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State of the Union Address

Alan Chau, Opinion Editor

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In the beginning of his presidency, Donald Trump painted a bleak picture of the United States, pitching it as a country ravaged by economic turmoil, ruined by foreign refugees and exploited by other countries. A year later, he presented the nation on Tuesday night with a different narrative, the narrative of the “new American moment.”

Trump seems to claim all of the nation’s achievements as that of his own doing. The stock market has “smashed one record after another.” Retirement accounts have “gone through the roof.” Companies are “roaring back” to the United States. “We haven’t seen this in a long time,” he exalted from the rostrum of the House chamber as he delivered his first formal State of the Union address. “It’s all coming back.”

Ignore the fundamental ways the economy is growing no faster than it did at President Barack Obama’s second term. Ignore the fact that Congress still cannot pass anything. Ignore that the economy is doing well because of nothing of his doing. Mr. Trump is, at heart, a salesman. He actively pitches the idea that America is a lot bigger and better than ever before. And, by some measures, he has managed to convince many Americans, even corporate leaders, that the economy really is surging in a way it has not for years.

The challenge for Mr. Trump is that even as he sells the economy with the fervor of a real estate developer, he has not been able to sell himself. His approval ratings remain at historic depths, and effectively unchanged after a year in office. His success at passing tax cuts and the continued progress of the economy he inherited have not changed the dismal views that a sizable majority of Americans hold of their president.

On top of the various successes that Trump has put his name on, Trump has discussed little about his plans for the future. Mr. Trump largely stuck to the script as he read from the teleprompters, hailing American successes in fighting the Islamic State, challenging the nuclear aspirations of North Korea and calling for bipartisan deals on immigration and infrastructure. Unlike other presidents who used the state of the union address to discuss plans for the future and reveal a fresh legislative agenda, Mr. Trump offered little new in the way of policy proposals.

Mr. Trump’s outsize personality has so polarized the country that he may not be able to win over many converts easily, even with opportunities like a national television audience of tens of millions. His goal for the speech was to reach beyond his base and put forward a more optimistic, bipartisan face to a presidency that has been exceedingly divisive, but he has demonstrated before that such moments rarely last before he begins lobbying political artillery shells all over again.

About the Writer
Alan Chau, Editor-in-Chief

Alan Chau is one of Guide Post’s Editor-in-Chiefs. He is an avid writer and political activist, with strong passions in creative writing, literature...

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State of the Union Address