Editorial: A contradictory state of affairs in the State of the Union Address

President Donald Trump delivered his first State of the Union (SOTU) speech on Jan. 30. While many viewers likely watched with bated breath, anticipating a lewd comment or a provocative judgment — a Trump staple — the president remained shockingly, well, presidential. We do not, however, deem this worthy of applause. We argue that the president should be held to a higher standard than simply keeping his composure and keeping to a script. Our primary concern lies within the contradictions between Trump’s rhetoric and his tangible policies.

The president called for unity, and for Democrats and Republicans to “set aside their differences,” but the issues he highlighted during his speech deviate markedly from this objective. Take immigration, for example. Trump first chose to use an international crime gang — MS 13 — to pigeonhole all illegal immigrants as criminals. His intention in inviting the parents of two teenage girls who were killed by MS-13 members to hear the SOTU was attributed, by some, to fear-mongering.

Particularly troubling was the president’s reference to DACA Dreamers by claiming “Americans are dreamers, too.” His trivializing comparison of Dreamers to citizenship-bearing Americans served as another means of promoting his harsh immigration proposals, which are more alienating to immigrants than ever before. The divide he created between working class Americans and immigrants during his presidential campaign was molded long before the SOTU, but his push to end DACA only furthered that strife.

Another instance that stands in stark opposition to the president’s call for unity was his appeal to protect the “nuclear family,” by ending chain migration. Ironically, the official term for chain migration is “family reunification,” though the president’s plan for immigration reform would limit citizens and permanent residents to bringing only spouses and minor children into the United States, excluding extended family members. An appeal to unity seems ludicrous when juxtaposed with an end to unifying immigrant families.

The divisiveness that the Trump presidency has cultivated was made apparent in the strikingly disparate reactions to several components of his speech. Certain remarks elicited cheers and applause from some, but looks of distress and blank stares from others. The same comments that incited some to chant “USA!,” also prompted some audience members to leave the room.

While we acknowledge that the SOTU is largely expected to be an opportunity for the ruling party either to tout their successes, to further their political agenda, or some combination of both, we found Trump’s speech to be problematic because of the contradictions between his policies and his overall thematic message of unity.

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