The speech motivated even more people to talk about key issues, and has forced Americans to come face-to-face with the gridlock in the halls of power around the country.   

The State of the Union address this year was one which didn’t give much to the American people besides already-known information: the union is entering a state of political crisis. No one  knows where we’re headed but, there’s hope the 2020 election can forge a unified path ahead.

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