The coming mid-term elections will be a battle between hope and fear, pride and shame, inclusion or identity politics and the people versus the current bureaucracy and government control. On Tuesday night, President Donald Trump set it up perfectly.
For those watching the State of the Union Speech this week, it might have seemed extraordinarily long. It was. At 1 hour and 20 minutes, it was the the third-longest State of the Union speech on record.
What may not have appeared obvious was Trump's mastery of the speech structure. The optimistic tone and tenor, the inclusionary language, the bipartisan requests, the inclusion of real people (who represent the achievements of everyday Americans), the laundry list of accomplishments from the past year followed by a long list of accomplishments yet to be made, Trump conveyed while folding in policies that are normally clung to by those on the left (criminal justice reform and family leave), while reminding us of our shared history and our founders' quest for freedom.
Trump called repeatedly for bipartisanship. "It is not enough to come together only in times of tragedy. Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve." Based on the body language of the Democrats in the room, this call will not be met.
Later in the address, Trump reached beyond those in the chamber to the American people themselves. "So, to every citizen watching at home tonight — no matter where you have been, or where you come from, this is your time. If you work hard, if you believe in yourself, if you believe in America, then you can dream anything, you can be anything, and together, we can achieve anything."
The president promised those who were watching a brighter future together. "Tonight, I want to talk about what kind of future we are going to have, and what kind of Nation we are going to be. All of us, together, as one team, one people, and one American family."
While Trump referred to himself (using the word "I") when referencing promises he made during the campaign, (some, like tax reform, that were met and some, like building a wall, that have yet to be met), he used the word "we" when referencing the accomplishments of the past year.
"In our drive to make Washington accountable, we have eliminated more regulations in our first year than any administration in history...Since the election, we have created 2.4 million new jobs, including 200,000 new jobs in manufacturing alone."
This message is powerful and understated at the same time. It also underscores Trump's larger message that, together, we can have a bright future.
Trump looked beyond the House Chamber by recognizing that America is defined by its people, not its government. "A people whose heroes live not only in the past, but all around us — defending hope, pride, and the American way. They work in every trade. They sacrifice to raise a family. They care for our children at home. They defend our flag abroad. They are strong moms and brave kids. They are firefighters, police officers, border agents, medics, and Marines."
More importantly, Trump recognized that "this Capitol, this city, and this nation, belong to them." The government works for the people, not the other way around.
Trump also called for Americans to take pride in themselves and their country. A pride in "who we are, and what we are fighting for." Concluding that, "as long as we have confidence in our values, faith in our citizens, and trust in our God, we will not fail...In America, we know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of the American life. Our motto is 'in God we trust.'"
He noted that the "incredible people" of the United States founded this nation on "a revolutionary idea: that they could rule themselves. That they could chart their own destiny. " Trump reminded us that " together, they [we] could light up the world."
The Democratic rebuttal, delivered by Rep. Joe Kennedy, D-Mass., focused on divisive language and identity politics. It laid out a bleak future unless the government saves us. Expect more of this from Democrats as the 2018 elections draw nigh.
To find out more about Jackie Gingrich Cushman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.