At last night’s SOTU speech the Democrats faced a difficult dilemma: to sit on their hands or not to sit on their hands, and if so when?
Only Joe Manchin found it easy to applaud, although a couple of others managed a clap or two:
Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin (WV), Joe Donnelly (IN), and Heidi Heitkamp (ND) stood and applauded multiple times during President Trump’s speech to Congress Tuesday night, breaking with the bulk of the Democratic Party.
The majority of congressional Democrats were visibly critical of Trump’s address. Two House Democrats even sat during a two-minute standing ovation for the widow of a slain soldier. Others laughed, groaned, or even skipped the speech altogether.
But Manchin, Donnelly, and Heitkamp are all moderate swing-state Democrats facing reelection campaigns in 2018…
Manchin, for his part, was the only Democrat to applaud Trump calling to “make America great again.” Heitkamp was seen enthusiastically clapping a Trump line about pipelines. Donnelly rose in support after Trump mentioned coal miners.
I know it’s common to have the opposition party sit stony-faced and relatively motionless while the party of the president claps and yells in wild approval. But is it usually quite this extreme, even when a president is talking about subjects that are clearly meant to have bipartisan appeal? I’m not sure, because I watch these speeches so seldom.
That said, I recognize that as SOTU addresses go, Trump really hit that one out of the park, particularly considering the low expectations so many people had for him. One can almost (almost!) feel sorry for the Democrats, sitting there and expecting the guy to fall flat on his face or to do something icky-gross, and instead he acquits himself quite nicely and even presidentially.
The left is left to squawk about how Carryn Owens, the widow of the slain SEAL, was exploited by the speech. But Mrs. Owens is a grown woman, fully able to make her own decisions, and she obviously was there of her own volition.
Last night most of the Democrats looked like terrible grumps. They are now obstructionists, exactly what they accused the GOP of being during the Obama administration. Their idea, of course, is to portray Trump as Hitlerian, so that although resistance to Obama was racism, resistance to Trump is heroism. But the more Trump “normalizes” himself as he did last night, the less the Hitler charge will stick and the worse the Democrats will look.
[NOTE: One of the things I haven’t yet mentioned about Trump’s delivery of the speech is that he seemed not just sincere, but natural. This seems to me to be one of the hardest things to do in a prepared speech: to appear as though the speaker is talking in an unmannered way and as though he/she actually means what he/she says. If Trump didn’t actually mean what he said last night, then he deserves an Oscar.
Some on the left seem to realize this—for example, Van Jones:
Noting that he still often disagrees with the President, Jones admitted that Trump’s powerful moment [with Carryn Owens] shows he may be settling into the role.
“If he finds a way to do that over and over again, he’s going to be there for eight years,” Jones said.
That’s quite a statement, coming from Jones.]