One year into his administration, if there is nothing else that can be said about Donald Trump it is this–he is consistently inconsistent.
You see, one of the primary reasons that so-called “Establishment” Republicans were skeptical of him initially is that they were well aware that Trump had spent most of his life championing Democratic candidates like the Clintons, championing liberal issues like being for a woman’s right to choose to have an abortion, and being for greater government interaction in the regulatory aspect of business.
Where Trump was in line with many (not all) Establishment Republicans and a good number of Democrats (like the Clintons) is the idea that “law and order” (read Black and Brown crime) was the essential threat to American safety, and that America’s place in the world should remain supreme and propped up by a nuclear arsenal that could ward off attacks from nation States, even if totally ineffective against terror cells waging war across the globe.
That said, last night’s State of the Union (SOTU) address, one that his predecessors have often sought to use to inspire unity while also touting partisan successes from the previous year and both partisan and bipartisan goals for the coming year, was successful if you are an “America First” jingoist regardless of party affiliation–it was an utter failure if you are a globalist who believes that America’s strength is in its diversity.
To begin, Donald Trump is not a great orator in the vein of recent gifted presidential orators like Ronald Reagan, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, men equally skilled with titillating listeners whether reading from a teleprompter or off the cuff. But Trump’s speechwriters crafted a speech last night that clearly signaled distinct policy differences from his predecessor, Obama, while charting a course that will see old school conservative laissez-faire policies that arguably led to economic collapse just a decade ago under George W. Bush.
Now, when analyzing Trump’s speech, it is critical to note that if you are a Republican or a moderate who supported him because he was a “businessman,” as I often heard last year, in true Dickensian form, “these are the best of times.” From the appointment of conservative Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch, one who will impact policy, including cases involving the regulation of commerce, for the next 25 or more years, to the end of the individual mandate that was the bane of conservatives ever since enacted per the Affordable Care Act in 2009, to corporate tax cuts from 35 percent to 20 (one that I have long advocated for–yes, finally, Hobbs agrees with Trump on something), such are the highlights of Trump’s first year.
Still, it will take five to 10 years before we know what impact the Trump tax cuts and the elimination of the individual mandate will have on the economy and the procurement of better and more affordable health care. Cognizant of that, I find it disingenuous that the president who his supporters swear “tells it like it is,” took credit last night for a strong economy and lower unemployment rates among Blacks and Latinos when the truth of the matter is that the economy was strong when Obama left office last year, and unemployment rates among those two demographics have dropped considerably since 2010, the second year of Obama’s first term. To analogize, Trump taking credit for these markers in his speech, and stepping back and applauding himself multiple times for the same, is akin to a new coach taking over at the end of the season after his predecessor is incapacitated and taking credit for winning a championship that should be credited to the coach who was coaching from day one.
Knowing that SOTU speeches are more optics and form than substance, if one was awakened from a deep sleep and watched the pageantry last night, said viewer would think that the Trump Republican Party is the old GOP “Big Tent,” one in which racial minorities and women were theoretically advocated for in rhetoric and policy.
The problem is that the optics do not match the record; also in true Dickensian form, “these are the worst of times” for racial and religious minorities and women. Seeing Cory Adams, the black welder and new homeowner, sitting in the gallery while being lauded by Trump does not wipe away Trump’s prior insistence that the Black “sons of Bitches” in the NFL need to stand for the anthem, or the Trump Justice Department’s push to incarcerate low-level drug dealers, a push that will disproportionately impact communities of color.
Trump hosting Elizabeth Alvarado and Robert Mickens; Evelyn Rodriguez and Freddy Cuevas, Black and Latino parents of Nisa Mickens and Kayla Cuevas, respectively, two teenagers murdered on Long Island in 2016 by MS-13, does not validate Trump’s racist insistence that the greatest threats to American security are immigrants of color and Muslim. Nota Bene: According to Trump’s own Department of Justice, while approximately 13% of the U.S. population is foreign-born, only 5.6% of inmates held in federal, state and local prisons are foreign-born. Indeed, crime in America is a native-born menace, including FBI statistics that prove that since 1983, nearly 70 percent of the worst mass shootings in America, including last year’s Las Vegas concert carnage, have been committed by White “Christian” men.
Trump hosting Celestino “CJ” Martinez, an ICE agent whose investigations have led to more than 100 arrests of MS-13 gang members, does not assuage his insistence that American taxpayers foot the bill for a border wall that he swore Mexico would pay for, or that his travel ban, ostensibly a Muslim ban, is not bigoted in form and substance.
But the optics of having people of color as guests were there for the blind Trump supporter who will say, “see, the president is not a racist–he had all of those colored folks as his guests!”
But the truth of the matter is that the same president who via Twitter divides the nation daily along racial, religious, gender and socio-economic lines is ill qualified to “unify” the nation–let alone declare that the Union is “strong.”
I will also add that America is not safer or more open for global business under Trump; the fact that tourism is down because citizens across the globe are disgusted by Trump’s rhetoric, including his defense of the KKK and Neo-Nazis last summer, the rise of xenophobic nationalism among the Make America Great Again crowd, the fact that Trump continues to tout our nuclear arsenal as if that is THE trump card in diplomatic hot zones in Korea and the Middle East is problematic. Such also inspires fear while forcing allies who were once powerful enemies, namely Germany and Japan, to consider what measures they must take to defend themselves in an era in which America’s leader is sounding isolationist themes not heard since Woodrow Wilson was in the White House over a century ago.
For these reasons, our Union is not strong, it is as fractious as it has ever been and will likely only become more so as long as this president continues to be inconsistent by claiming to not be a bigot, all the while believing that rigid partisanship coupled with virile racism and sexism are the keys to electoral success.