The New American Moment: Recapping the SOTU
If the American people tuned into the State of the Union Address expecting the flashy, “only I can fix it” businessman from campaign season, they got him in small doses. According to the Washington post, the President used the words “‘we’ 130 times, ‘our’ 103 times and ‘us’ 15 times. He mentioned ‘the people’ 9 times. He used the word ‘I’ just 35 times and ‘my’ 14 times.”
In Reagan-esque fashion, Trump began the SOTU by acknowledging a series of ordinary, but exemplary Americans—Ashlee Leppert, David Dahlberg, Steve Scalise, Steve Staub, Corey Adams, and several more. According to the official White House transcript, he was interrupted by applause 117 times in 80 minutes, the majority of which occurred when the President was praising citizens in the gallery.
Still, President Trump’s persona is not entirely divorced from candidate Trump’s. Candidate Trump ran—and won—on an “America first” message. Likewise, the majority of the SOTU focused on what has happened in America during Trump’s first year: a highlight reel peppered with charges to Congress to focus on some of the President’s pet-projects for the new year.
These charges included boarder security, lower prescription drug costs, and partisan unity. Highlights include large victories in the fight against the Islamic State, successfully passing tax reform, and declining unemployment in black and Hispanic populations.
In other words, instead of focusing on “witch hunts” and the Mueller investigation, President Trump presented himself as nothing short of presidential. Strictly partisan, despite wearing a blue tie—he even managed to work in a dig about kneeling during the national anthem—but unquestionably self-controlled, temperate, and polite.
It would be unwise, however, to believe that the SOTU will mark a shift in President Trump’s behavior or bipartisan relations on Capitol Hill, though it is worth noting that the President refrained from tweeting today. Nancy Pelosi won the award for “Most Dour Face,” according to the Washington times. Shortly after Tuesday night’s address, Senator Elizabeth Warren released a string of tweets, including particularly vivid sentiments about wanting the SOTU burned into her eyes, because “I just have to close my eyes & see @realDonaldTrump , @mike_pence & @pryan applauding themselves for punching working families in the gut, & I'm back in this fight.”
Put simply, little, if anything, has changed after Tuesday night. President Trump indulged in the self-congratulatory rhetoric typical of such an address, but without veering into egotistical self-aggrandizement. What could have been a very controversial and inflammatory event turned out to be quite peaceful—mundane, even. And for that, I think we can all be thankful.