The State of The Union Address, like the appendix or Major League Soccer, is something that most Americans would do just fine without. It’s an 80-minute speech usually chock-full of empty platitudes and hollow promises interrupted only by the incessant applause of the majority party’s members of Congress.
However, at times during President Trump’s State of The Union speech on February 5th, the president manufactured some genuinely inspiring moments. The best moment of the night came when Trump took on socialism, a concept that has recently become in-vogue on the left side of the aisle thanks to folks like Bernie Sanders and Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez.
After citing the utter economic failures of Venezuela’s socialist government, Trump these remarks: “America was founded on liberty and independence and not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free and we will stay free. Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a Socialist country.”
This is Trump at his best. While he has scored several major victories for conservatism (Gorsuch/Kavanaugh, tax cuts, deregulation), his rhetoric rarely seems fueled by a deep affinity for the concept. Too often, he gets distracted and falls back on his wheelhouse topics like the wall and tariffs.
But in his condemnation of socialism, Trump’s aim never wavered. He was focused and compelling on a winning issue. According to a 2018 NBC News/ WSJ , only 19% of Americans view socialism positively. Democrats are creeping farther and farther to the left, and they are vulnerable in the court of public opinion.
President Trump had another terrific moment on Tuesday night while discussing the rights, or lack thereof, of the unborn. Trump the new abortion legislation in New York and Virginia “chilling,” and added, “These are living, feeling, beautiful babies who will never get the chance to share their love and dreams with the world.”
I have always been skeptical of Trump’s pro-life views due to his historical inconsistency on the issue, but comments like these are forcing me to rethink my perspective. If he can maintain this level of discipline in his messaging, and that’s a Joy Behar-sized “if,” hard-core conservatives that doubted Trump’s authenticity in 2016 will feel more confident supporting him in 2020.
President Trump also displayed some political adeptness in his State of The Union speech. Many female Democrats showed up in white as a nod to the suffragette movement, and throughout the night these women were frequently unresponsive to the president’s remarks.
This changed when Trump began touting the significant success of women in business, saying, “No one has benefited more from our thriving economy than women, who have filled 58% of the newly created jobs last year.” This line got several of the white-clad lawmakers to stand up and applaud, which led to this wry comment from the president: “You weren’t supposed to do that.”
After the Democrats sat down, Trump delivered two of his best lines of the night: "Don't sit yet, you're going to like this. Exactly one century after Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than at any time before."
The chamber then erupted with applause, and a “U-S-A” chant began in the Democratic section. By appealing to the egos of his enemies, Trump managed to create a rare moment of consensus between the two parties.
President Trump’s last couple months were arguably the roughest of his presidency, and more than ever he needs positive momentum. Sadly, due to the rapid speed of news cycles, I am skeptical that this State of The Union will stick in the minds of Americans for long.
That’s unfortunate, but those on the right should feel optimistic for the future. The Donald Trump who gave this speech is a man I will have no problem voting for in 2020. And he’ll probably win because anyone who can make the State of The Union great can do just about anything.