By Duke Staff
In the second State of the Union address of his presidency, Donald Trump began his annual address to Congress by calling for unity between parties following the longest government shutdown in history.
“We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution, and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good,” the president said. “Together, we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future.”
While Trump was lauded throughout the media and by political pundits for requesting a both sides of the aisle approach to politics, his attempt to be “Mr. Congeniality” fell flat as soon as he reached the crux of his 2019 address to the nation: immigration.
In his usual style of divisiveness on the issue, Trump devoted about 15 minutes of his nearly hour and a half long speech to reiterating his need for a border wall and the “dangers” posed by illegal immigration, referring to the MS-13 gang and sex trafficking of migrants across the border to stress his desired legislative agenda. None of this is surprising, as this has been his chosen rhetoric since the days of his campaign.
Where he crossed the line was the revival of the “migrant caravan” myth.
Causing an audible and visceral reaction from Democrats, Trump announced that he would be sending 3,750 additional troops to the border, calling the caravan a “moral issue” that needed to be addressed.
“The lawless state of our southern border is a threat to the safety, security and financial well-being of all Americans,” he said.
For those of us in Pittsburgh, the resurrection of the caravan-laden rhetoric poured salt into a wound that still hasn’t healed. In case the president has forgotten — which it appears obvious that he has — it was the original caravan story that allegedly inspired a gunman to open fire on the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, killing 11 on Oct. 28, 2018. He only added insult to injury when he attempted to honor the victims of the shooting later on in his speech, after he had already gone off on his anti-immigration rant less than an hour before.
It wasn’t immigrants who committed evil at Tree of Life, but rather a white American man allegedly radicalized by heavy anti-immigration sentiment. Immigrants did not open fire in Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, Charleston or Parkland. All of those terrorists were American-born and American-made, influenced in large part by a hatred that went undiscussed at the State of the Union address.
The speech was a flagrant display of the same demagoguery we’ve seen throughout Trump’s campaign and presidency. The words were empty, backed by no action plans to address the issues most concerning to Americans today. There was no mention of the thousands of furloughed or unpaid workers still recovering from the shutdown, or of the uncertainty surrounding whether or not the government will shut down again. Praise for ICE agents abounded, yet Trump failed to mention the 7-year-old Guatemalan child, Jakelin Caal, who died in ICE custody. Several representatives, including Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Ilhan Omar, wore pins to honor her memory, however.
It was nice to see the Democratic women wearing white in a show of solidarity with the women’s suffrage movement, and even the coldest soul could’ve been moved when the room burst into song, singing Happy Birthday to an 81-year-old Holocaust survivor. But Trump’s speech touted American nationalism and offered the country little else.