A Beautiful and Horrifying State of the Union Address


Last night, President Donald J. Trump delivered a poignant, masterful State of the Union address. In eloquently framed sentences, he touted many past accomplishments, reminded us of how much we have to be grateful for today, and stirred us by articulating uplifting aspirations for our future.

As has become the custom, he honored Americans from various walks of life, sharing their touching stories with his nationwide audience. This had the effect of reminding us that policies are about people, not ideologies, and that away from the fractious arena of politics, our country is blessed with good, decent, humble, brave, kind people.

The president’s delivery was sincere, heartfelt, and occasionally tinged with reverence for God, the gift of life, and the magnificent potential of America.

In short, it was beautiful. Regardless of one’s opinion about the man or his policies, one would have to have a heart of stone not to have been affected by this exceptional address.

So, how could something so beautiful also be horrifying? It wasn’t the speech itself that was the problem, but the Democrats’ response to it. I know it’s customary for the opposition party to be restrained in showing signs of approval for a president’s policies, but last night the Democrats seemed extremely unhappy about good news for the American people.

Time after time, the president shared encouraging news about the state of our nation—record-low unemployment for black Americans, Hispanic Americans, black youth; millions fewer people needing food stamps; rising wages, etc.—and time after time Democrats sat scowling in their seats.

Why did they refuse to applaud good news that is benefiting segments of our population that Democrats are supposed to care about? At times, it even sounded like they were hissing—either that or their hatred for this president was seething so powerfully within them that their bodies were audibly steaming.

“The U.S. is enjoying a blue-collar boom,” the president declared. Enthusiastic applause from Republicans; stony passivity from Democrats—in danger of becoming the erstwhile party of blue-collar workers.

One of the president’s strongest, most potentially unifying lines was aimed directly at the legislators seated in front of him: “Members of Congress, we must never forget that the only victories that matter in Washington are the victories that deliver for the American people.”

That might have been the closest that President Trump came to alluding to impeachment. Indeed, the president maintained a classy silence about that ugly, partisan brouhaha, choosing instead to keep the primary focus of the SOTU on the American people instead of himself.

But how did Democrats respond to a nonpartisan statement that put the interests of the American people above all partisanship and political gamesmanship? Again, total silence, not even a grudging hand-clap or two.

Nor did the Democrats show any enthusiasm for the president’s promises to protect Medicare and Social Security, or to protect Americans from the depredations of illegal alien criminals, or even his assurance that our collective health care system will never turn its back on Americans suffering from pre-existing conditions.

If you want to look for a bright side in the Democrats’ refusal to acknowledge any of the good things going on and prospering the American people, well, at least they stood and clapped when Trump expounded the goal of wiping out AIDS in our country by the end of the decade. Thanks goodness they responded positively to that. I was beginning to wonder if they were all unconscious.

Actually, I wish they had been unconscious, because then one could overlook the awful implications of their decision to refuse to celebrate American achievements or promise—namely, that these people are so out of touch with ordinary Americans and so filled with the delusion that only they are fit to govern that they simply despise any of the good that is going on all around our country.

An especially telling—and troubling—moment was when a young wife and her two small children had a surprise reunion in the House gallery with their husband/father who was brought home from his fourth tour of duty in Afghanistan for the occasion. Republicans, after some moments of heartfelt applause, broke into an enthusiastic chant of “USA! USA!” The Democrats sat motionless.

This is what I found so horrifying. If they don’t want to applaud Donald Trump due to their personal animosities, that is one thing, but to refuse to participate in a cheer for the country itself is ominous, disturbing, and, yes, horrifying.

Even at the end, when President Trump said that we are now on the cusp of making our country greater than it has ever been before, only a few Democrats offered perfunctory applause. I found myself thinking, If these people have such little enthusiasm and love for our country and its people, why are they even wasting their time serving in Congress? Will they only love America if we have a socialist dictatorship with them in power?

I commend the president for the dignified way in which he handled himself. He never got flustered or annoyed by the overtly hostile attitude of the opposition party. He knew that he had an uplifting message to share with the American people—a message based on very real accomplishments and abundant evidence of progress—and so he ignored the opposition and spoke directly to the people.

And by shining the spotlight on so many decent, humble, wonderful American citizens who were his guests at the address, he let the fundamental goodness of this country speak for itself (although he did explicitly acknowledge the sacredness and beauty inherent in every human life).

Donald Trump’s State of the Union address spoke to the best that is within us, and I’m sure millions will respond positively. Thank you for a beautiful address, Mr. President. You done good.

Mark Hendrickson, an economist, recently retired from the faculty of Grove City College, where he remains a fellow for economic and social policy at the Institute for Faith and Freedom.

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Author: Mark Hendrickson

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