Trump Union Address

Monmouth Reacts to Trump’s State of the Union Address

President Donald Trump gave the 2020 State of the Union address on Capitol Hill, last Tuesday, Feb. 4.

“Three years ago, we launched the great American comeback. Tonight, I stand before you to share these incredible results,” Trump said as the opening line of his speech. “The years of economic decay are over,” he continued, adding that the state of the Union is “stronger than ever before.”

Much of the address focused on the nation’s economic accomplishments: the unemployment rate at the lowest in over 50 years; seven million people off food stamps; 10 million people off welfare; and 3.5 million people joining the workforce over the past three years. “This is a blue-collar boom,” said Trump.

Matthew Lifson, an Instructor of Economics, discussed how he thinks the president should get some credit for the economy for reaching new heights. “The unemployment rate has always been a misleading figure, since it only includes those looking for work at the present time,” he said. “That being said, the number at such a low level gives more evidence to an improving economy. The quickest way to prove that an economy is improving is by the amount of jobs created.”

Lifson also explained how there needs to be more civility between the two political parties. “The shame of the event was the breakdown in relations has gotten so bad between the Republican and Democratic parties, and the State of the Union was actually embarrassing,” he said, blaming both the president and Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA).

Joseph Patten, Ph.D., an Associate Professor of Political Science agreed that the partisanship in America has reached a new height. “I think things now are so dysfunctional,” he said. “However, it seemed blatantly clear to some people that there was a huge divide between the two parties during the address.”

On what he thinks should be done to help with this hostile tension between the two parties, Patten said, “I think what has to happen is you have to have leadership that is genuinely interested in bringing people together…I think right now in American politics, with political populism whether it’s liberal or conservative. there’s a tendency to appeal to your supporters while attacking non-supporters.”

“There’s a nastiness to politics where you’re almost intentionally trying to make certain groups angry in order to make you more popular with your group,” said Patten, explaining how polarized the political culture has gotten in the United States.

Celine Powell, President of the Monmouth University College Republicans and a junior communication student, said that she thought Trump did “really well” discussing the economy in his State of the Union. “He dedicated at least 20 minutes and gave solid evidence,” she said.

Powell also mentioned Pelosi, calling her behavior at the address “childish.” She said, “I also think that she allowed her hatred for Trump to get in the way. When she ripped up the speech, she basically ripped up honoring a black Tuskegee airman. She ripped up reuniting a service member with his family, and she ripped up a 9-year old receiving a scholarship. It’s a shame to the Democrat party.”

Nick Gibson, President of the Monmouth University College Democrats and a senior political science student, had a different opinion of the address. “The biggest issue I had with the State of the Union Address would be Trump awarding Rush Limbaugh with the Presidential Medal of Freedom,” he said.

“[Limbaugh] has said some of the most offensive things on radio,” Gibson explained. “I won’t quote them all because the list is extensive but just as an example, ‘Feminism was established so as to allow unattractive women access to the mainstream of society’… While not surprised by this considering the presidents’ own behavior and past comments it still disgusts me that behavior such as that is awarded.”

In contrast to Powell, Gibson said that he had no issues with Pelosi’s actions at the State of the Union, that she has the right to do what she wants, and he will continue to support her.

On how Trump spoke at the State of the Union address, Matthew Harmon, Specialist Professor of Communication, said it was, “Such a unique situation because of the issues between the president and the Democratic Party and walking into a somewhat hostile audience, I would say he was able to focus on his main points of emphasis. Intentional or not, eye-contact was directed toward half the room.”

Harmon admitted it was hard to answer whether or not the president is a good public speaker in general, explaining that Trump ad-libs more than other president have done in the past, which may lead to a more off-the-track speech that it normally would be. “Some of it depends on his audience as well,” said Harmon. “His base is pretty intense when it comes to him delivering his message so that can help him feed off the energy to the crowd.”