A Hill Talk Editorial: Trump’s State of the Union delivers for independents

President Trump is riding the wave of what can, by different standards, be considered a huge night on Tuesday. The president’s second State of the Union address has been labeled as a 2020 campaign speech by some on the left and also compared to the best of Ronald Reagan’s addresses by others on the right.

After a staggered start date due to partisan posturing with House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Trump finally got to take his case directly to the American people on a platform that dwarfs even his Twitter following.

Pelosi started the drama by essentially saying that due to the month-long government shutdown, the president was not welcome to deliver the address at a joint session of Congress.  Trump responded in kind by pulling her military travel transport for an overseas diplomatic trip in an epic back-and-forth between the two leaders.

The early numbers indicate a 76 percent approval rating for Trump’s address. Most notable in the CBS poll was 82 percent of independents who watched the speech said that they liked what they heard, along with 57 percent who had a “very positive” reaction according to CNN. Both polls found about 70 percent agreed with the president on immigration.

The temperature in the House chamber was highly partisan and apparent as the majority of Democratic female members donned various white colored apparel to signify unity and to recognize the suffrage movement.  Speaker Pelosi looked like Tom Brady quarterbacking when the troops could clap, stand, smile and feel. For the most of the president’s speech there was a fascination on Twitter regarding the life-size flash cards Pelosi was noticeably shuffling through while the president was speaking.

Trump shared the fact that the U.S. is now the biggest producer of natural gas and oil in the entire world and a net exporter of energy for the first time in 65 years. He also bragged about the economy, specifically job growth and record low unemployment for Hispanics, African-Americans and women.  Trump then gave a shout out to the record number of females now seated in Congress which led the women in white to begin chanting “USA, USA!”  in one of the only “unity moments” of the evening.

On foreign policy, Trump essentially said we needed to stop fighting endless wars across the Middle East and discussed bringing the troops home from Syria and Afghanistan. He touched on dropping out of the Cold War era INF treaty with Russia. Trump additionally mentioned an upcoming meeting with Kim Jung Un regarding the denuclearization and his administration’s work on trade deals with China, Canada and Mexico which are more favorable to U.S. interests.

The two lighting rods of the evening were abortion and immigration. The first was in response to recent state abortion bills in New York and Virginia, as Trump made an appeal for federal legislation banning late-term preganacy terminations.  Then, in a more anticipated move, the president spent time on the importance of border security and the need for a wall on the southern border.

Trump has floated the idea of declaring a national emergency on the southern border which would allow him to allocate more funds for the Department of Homeland Security. There is partisan disagreement on his legal authority to do this. Legal or not, it will end up in court. A legislative solution is ideal for the White House. Trump will attempt to make it part of the deal to reauthorize the full opening of our government on Feb 15.

The real deal with the wall is that it is not about the wall at all. The wall is purely about playing politics. Here is the explanation: Trump promised a wall, he has to deliver if he wants to get reelected; Pelosi cannot let him win. The fact that DACA kids got left out in the cold is proof they do not want to make a deal. Democrats cannot let him win, Republicans cannot afford to lose. Make no mistake, the wall will happen, the question is what kind of wall and if it will happen as a result of legislative or executive authority.

What can the public expect to get legislative movement on with a Democratic House majority?  No major policy initiatives will happen over the next two years, because, frankly, the electorate is already on to 2020. Sad, but true. Areas where there may be some room for bipartisan cooperation are in the realm of infrastructure funding, lowering health care and prescription drug costs, solutions for preexisting conditions, cancer and HIV research and potentially school choice.

It may not sound like much, but don’t look so surprised, they call it the swamp for a reason. Welcome to the 2020 election cycle.

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