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Outsiders vs. Insiders: Trump’s first SOTU leaves Democrats speechless…and hopeless

It’s always heartening to see someone actually enjoy performing well at their job – and if that’s the case, Donald Trump must be the happiest man on earth based on his speech to the nation on Tuesday night.

The annual State of the Union address is unique because not only is the president speaking to all of Congress (or at least the ones who showed up) he's also talking directly to the American people with a mostly captive Democrats SOTUaudience. It’s perhaps the only time of year when such an event occurs – and people take it seriously.

The Constitution sets the precedent: “The President ‘shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.’ Article II, Section 3, Clause 1.”

It could be said Trump’s moment didn’t get off to a great start because the Sergeant at Arms’ office printed tickets with a typo – inviting guests to the “State of the Uniom” address – but everything after that seemed to go well, mostly due to the dignified good mood of President Trump who proved once again that big speeches on a grand stage are his own personal forte.

The Democrats for the most part sat and stewed through the balance of the oration, failing to respond to Trump’s congratulatory words devoted to aspects of the economy that are doing well. As would be expected the president touted the bonuses paid to many workers since the Republican tax bill was signed -- and Democrats almost looked angry.

A good number of the Democrat women wore black which was intended to be a sort of thinly veiled protest concerning sexual harassment – the persistent grudge they carry against Trump. Instead of appearing high-minded Democrats looked like they were attending a funeral. When combined with their dour facial expressions whenever the camera panned to the left side of the chamber it was a rather sorry sight to behold.

The speech itself touched on all the major themes of the past year and ran long – the post-address commentators mentioned it was an hour and twenty minutes in length (apparently the third longest in history). Trump spent the opening portion of the speech covering the policy achievements of his first year in office which included a reduction in the black and Hispanic unemployment rates to historic lows. You’d think the black and Hispanic Democrats would spring to their feet and applaud the good news, right?


All throughout the evening the tension between the parties was tangible, especially when Trump discussed his four-pillar immigration plan. Conservatives everywhere were disappointed to hear the president reiterate his offer of citizenship (after 12 years) to 1.8 million DACA-eligible illegal aliens. Trump accurately explained that no one would get everything they want in a potential deal – but when he discussed border security, ending the visa lottery and limiting chain migration the Democrats practically gasped with displeasure.

The #resistance is only getting started on this matter. Before Democrats were just ornery – now they’re furious – a hive of agitated yellow jackets came to mind.

A thought struck at that moment: there’s no way Congress is going to come to a solution on this issue. What happens when nothing’s done and the DACA expiration deadline comes and goes? Ending the Obama-inspired program is the only leverage Republicans have to get Democrats to budge. How badly do Democrats want to help their people?

There were several emotional highlights in the speech but probably the most salient moment came near the end when Trump relayed the tale of a journey made by a North Korean man in pursuit of freedom. The president asked the man to stand whereby he stood and held up the crutches that were used to liberate himself from his communist plight.

On the whole there was very little surprising in the speech. Trump gestured to the Democrats on numerous occasions, particularly when he mentioned standing for the national anthem (surely a reference to the NFL protests). There clearly isn’t much common ground there when the opposition party couldn’t even “stand” for that!

Joe Kennedy III delivered the Democrats’ official response shortly after the conclusion of Trump’s address. The talking heads commended Kennedy’s enthusiasm -- but I thought the Massachusetts representative was terrible. Kennedy’s annoying high pitched voice cracked when he spoke; he definitely could use some coaching on how to deliver a speech. Is this the best they can do? I don’t know if Kennedy was ill – but it almost sounded like he was about to break down and cry while dribbling out his dark Trump spite.

Did the Democrats seriously believe the American public would respond well to a Kennedy giving the response to Trump’s State of the Union Address – especially one that came across as an arrogant and snotty jack--- that perfectly fits the stereotype of his family and the party?

It appeared to me like the Democrats are getting more and more out of touch as time goes on. The basic problem with the Democrats these days is they’re having a very hard time formulating an answer to the key question on many people’s minds: How would things be better under a Democrat-controlled Congress?

Seeing the “presidential” version of Trump on Tuesday night it must have occurred to many (at least those with open minds) that things are pretty good in American government today – unemployment is way down, the economy is growing, companies are responding enthusiastically to tax reform and at least one of the parties appears serious about doing something on immigration – so where does it leave the Democrats?

The “showman” in Trump came to the grand stage in front of the world audience and he put on another one of his classic performances. He won’t win a Hollywood award for his performance but where politics are concerned, every moment Trump “behaves” himself and speaks from prepared remarks about real things Americans care about is one less chunk of time Democrats can use to bash him, call him “unfit” and advance their “resistance” narrative.

All the Democrat black dresses in the world won’t convince people in flyover country that America’s government is in a downward spiral when Trump is at his best. Even his enemies should begrudgingly concede Trump knows how to “act” as president when he chooses to do so. Whether he does it often enough is open to debate. But a fact is a fact.

