Watching Donald Trump attempt to unify a polarized America evokes the image of a small child asking for an expensive toy. “Maybe,” dad responds, but the child isn’t stupid. He or she knows the probability of getting that toy is zero.
Like the father in the anecdote, it’s not clear whether Trump actually thinks he’s fooling anyone or is just using “maybe” as a means of covering his own butt.
2018 saw the least positive reaction in 20 years to a speech that was mostly spent waxing about American heroes, rather than outlining policy. When he did settle down and talk business, there were some glaring holes.
We Love You, Puerto Rico; But We’re Not in Love with You
The Trump administration’s neglect of US Territory Puerto Rico should come as no surprise to the politically engaged. However, our president wasted no time in taking credit for the rescue of the island and its people — where 1/3 of residents still lack power and 3.5% have no running water.
What’s being done? Not much. FEMA plans to spend $13.7 billion in Puerto Rico this year. That sounds like a lot of money but with an entire power grid to rebuild and people going without water, it could easily fall short. The recovery plan, which has shifted from emergency response to longer-term recovery, doesn’t portray Trump’s administration as responsive in this time of need.
Making America White Again
Trump spoke directly to the controversial issue of immigration — except that he completely misconstrued the way that the diversity visa lottery works. By Trump’s account, you might think that the lottery is as simple as picking names out of a hat and allowing people in without any security vetting.
The two men Trump used in his example, Sayfullo Saipov and Akayed Ullah, are allegedly responsible for attacks in New York City. However, they came to the United States years before and US authorities recognize that they were radicalized after having immigrated, undermining Trump’s assertion that we are putting security at risk by allowing visa recipients to enter. Trump went on to assert that chain migration — the system through which immigrants are allowed to bring additional family members into the country — was also a threat.
A “new tide of optimism,” as Trump calls it, has apparently been sweeping over the USA since the day that Trump took office. A USA that is embroiled in serious soul-searching about the policies of racial and sexual oppression being promoted by our government… but never mind that, what about the economy?
All that optimism has brought us 2.4 million jobs. Never mind that 400,000 of them came at the tail end of the Obama administration before Trump even had a chance to put any policy in place. His first meaningful changes to economic policy would have come in February, 2017.
And we got “the biggest tax cuts in history.” Measuring a tax cut is difficult, but the reality of Trump’s cuts is that they don’t put the “yuuge” amount of cash back into middle-class pockets the way that Trump wants you to think they do. Average families can expect about a 2% increase in income, but that growth is only sustained past 2025 for upper-class earners.
Stacking the Court
Trump also waxed about his accomplishments in “appointing judges who will interpret the Constitution as written,” and that his administration has already appointed more circuit court judges than any new administration in the history of the USA.
That’s all true, and it’s horrifying for progressives. Remember this is coming from a president who endorsed Roy Moore — until he didn’t. As judges go, Trump’s tastes are in the fire-and-brimstone, misogyny, and bigotry be-damned category. You’re welcome, America.
Taking a Bite out of Crime
In Trump’s campaign against non-whites, there’s no easier target than Mexican gangs. He chose to devote a significant portion of the SOTU to praise the work done to shut down MS-13, a powerful Mexican-Mafia affiliate operating in the states.
The only problem is, much of the work he cited was carried out by Central American authorities; and the numbers he used didn’t actually align with the number of incarcerations made into US federal prisons. At least we aren’t overwhelming the already cracking system even more.
What Did You Expect?
The Donald came, saw, and praised himself in what was basically a repeat of every Donald Trump speech we’ve ever watched on TV. There was some saber-rattling directed at Kim-Jong-Un and a few nods to the American heroes that attended as Melania’s guests, who will be erased from memory quicker than an Olympic athlete’s endorsement deal fades.
The facts don’t add up, so it makes sense that a president who has failed to lead since day one continued to flop with a speech that was more of the same. We’re making America something, but it’s not great.