State of the Union 2018 Highlights: Trump’s Divisive Nature, Communication Dissonance

By JOHN LYNCH

President Trump’s first State of the Union address to Congress went about as well as could be expected from a character like Trump. The 80 minute speech was highlighted by a heavy dose of recollections on the past year’s achievements for the Trump administration, compared to far fewer actual plans or promises for the coming year. The State of the Union has always been a bit of a political crapshoot, an often self-serving mix of achievements and goals, but the seemingly unchecked ego of the President ensured that this year’s speech was more sound byte fodder for the Trump campaign than actual ideas. An unusually high volume of guests who had some form of relevance to the President’s platform were in attendance, including North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho, police officer Celestino Martinez, and the parents of former North Korean prisoner Otto Warmbier. What could have been an opportunity for national recognition of the work and sacrifices of these people seemed more like a predatory use of their losses and accomplishments by an administration that makes its bread and butter off the backs of telling an “us versus them” rhetoric.

But no visual defined the night more than the physical and political partisan split present in every shot of the assembled crowd of senators and representatives. Over 60 Democrats boycotted the annual speech, citing a lack of respect for the character, actions, and promises of President Trump. What Democrats did attend the speech booed several talking points, particularly over immigration, energy, and civil rights, and refused to stand or applaud most of the President’s statements. Republicans showed no such restraint, wildly applauding the most important parts of the speech as the ruling party typically does at the State of the Union.

Still, by Trump’s lowly standards, this was far better than his impromptu rants on Twitter or during press conferences. This is likely because the 80 minute address, the third longest of its kind in fifty years, was delivered wholly by teleprompter. Had this speech been left in the President’s oft-exaggerated hands, it would have probably sounded more along the lines of his infamous “covfefe” Tweet. Of course, Twitter will always be the President’s primary vessel for his platform (or whatever crosses his mind)- his speech calling for unity was followed on Wednesday by more Tweets slamming the Democrats. This disparity between action and word have come to dominate the Trump presidency. Those hoping that the State of the Union would be a turning point in his presidency should realize that this contradiction between the Trump that reads prepared speeches and the Trump that retweets anti-Muslim articles from Breitbart shows the true colors of a man incapable of separating his divisive views from his political life in the interest of unity.