What lasts deep in your memory longer? A person telling you that the birthplace of your ancestors is a “s***hole country” or that you “deserve a government that shows the same love and loyalty in return?”
You already know the answer.
Donald Trump has perhaps been the most strikingly distracting President of the United States to ever exist. A man who simply cannot resist pandoring for the cameras every 24 to 72 hours that will inevitably place him on a TV near you. Tonight, Trump delivered his first State of the Union speech 10 days after the one-year anniversary of his presidency in what has felt like the longest presidential year ever.
Trump was appropriately surrounded by skepticism, tension, doubt and endless yards of conspicuous Kente cloth. Several members of the Congressional Black Caucus donned the traditional African fabric in a fashionable middle finger; a statement of solidarity against a man who has shown a level of hostility towards people of color unseen since the presidency of Woodrow Wilson.
“The President has taken every opportunity to divide this country along racial lines. Words matter,” said Congressional Black Caucus Chairman Cedric Richmond (D-La.) at a press conference the morning of Trump’s speech. “President Trump’s racist rhetoric makes the county less safe for people of color by encouraging and emboldening and pandering to those who wish to do harm to others based on the color of their skin.”
That any member of Congress can speak about a President in the above terms and no one blinks is remarkable.
Predictably, Trump once again took credit for low Black unemployment numbers, even though the country remains on Obama’s budget policy. His claim of credit was met with GIF-inspiring stone-faced members of the Congressional Black Caucus, who have reminded the White House that Black unemployment still remains double that of white unemployment, a stat many Presidents have become oddly comfortable with.
Another been-there-heard-that-before moment came when the speech centered on immigration. References to “chain migration” and MS-13 are Trump’s desired context when talking about Black and brown “others.”
“Under the current broken system, a single immigrant can bring in virtually unlimited numbers of distant relatives,” said Trump.
That line earned groans from Team Blue seated to the right of the podium and instant fact-check smack downs on social media. Trump appears to want to define his presidency on the issue of immigration. Moreover, the issue of who he wants around and who he doesn’t woven around the question of who he’s defined as most important in his world.
Of course Americans are dreamers. There’s a name for the phenomenon. And the best part is that anybody can achieve it. Don’t use one person’s dream to rob another of theirs. #SOTU
— Judy Chu (@RepJudyChu) January 31, 2018
Just as to be expected, Trump’s speech was vacant: simply a bunch of words backed by nothing. Claims of political solidarity regardless of Party followed minutes later by partisan talking points against “Obamacare.” Sticking his “Make America Great Again” campaign motto into the first three minutes of his speech, Trump then claimed working towards political immunity was also one of his top priorities.
This President is a talking oxymoron. Just when you think he might believe in something sensible, vintage Trump follows. Words backed with more words that will later be backed with no actions and no policies that support a syllable of his references to unity or political conciliation.
There was even a dig to NFL players protesting police brutality. Thanks, we really needed that note of unity Mr. President.
“I want to talk about what kind of future we are going to have, and what kind of nation we are going to be. All of us, together, as one team, one people, and one American family,” said Trump.
“Americans love their country. And they deserve a government that shows them the same love and loyalty in return,” he added, along with, “tonight I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties, Democrats and Republicans, to protect our citizens, of every background, color, and creed.”
What? Sounds like someone at the White House bound and gagged senior advisor Stephen Miller just long enough to get a few unexpected lines in tonight’s speech.
Predictably, several members of the Democratic party boycotted the State of the Union, including civil rights member Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) Even with all Lewis has seen, he’s had enough. And, he’s not the only one.
There is growing talk that a “blue wave” will place Democrats back in the majority in the House for the first time since 2010. We have some 278 days to see what momentum they can carry into election day in November.
Lauren Victoria Burke is a independent journalist, political analyst and communications strategist. Find her on Twitter at @LVBurke