President Trump struck a unique and new tone in his first address to Congress since taking office. Trump laid out a sweeping policy agenda that stayed true to traditional GOP policy planks and reassured many in the Republican leadership that they had a friend in the Oval Office.
The Democrats remained unified in spite of a tempered Trump. Only a handful of Senators and Congressmen and women broke ranks to stand and clap for Trump’s signature issues. The women in the Democratic caucus also wore white to honor the suffragetes. If this stands as a preview of what is to come, the Democrats are shaping up to be in good shape. Toeing the party line will be crucial. Every vote they cast is likely to be scrutinized by liberal activists that are stoking the base for special elections across the nation in the run up to the 2018 midterm elections.
Through this speech Trump looked to bolster his agenda setting mandate, address his messaging problem, and present a more sober view of his presidency.
The Trump Agenda
The Trump agenda is broad strokes, but his speechwriters did a much better job of articulating what his presidency will be about. Trump clearly wants to be a president that presides over an unparalleled period of American economic expansion, military prowess, and personal freedom.
Whether or not you agree with Trump’s approach to achieving these goals, he has a much better footing to do so after this speech. The GOP caucus will be receptive to his overtures since he stood up for them on primetime tv. The President is milking his tv persona for every ounce of its potential. This reminded me of an article in Politico Magazine I read earlier this morning. It portends that the President is a ‘performance artist’ that is pretending to be a ‘great manager.’
CNN’s first reaction polling shows that nearly 70% of viewers had a positive reaction to Trump’s speech. If that trend holds, Trump is on track to effectively encase himself in this ‘great manager’ persona.
The Trump Message
It’s now clear Trump has labeled what he wants his presidency to be about. Now the White House has to aggressively move to claim that agenda. It’ll be surprising if the Trump surrogates are not out in force over the next few mornings with another stint on the Sunday shows.
President Trump did exactly what candidate Trump did so well: defined his message based on his ‘policy planks’. The President made clear that his mandate encompasses your family’s safety, economic wellbeing, and our national pride. If he makes an effort to defend and bolster any of these three categories he scores points.
The low hanging fruit of rhetorical points will likely boost Trump’s approval and favorability ratings in the coming weeks, but will cause them to crater when he falls prey to obstructionism and legislative stagnation.
A Sober Trump
The simple truth of this address is that it had one clear objective: get Trump back on the rails.
Trump’s inaugural address was extremely dark. The nation was depicted as dangerous, depleted, and downtrodden. His address to Congress struck a completely different tone. Trump’s message could be described as ‘aspirational.’
One of the key components of his speech was the celebration of the United States’ 250th anniversary. He questioned what kind of nation we wanted to build by that monumental moment.
It is also important to note that President Trump clearly condemned ‘hate and evil.’ This was his most forceful statement against anti-semitism and anti-immigrant rhetoric and hate crimes in recent weeks.
The President’s new tone and new style of presentation could signal his ‘presidential pivot,’ but this is doubtful. It is likely that patent Trump will return soon, and this ‘take a different tack’ approach is headed for the trash.