March 1st, 2017

SOTU: the Democrats’ dilemma

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.]

23 Responses to “SOTU: the Democrats’ dilemma”

  1. M J R Says:

    “My Twitter feed, which is mostly national political reporters, was soggy with the tears of disappointment that President Donald Trump hadn’t put on a clown suit and gone completely off script.”
    — Rich Galen

  2. Geoffrey Britain Says:

    I suspect the dems behavior was a reflection of their bases intolerance for any perceived cooperation with the right. Many on the left have passed into their own ‘undiscovered country’ where any aspect of reality that fails to match their fantasies is rejected.

    Jones as of late has made a number of startling comments. He’s much more astute than I had imagined.

  3. Richard Saunders Says:

    When the camera focused on Pelosi, although I can’t read lips, I got the distinct impression she was saying, “Holy shit! We’re not going to be able to beat this guy!”

  4. parker Says:

    The last time I watched a SOTU address was 2002. I thought GWB rose above the expections of the opposition party and msm. DJT did not only rise above the sour expectations of the left, it was as if he was looking down on them from stationary orbit.

    Keep surprising them Mr. President.

  5. Juli Says:

    They can’t act normal, lest they “normalize that man and his family”.

  6. Ray Says:

    I thought it was hilarious when Juan Williams commented on the speech and said that wasn’t the real Trump. The real Trump would have been bashing the media, the intelligence agencies, Mexicans, and Muslims.

  7. Yancey Ward Says:

    I suspect that Trump is making inroads with black leadership where it counts- churches, colleges, etc. It is quite possible that Jones senses this and has decided to tack back to the center a bit and drop some some insanity.

  8. Oldflyer Says:

    I thoroughly enjoyed the speech. I just don’t remember anyone, even the revered Ronald Reagan, doing better. After last night, I would go so far as to say that this could be the Trump that people who know him have always told us about.

    The Pundits say he became President last night. I assume that they mean Presidential, because if they haven’t noticed, he has been President for awhile and doing things they don’t like.

    I hope that President Trump will look at the video, like what he sees, and tell himself; “this is going to be the public “me” henceforth”.

    I have already said the I don’t really care for the person in the balcony routine. Never have; but, especially when it showcases someone’s disability or grief. Clearly, I am out of step with millions on this, as last night was obviously a moment that brought a lot of people together. Mrs Owens, like all family members who suffer her level of loss, deserves respect and profound sympathy.

  9. Frog Says:

    “Two House Democrats even sat during a two-minute standing ovation for the widow of a slain soldier.”

    That is disgusting. They are going to hell in a handbasket.

    The longer this goes on, the more repugnant the Dems become to Americans of decency. Which is fortunately still the large majority of the US.

  10. neo-neocon Says:


    I’m with you on the person-in-the-balcony routine no matter what politician does it or what party. Never have liked it, but I know it’s here to stay because it’s effective. I deeply respect the vast majority of those people-in-the-balcony, however, including of course Mrs. Owens.

  11. Esther Says:

    Well, seems most of my friends –here in my entirely liberal life, sigh– were horrified by the speech, believing it’s a trick. They are lambasting the idea that if anyone thought it was a good speech, it’s only because they are actually a bad person!

    ‘Now, more than ever,’ they cry, furiously sharing contact info to the NY AG’s office, ‘Trump needs to be impeached under the emoluments clause!’

  12. Kyndyll G Says:

    “Well, seems most of my friends –here in my entirely liberal life, sigh– were horrified by the speech, believing it’s a trick.”

    Weird. Hardly a peep out of my friends, which is actually very unusual for them. They normally spend every online waking moment wallowing in lefty political memes. I see one posting a bunch of non-political stuff, otherwise largely a wall of silence from the lefty-left brigade in my life.

  13. parker Says:

    Really, the emoluments clause? That is hilarious given the reign of the messiah king.

