Nancy Pelosi spent much of Trump’s State of the Union address pretending to read a printout of it. She then ostentatiously ripped it up once the speech concluded. The moment captured the bitterness of a partisan watching a president she tried to overthrow moving closer to reelection. Trump delivered an effective address that made expert use of special guests in the audience, from Venezuela’s real president in exile to Rush Limbaugh to the widows and orphans of military heroes. All in all, it was a Reaganesque performance.
Far from derailing his presidency, impeachment seems to have energized it. Trump’s poll numbers are at the highest level ever, and after last night’s successful speech, the Senate will acquit him. Meanwhile, the Democrats are in disarray, reeling from a caucus they couldn’t run, and more bereft of a serious challenger to Trump than ever. Joe Biden’s poor showing in Iowa has exposed the depth of that problem. Already establishment figures, such as Chris Matthews, are questioning the viability of his candidacy. According to the Associated Press, his embarrassing fourth-place finish has donors looking elsewhere, perhaps toward Michael Bloomberg.
As the Democrats rush to the left, they leave the center wide open to Trump, which he filled on Tuesday night with a speech full of material and moments appealing to everyone. He could also point to tangible accomplishments that all Americans could celebrate. At the same time, he gave his base plenty of reassuring material, too. His honoring of the ailing Rush Limbaugh would never have been done by a more conventional Republican.
He also spoke openly about the failure of what he called at one point “government schools” — a phrase George W. Bush would never have used. Trump even called for prayer in schools and defended America’s Judeo-Christian tradition: “My administration is also defending religious liberty, and that includes the constitutional right to pray in public schools. In America, we do not punish prayer. We do not tear down crosses. We do not ban symbols of faith. We do not muzzle preachers and pastors. In America, we celebrate faith. We cherish religion. We lift our voices in prayer, and we raise our sights to the glory of God!”
The Democrats, of course, didn’t applaud that line. Nor did they clap for Trump’s lines about ending late-terms abortions. They wouldn’t even clap for Trump’s generic call to put “America first.” The Democrats prefer to put it last. They scowled through Trump’s denunciation of illegal immigration, sanctuary cities, and free health care for people who break our laws. They shook their heads as he promised not to let socialism “destroy” the American health-care system.
These speeches are normally laundry lists, and this one was no exception. But it also had its moments of thematic eloquence. Trump’s can-do optimism shone through his reflections on America’s past and future.
About America’s past, he said,
The American nation was carved out of the vast frontier by the toughest, strongest, fiercest, and most determined men and women ever to walk the face of the Earth. Our ancestors braved the unknown; tamed the wilderness; settled the Wild West; lifted millions from poverty, disease, and hunger; vanquished tyranny and fascism; ushered the world to new heights of science and medicine; laid down the railroads, dug out canals, raised up the skyscrapers — and, ladies and gentlemen, our ancestors built the most exceptional Republic ever to exist in all of human history. And we are making it greater than ever before!
About America’s future, he said,
This nation is our canvas, and this country is our masterpiece. We look at tomorrow and see unlimited frontiers just waiting to be explored. Our brightest discoveries are not yet known. Our most thrilling stories are not yet told. Our grandest journeys are not yet made. The American Age, the American Epic, the American Adventure, has only just begun.
Our spirit is still young; the sun is still rising; God’s grace is still shining; and, my fellow Americans, the best is yet to come.
This contrasts favorably with the do-nothing Democrats, whose doom-and-gloom socialist rhetoric ill befits America’s history and traditions. In light of Biden’s anemic performance in Iowa, the head of their party could end up being an aging near-communist who honeymooned in the Soviet Union. It is no wonder that John Kerry and company are freaking out. They have no real candidate. Biden’s whole schtick was that he is “electable.” But coming in fourth, down near Klobuchar, doesn’t exactly bolster that argument.
If Bernie wins, he threatens to pull off the Democratic mask completely. He would be even a bigger downer than Walter Mondale, whose I-will-raise-your-taxes platform collapsed against Reagan so badly. Trump’s address on Tuesday, full of proof that he is delivering on his promise to strengthen America, should strike fear in the hearts of Democrats. For an impeached president, he looks very much in command.