That leaves poor Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer in an awful tight bind. It’s even got some feeling sorry for the Democrat poohbahs, especially the hapless Senate Minority Leader. William McGurn wrote yesterday at the Wall Street Journal, “The irony is that by nature Mr. Schumer inclines more to deal-making than suicidal last stands. His problem is that Mr. Trump is an even more polarizing figure for Democrats than President Obama was for Republicans, and what these Democrats want now is to resist. But if Mr. Schumer allows the Democratic zeal for resistance to take the form of rejecting every Trump offer for compromise, Mr. Schumer may well pull off another miracle by making Donald Trump look like the reasonable one in Washington.

“For years, Mr. Schumer has been climbing the greasy pole, finally reaching the top last year when he replaced retiring Sen. Harry Reid as leader of the Senate Democrats. Normally the priority of a minority leader would be to regain control of the chamber in which he serves. Alas for poor Mr. Schumer, his tragedy is to have reached the top at precisely the worst moment, caught between a Republican president who can’t stop demeaning him and a Democratic Party that seems determined to ensure he remains a minority leader.”

Another bit of irony was on display Tuesday night; the Republican caucus was the one that looked to be the unified one. While it’s true there is some well-deserved conservative antagonism to Trump’s immigration proposals, by and large the Republicans in the House chamber were offering genuine smiles while their Democrat counterparts were smirking and left wondering, once again, ‘Wasn’t Hillary Clinton supposed to be delivering this speech? What happened?’

Everyone with knowledge of how Congress works knows Madame Pelosi is pretty much powerless to stop anything the Republicans set out to do -- but the same can’t be said of Schumer. Pelosi is therefore free to go off on her wild senile digressions at any given moment, like calling thousand dollar bonuses “crumbs” and predicting tax cuts equate to Armageddon, but Schumer does have some power beyond rhetoric to stall the GOP agenda through increasingly antiquated senate procedures – or at the very least demand some “goody” concessions from the Republicans in exchange for support.

Immigration is the perfect example. Democrats claim to be the illegal immigrant’s best friend yet when push comes to shove they’re refusing to take yes for an answer. It’s all about the game to Democrats – to heck with the people who are actually hurt by their stonewalling.

The fact Schumer has failed miserably (whenever the Republicans were unsuccessful it was because they couldn’t unite) only increased the size of the hole he finds himself in. As McGurn pointed out in his piece Schumer can’t realistically compromise with Trump – to do so would infuriate his leftist base and the unruly gaggle of 2020 Democrat senator presidential hopefuls breathing down his neck – and even then he can’t win any victories without the Republicans agreeing to disembowel themselves.

Democrats have no agenda. Again, how would things be better if they were in charge? What are they proposing, more Obama big government? More restrictions on business? More amnesty and citizenship for all illegal aliens? More abortion? Or to shut down the fracking operations?

What do Democrats have besides hatred of Trump? Nothing. Democrats don’t even bother with criticizing GOP congressional leaders anymore – it’s all about the unconventional non-politician at the top now.

Even the Democrat dominance of progressive culture is a losing proposition. The Editors of the Washington Examiner wrote, “It’s hard not to look around and say national politics is making us worse people. Among other maladies, it is dragging us towards abstract ideological identities and away from real-world local and humane identities. It is becoming harder to love one’s neighbor if one’s neighbor has the ‘wrong’ politics.

“Sure enough, many of our communities are eroding. Civic activity is declining, and social isolation is rising. This alienation is muted in the world of elites, but it is a glaring truth every day in much of America. Absent strong communities, strong families don’t stand a chance, no matter how high the stock market goes.

“Trump and Congress can probably not do much to fix this. But the sunny big picture should not prompt us to ignore the ambient corruption of the way we live now.”

How would Democrats propose to address the cultural problems? At every turn you’ve got people like Eric Holder and his redistricting group stirring up “resistance” and questioning the legitimacy of the system. Then there’s leftist billionaire George Soros tossing seed money to the most heinous of leftist organizations to pay people to demonstrate and cause trouble.

Hollywood gets involved with persistent pontificating and non-stop trashing of Trump and traditional America. You won’t find many entertainment industry films and TV programs dedicated to conservative themes and the ones that do exist (like Tim Allen’s “Last Man Standing”) get cancelled for political reasons.

And where’s Tipper Gore speaking out against trashy music lyrics these days? Democrats used to at least pretend to care about culture – now it’s anything goes in Harvey Weinstein’s Hollywood as long as the stars hate on Trump and make “With Her” videos.

To Democrats, it doesn’t have anything to do with achievement. It’s a little difficult to remember now but it was only a little over a year ago that Barack Obama was president and the country stood stagnant while the political elites debated over which favored constituency to concentrate on next.

As Trump demonstrated on Tuesday night, there’s a different emphasis these days.

William Murchison wrote at The American Spectator, “However poorly the President understands matters like decorum, self-control, vocabulary, and so forth, and so on, he has a feel for what works. What works, in American terms, is freedom. Interest-groupism, the ideology of the Obama White House, again and again quashed rational discussion of ways to spread prosperity by encouraging it…

“Lengthy, too, is the list of Trumpian deficiencies. Nonetheless, that certain things need doing, and that in one way or another they’re getting done — the Schumers and Pelosis may not care. But look: they’re getting done.”

Yes they are. Donald Trump may not be the messenger everyone wanted but the message is what counts these days. Trump’s first State of the Union speech should be considered a smashing success – but what else would you expect from a man who swore America would start winning again if he were elected president. Mission accomplished.

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