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Bad News for Trump Haters: He's Turning Into a Politician

President Trump during the 2018 State of the Union address. (D. Myles Cullen / White House)

He shall from time to time give to Congress Information of the State of the Union and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.
—Article II, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution

The whole thing is kind of silly.

It reminds me of daylight saving time. I remember in grade school when my teacher tried to explain daylight saving time to our class. Mr. Higgins told us that a British dude thought of the modern form of daylight saving time (Benjamin Franklin thought of it long before that) and proposed it to England’s Parliament to prevent the nation from wasting daylight. The British government rejected that idea, but the ever-efficient Germans decided they liked the idea of cooking the books like Meyer Lansky, and Germany was the first nation to implement daylight saving time, about a hundred years ago. The United States soon followed suit.

It didn’t make sense then. It makes even less sense now.

That’s kind of how the State of the Union speech is. What’s the point anymore? These annual pomp-and-circumstance State of the Union speeches are only about 100 years old. Before that, the updates were simply written.

As the quote above shows, there is no requirement that it be a speech. President Woodrow Wilson, a raving racist like President Trump, started the whole State of the Union speech practice. Wilson once defended the Ku Klux Klan by stating that “adventurers swarmed out of the North, as much the enemies of one race as of the other, to cozen, beguile and use the negroes. The white men were aroused by a mere instinct of self-preservation—until at last there sprung into existence a great Kuklux Klan, a veritable empire of the South, to protect the Southern country.”

Trump might say something similar before he leaves office. We have come full circle.

Those State of the Union speeches were entertainment in racist Wilson’s time. People actually waited for Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s fireside chats because there was no Facebook. But we have “Chopped” and “Narcos” today. Our entertainment devices have changed. Now, we have the internet, we have news websites, we have 24-hour news stations galore.

Not to mention Twitter.

Do we really need a president to give, in a formal annual speech, his self-interested perspective of what’s going on?

Of course, presidents—no matter who—are going to say that they are the greatest thing since McRib sandwiches.

Plus, the question of which paid representatives aren’t going to attend the State of the Union is goofy. Who cares? Bad employees skip out on mandatory meetings all the time. Not such a big deal—definitely not worthy of a Twitter post.

However, there was a presidential speech Tuesday, as predictable as it might have been, and it does not seem that the practice will end anytime soon, even though it should. With that said, here are a few reactions to Trump’s first State of the Union address:

1. Reserved. Twitter aside, Trump is turning into a politician, at least during these larger speeches. That fact should scare Democrats. He still can’t seem to stay out of the Swamp of Petty on Twitter and in news conferences, but he truly looks good on these nationally televised stages (insert body shaming comment here) and sounds conciliatory. Highlighting Congressman Steve Scalise, a Republican who survived a critical injury suffered in a gunman’s attack on a congressional baseball team, was a really good idea.

In the aftermath of that terrible shooting, we came together, not as Republicans or Democrats, but as representatives of the people. But it is not enough to come together only in times of tragedy. Tonight, I call upon all of us to set aside our differences, to seek out common ground, and to summon the unity we need to deliver for the people we were elected to serve.

2. Infrastructure. In the immortal words of Pras from the Fugees (coincidentally in a movie, “Bulworth,” about a washed-up politician who was consistently offensive and delusional), “Some got, hopes and dreams. We got, ways and mean. The supreme dream team always up with the scheme.” Trump is on to something with this “infrastructure” talk. The problem is, he has no ways and means to get there.

Et tu, Pras?

Trump has pissed off everyone who could actualize such a huge-ticket item as infrastructure. He also has ensured that no fiscally responsible politician will ever vote for it because of the tax cuts he got made, which put the United States in debt forever. No, seriously—forever.

The idea is there, and it’s an ambitious one. This nation’s roads, bridges, pipes and now broadband need to be redone in a more equitable way. Unfortunately, this very good hope and dream does not have a way and/or means to accomplish it.

3. Re-Electable. Trump is still the same d-bag he has always been, going back wayyyyyy before 2016 and speaking of “bad hombres” and “grab them by the pussy.” I’m talking about the 1980s and ’90s, when he was showing up in my grandmother’s National Enquirer every week and persecuting black youths called the “Central Park Five” and talking horribly about Native American people.

He’s a scumbag. But that scumbag got elected, warts and all with 100 percent full disclosure, except his taxes. I reiterate: Everyone knew how much of a scumbag he was and they still voted for him.

Now, this more-even-tempered guy can sometimes speak in complete sentences and sound vaguely conciliatory? That guy is infinitely more electable, and if this trajectory remains (and the stock market continues to fly off the hook), Democrats are going to have their work cut out for them in 2020.

I know Democrats don’t want to admit it, but this guy is exponentially more electable than he was in 2016 and, well, he won in 2016.

In sum, Trump’s State of the Union speech was typical: decent political theater but really not worth the price of admission. Because, hell, we could just as easily read it on a blog site these days.

Gyasi Ross
Gyasi Ross is a member of the Blackfeet Nation. He is a father, author, speaker and lawyer...
Gyasi Ross

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