A Liberal Democrat perspective on Trump’s State of the Union

I originally wrote this for Lib Dem Voice, and you can find it on their website.

Screengrab of White House SOTU video. Src: @WhiteHouse

Last night, Mr Trump presented his State of the Union to the American People and the watching world. I stayed up late and caught a live stream of it, as well as the Democratic Party response delivered by Stacey Abrams.

Judah Samet. Src: White House Public Domain Photo via flickr

It was an uninspiring jumble of falsehoods, empty promises, and rhetoric. The highlight of the evening was Congress singing “Happy Birthday” to Holocaust and Pittsburgh shooting survivor Judah Samet, who turned 81.

The evening began with Presidential hypocrisy as Trump praised three “incredible heroes” who participated in D-Day, yet in November he cancelled his Armistice Day visit to the Aisne-Marne American Cemetery and Memorial simply because it was raining.

Like Nixon before him, Trump tried to use his State of the Union Address to oppose the ongoing investigation in him and his team, referring to investigations as “partisan” and “ridiculous”. Trump then moved on to praise his “success” with Tax reform – that didn’t pay for itself, he criticised antisemitism – despite his own rhetoric directly contributing to a rise in the abuse of Jewish people and communities. He continued his tirade against a woman’s right to have control of her body, he rallied against legal asylum and pushed again for his racist southern border wall.

In one of the stranger twists, Donald Trump told us that he is meeting Kim Jong-Un later this months and that the US has held “constructive” negotiations with the Taliban, and then in the next breath went on to criticise Iran calling them “Bad bad people”. He praised the US Armed Forces; “Our economy is the envy of the world, our military is the most powerful on earth, and America is winning each and every day,” ignoring the fact his recent discriminatory trans ban, will weaken the US Military.

Of course, I could continue to highlight the fallacies in almost everything Trump said, but it’s important to look at the positive, and fortunately, we did get to hear from a leader who delivered a powerful message – Stacey Abrams.

Stacey Abrams in November 2018. Src: Marla Aufmuth / TED via Flickr. CC-BY-NC-ND

In her speech, Abrams calmly presented a vision of a better America, it wasn’t a rebuttal, or even really a response, but it was clear; Democrats will tackle what this Government is not.

She tackled the recent US Government Shutdown, highlighting bi-partisan work in Georgia on criminal justice reform, transport, and foster care. She tackled healthcare, climate change, children in cages at the border, LGBTQ Discrimination.

On Education, Abrams highlighted active shooter drills in Elementary schools and rising Higher Education costs;

And, most importantly, Stacey Abrams finished strong, leaving viewers with a message of strength;

America wins by fighting for our shared values against all enemies: foreign and domestic … and when we do so, never wavering — the state of our union will always be strong

Stacey Abrams, Democrats response to State of the Union, February 5th 2019.

Stacey Abrams’ speech contained everything we needed to see from a revitalised Democratic Party as we began the 2020 Presidential Election Fight, and if it wasn’t a response to the State of the Union, I’d have expected to see it in an announcement of candidacy.

We had two speeches last night; one was Presidential and a sign of Leadership, the other was Trumps. The next two years are still going to be difficult for America and the world, but maybe the Democratic Party are actually ready to put up a fight.


Aimee Challenor is the Diversity Officer for the Coventry Liberal Democrats. She is engaged to her partner who lives in Michigan, USA. She tweets at @AimeeChallenor. Views expressed here are her own and not nece those of the Liberal Democrats.