  14. OlderandWheezier Says:

    The Democrats trotted out emotionally disturbed Cindy Sheehan at the 2006 SOTU in some kind of pathetic “gotcha” attempt.

    The recognition of Mrs. Owens, like it or not, was a far cry from the antics of the lunatic left.

  15. TommyJay Says:

    Sorry to be a nit-picker, but I don’t think Trump’s address to congress was a SOTU speech. The guy that just rolled into the oval office doesn’t have much knowledge of the state of the union.

    That said it was a damn fine speech.

  16. AesopFan Says:

    There’s always a conservative to rain on the liberals’ parade. /sarc
    Any doubts that Frum has been a Democrat-in-disguise for years should now be laid to rest.

    It’s not even worth quoting from.

  17. Esther Says:

    Kyndyll, I’m jealous, it’s getting exhausting. Almost everyone I know is still working on being totally flipped out. The reaction this time seems to be on the order of freaking out about “normalization.” Apparently they were caught up short by Trump sounding presidential. And now, they also hate Van Jones, lol.

  18. Roy Lofquist Says:

    Come the revolution…

    Revolutions can be bloody, or they can be orderly – but bloody more often than not. Whatever their course they are usually unexpected. “The Times They Are a Changin'”.

  19. Stern Wheeler Says:

    I heard someone say (Limbaugh, I think) that the main reason the Democrats “sat on their hands” during President Trump’s address to congress was to appeal to their donor base. Makes sense.

    However, not rising to acknowledge and applause a grieving widow of a combat-fallen NAVY SEAL while over 40-million Americans were watching on television is, to me, about the dumbest way a politician could try to raise money.

    But I’m sure that a small percentage of their base in the 489 counties that Hillary won last November (out of 3,112) approved of the despicable and disgusting public display.

    It’s no wonder the Democratic Politboro has descended to the depths of utter insignificance and irrelevancy.

  20. Kyndyll G Says:

    Esther, I agree. It’s an absurd comment on the times that these people I refer to occasionally here are (were?) actual, real-life friends, people I’ve known for 15-20 years or more. My husband and I are watching real-life friendships spiral down the drain and as hateful and intolerant as they had become before the Trump election (particularly throughout the second Obama term), they amped it up afterward. I had, briefly, a sense of relief when Hillary didn’t win, but after almost five months of angry, screaming tantrums and threats from people who actually want to destroy the election process and peaceful transition of power just to get their way, relief has long since melted away to be replaced by a deep foreboding. They don’t believe in values that make it possible to share our country peacefully, for the simple reason that they have proved that they cannot peacefully coexist with people who believe differently than they do. They will continue doing this until they win, or until they lose – and nothing about either outcome bodes well for the country.

    Yesterday’s silence was because there was not a retort or distraction circulating around in MSM and social media that wasn’t plainly asinine. Today, they’re off and running on Sessions having seen a Russian somewhere.

  21. Jon Jewett Says:

    Go back and look at GW’s State of the Union speeches for 2005 and 2006. The part about Social Security. In 2005, he outlined the financial disaster that is Social Security. He asked the Donks to work together to save Social Security and the financial future of our children. In 2006, poor GW pointed out that the Donks had undermined his efforts. They jeered and gloated. Words don’t do the events justice. You have to see it to really “get” just how obstructionist and loathsome the Donks are.

  22. Jon Jewett Says:

    Here are the links:

    GW State of the Union 2005 on Social Security:

    2006 State of the Union on Social Security, Democrats in all their glory.

  23. Liberty Wolf Says:

    He hit it out of the park! I have liked some of his speeches and when he’s on, he’s on, but this was above and beyond. He hit Dem talking points like infrastructure and even opened with Black History Month — so that must have also mystified them. I think he’s an interesting president with a unique agenda, that actually does combine parts of left and right (family leave and law and order). Trump has been underestimated and I have been one who has underestimated him. Not any more!

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Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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