Trump and the SotU
I decided to take a break from the news for a while, so I ended up missing out on all the drama about the longest government shutdown in history. But I figured that the best way to get back into politics and news was to watch the State of the Union address. Let’s just say that there is a lot to break down.
The members of Congress chanting “USA” over and over was something out of a George Orwell novel. That’s what the whole speech felt like: an Orwellian sociopath emotionally manipulating Americans into believing loads of nonsense. He mixed the truth with lies and alternated between fear-mongering and celebrating “progress” to make himself sound legitimate.
There was an obvious inconsistency between Trump’s normal rhetoric and his rhetoric during his speech. He championed bipartisan politics right after a shutdown that was nothing but pure partisan politics and after insulting Chuck Schumer at a private event just hours before the address. He was clearly muzzled by whoever wrote his speech. It lacked more substance than usual.
Unsurprisingly, he made a lot of exaggerated claims during the speech. He exaggerated the job growth under his tenure, with more realistic estimates hovering around 4.9 million jobs being added and 454,000 manufacturing jobs, a stark contrast compared to Trump’s claim of 5.3 million jobs with 600,000 manufacturing jobs. Economic growth isn’t faster than ever. It’s fine, but it isn’t the massive accomplishment Trump makes it out to be since the growth began during Obama’s tenure. Of course, saying all of this doesn’t matter much. He always exaggerates his claims anyway, so it’s nothing new. What amazed me was how he just sprinkled in enough things he has actually done to make it seem like there has been improvement when there hasn’t been. It only goes to show just how much he treats the presidency and the country’s issues as a mere sales pitch, and many Americans are unfortunately buying it.
Another thing I found to be quite hilarious was how he switched between topics. After fear-mongering about immigrants for at least ten minutes, he went into a brief tangent about female representation in Congress. Of course, everyone stood up and clapped when that happened, and then proceeded to chant "USA" right after. It just blew my mind, and it was representative of everything wrong about the speech. It was all just a mere distraction. Of course, it’s wrong for him to do that, but it was more frustrating to watch the crowd play into his tactics. And it only gives him more ammunition to defend himself against criticisms.
In fact, his whole speech is designed in a way to be able to deflect criticism, and it’s very much a strategy used by conservatives like Ben Shapiro. For example, with abortion, he made the issue about the right of innocent life and killing babies rather than about women’s choice. With illegal immigration, he made it an issue of the rare instances of undocumented immigrants killing American citizens. Of course, when he turns those respective topics into the issue, it will force everyone to confront the specifics of what he says rather than real problems. It doesn’t matter that late-term abortions aren’t allowed under current law unless the fetus is not viable or a danger to the mother or the fact that undocumented immigrants are less likely to commit crime and that fencing has not worked. When the issue at hand is about death or some other sensitive topic, it makes any discussion surrounding his claims difficult and will make anyone who questions him seem callous.
In all honesty, it’s hard to talk about this State of the Union speech. It’s not new for Trump to lie or hide veiled threats in his speeches. It’s not like Trump said anything blatantly outrageous. In fact, the tempered discussion of his usual rhetoric made him seem almost reasonable. The problem is that this clearly fools a lot of people. He will make himself seem “normal” on these sorts of occasions to normalize whatever he likes to talk about.
The Democrats have a tough challenge ahead of them if they want any hope of getting elected. Trump knows how to sell his rhetoric, even if it’s all empty. It’s an embarrassing situation all around, and it’s going to be a long, twisted, annoying, frustrating, anger-inducing road to the 2020 elections.