Tuesday evening, President Donald Trump gave his annual state of the union address to a polarized capital. Very early in the hour, he established a theme of unity. He would then go on to undermine that theme using coded language to continue a trend of alienating certain Americans as he has done since he was a candidate for presidency.
President Trump opens the speech in discussion of the past, listing off accomplishments of the Obama administration that he has decided to take credit for. These accomplishments include but are not limited to the historically low unemployment rates, which is the result of a trend that began under the Obama administration.
In typical Trump fashion, he panders to his core with conservative virtue signaling and later goes on to contradict those virtues through the policy he proposes. A prime example being the emphasis he placed on, “faith and family values.” However, Trump takes a clear stance against, “chain migration” the idea of immigrants bringing their families to the U.S. with them. As we can see, “faith and family values” are only noble for naturalized citizens.
In addition to the hypocrisy, he reinforces his crusade against immigrants and undocumented Americans. Citing the street gang MS-13 as the representation of what Mexican immigrants bring to the country. Ironically enough, Trump does not have the nuance to recognize that gang members do not represent the majority of Mexican immigrants. However, he does have the nuance to ignore the corruption among ICE and border patrol agents.
Beyond suggesting a merit based immigration system as if all natural-born citizens are somehow highly educated and highly skilled workers, Trump also coins the best exhibition of white arrogance since “All Lives Matter” with the line, “Americans are dreamers too.”
Trump also stops at several points during the speech to recognize the stories of modern American heroes who were the guests that sat with First Lady Melania Trump.
These tales of bravery and sacrifice from soldiers on the battlefield, first responders after Hurricane Harvey, and simple good samaritans filled the room with patriotism.
However, the tears of parents who lost their children to gang violence and the cruelty of the North Korean regime flooded the room with a mutual sorrow. The agony of these parents knows no partisan alliance, that is why it is all the more disappointing that Trump would use their pain to push his agenda on immigration and foreign policy. This low should not be cause for outrage at the individuals or the Trump administration, but rather disappointment in the man himself for being willing to use people’s loss for political gain.
But if you can dig through the pandering fluff, you can find less partisan goals like investing in modern infrastructure. An opportunity for job growth in both the public and private sectors. This is talk everyone can celebrate assuming the investment will be implemented in a fair and equitable fashion.
Furthermore, talks of prison reform and giving felons that have done their time a second chance. While suspicious coming from the same administration that has postured against felons, “helping former inmates who have served their time get a second chance at life” is an issue worth keeping an eye on. Although not likely, hopefully the Trump administration will recognize that reintegration is best served by reforming policing and the justice system as cogs in the system of mass incarceration altogether.
It sounds like the next year of the Trump administration will tackle some of the issues much of America had hoped he had forgotten he promised on the campaign trail. Like being, “hard on drug dealers”; a phrase anyone competent in American history knows is coded language for the policing style that spawned mass incarceration, racial profiling, and a number of systemic issues for men of color.
Overall, in a rare moment Trump sounded presidential. The union is in one piece but it is on fire. And depending on whether or not your identity falls in the favor of Trump’s constituency determines whether or not you are being burned or kept warm by that fire. It seems as though many including myself will have to endure another year of Trump presidency in the style of the Congressional Black Caucus, unbothered and unamused.
– Carrington is an electronic media sophomore
This column is apart of a Talk It Out series. The opposing argument to this article can be found here.