What a year it’s been. President Donald Trump will give his first State of the Union address on Tuesday, and despite the highly divided nature of our country at the moment perhaps one point of unity is that we can all agree that this has been a truly extraordinary in American politics.
By most policy metrics, President Trump’s first year in office has been an enormous success. The economy is roaring forward on all engines, with a booming stock market, two-decade low unemployment, and high consumer optimism.
On the military front, ISIS has been essentially completely wiped out in Iraq and Syria after years of their contagion seemingly difficult to stop.
In terms of other policies, America has seen the appointment of a slew of constitutionalist judges, the passage of a pro-growth tax reform package, regulatory reduction and streamlining, enforcement of our trade laws, and the re-assertion of a strong American foreign policy in the world.
Yet despite the tangible achievements in terms of governance, it seems that our discourse has become as corrupted and polarized as it has ever been. The hyper-partisan bickering that characterized the 2016 campaign and the immediate few months afterwards seems to be continuing just as fiercely.
We will be reminded of that again at Trump’s State of the Union - just as over 70 Democratic members of Congress boycotted Trump’s Inauguration last year, now many are also boycotting his State of the Union.
The Democratic response is expected to be given by Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA), one of Trump’s fiercest critics and who has repeatedly called for his impeachment over the past year. It is unlikely the remarks will bring our country together in any way.
It is worth remembering that this is not how our politics usually are. Normally in the immediate aftermath of a Presidential election the public interest fades to a large degree and the new set of policymakers in D.C. can get down to the law’s toilsome sausage-making process.
However this year it seems citizens are as engaged as ever, with Trump having become a ubiquitous node around which much of our culture itself is centered around. Nearly everything nowadays is seen as having some connection to Trump, leading to even the most devout or opposed to begin to feel a sense of fatigue.
Even if our public discourse seems as shattered as ever, it should be comforting at least that on the material fronts our country is at a time of extraordinary prosperity and strength.
Furthermore, it is clear that many of the fears that Trump’s fiercest opponents derided him for during the 2016 election have not come to pass. Trump has not taken authoritarian power, has not shattered our economy, has not caved in to Russia, and has not brought us into a devastating war.
On the contrary, the Trump Administration has done, by any objective measure, incredible good for our prosperity and security. The fact that the Dow is soaring past 26,000 and unemployment at a mere 4.1% say enough on their own.
It is unlikely Trump’s State of the Union on Tuesday will be able to appease his most ruthless opponents who have realized it is either good politics or good business to remain staunchly opposed to him.
Nonetheless, perhaps for some out there it will be a chance to listen to our President and to reflect on the real progress that has been made this past year for Americans of all backgrounds and beliefs.
The Office of the President deserves respect, whether it is Trump, Obama, Bush, Clinton, or otherwise. On Tuesday millions of Americans will be listening to our elected leader talk about the path our country has walked this past year and his vision going forward. No matter what, it is at least worth a listen.