Even as President Trump opened his State of the Union address last night with a call for unity, he proceeded to inject his "us against them" attitude throughout his speech, even playing to the divides that exist in our nation.
“Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for . . . the people we were elected to serve,” he said early on.
But then Trump proceeded to raise highly divisive issues such as national anthem protests and crimes by undocumented immigrants. It seemed that virtually every applause line was meant to pacify and encourage his base, drawing upon emotional appeals to patriotism and pride in country. One minor problem: Many of his claims were either flat-out wrong or at the least, misleading, according to fact-checkers.
In discussing the controversy over immigration reform and protecting those in the Deferred Action on Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, the so-called "dreamers," Trump began by focusing on crimes committed by illegal immigrants. He spotlighted tearful parents of teenagers who were killed by MS-13 gang members, intimating that was the fault of our current immigration system. That was misleading as immigrants are far less apt than native-born Americans to commit crimes, statistics show.
While Trump outlined what he called a fair compromise plan for immigration reform that would give "dreamers" a path to citizenship over 12 years, he smirked that “Americans are dreamers, too”.
"Tonight, I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties — Democrats and Republicans — to protect our citizens of every background, color, religion, and creed," he said. "My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans — to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American Dream. Because Americans are dreamers too."
That "compromise plan?" It would give Trump all of his immigration demands, including his $25 billion wall, and if he doesn't get his way, presumably those young "dreamers," who were brought to the U.S. by parents or relatives as young children, will be shipped back to countries they have never known. The deadline is March 5.
Trump also twice referred to the protests against police violence led by African American football players during the national anthem. Those mentions drew a roar from his supporters and little reaction except stares from Democrats.
Trump talked about the need for a $1.5 trillion program to improve the nation's infrastructure, but his only mention of financing it was to say that it would be a federal, state, local and private business partnership. While he offered no details, if state and local governments are to cough up nearly half the money with a kick in from the private sector, that no doubt will mean state and local tax increases. Where else are they going to get the money? There goes the savings people may now enjoy, at least temporarily, from the GOP's vaunted tax reform law.
And if the private sector is to be involved, would that not mean more tolls on highways and bridges? Wouldn't those projects tend to be in urban areas where heavier traffic would generate the revenue needed to make a profit? Such a plan, depending upon specifics (of which there were none), could cause even more divisiveness among cities and towns, states and regions, red states and blue states.
Nowhere in his speech were there mentions of major issues of concern for many Americans, some of which are the primary reasons for divisiveness in America: race relations, mass shootings and gun violence (except to say how he will always protect the 2nd Amendment), patterns of sexual abuse against women, climate change, the investigation into Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential election.
In the end, white supremacists — including David Duke— commended Trump for the “America First” tone of his speech. It was another shill to white nationalism, but entirely fitting based upon the tone and content of Trump's remarks.