By Nikhila Natarajan
New York, Feb 5 (IANS) American voters described US President Donald Trumps State of the Union speech Tuesday night with words ranging from “dark and bizarre” and “showmanship” to “micro-targeted campaign commercial”, saying Trump’s message will resonate with his most loyal voters ahead of the November 2020 election.
“America’s enemies are on the run, America’s fortunes are on the rise and America’s future is blazing bright,” Trump said. “In just three short years, we have shattered the mentality of American decline and we have rejected the downsizing of America’s destiny. We are moving forward at a pace that was unimaginable just a short time ago, and we are never going back!”
“It was super corny in large parts but people like this kind of stuff,” Michelle, a Virginia voter, told IANS.
Others, like Mathew, a school teacher in New Jersey, said he’s happy as long as the economy is booming. “That’s good enough for me. I’m sure Trump has something to do with it, he said.
Mathew’s wife who votes Republican said her concerns are limited to “conservative” values. Trump dedicated a section of his speech to “American values,” “religious liberties” and limiting access to abortion as he waded deeper to appeal to his evangelical and conservative Christian base.
“I was ready for dark and bizarre but when he began talking about gun rights, I stopped watching”, said Greg, a father of two who “worries” about his children’s safety. Trump pledged to protect Americans’ right to bear arms.
As Republicans chanted ‘four more years!’ and cheered US President Donald Trump’s third State of the Union address, House speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered a visual exclamation point just before Trump left the chamber, ripping up Trump’s speech copy in full view of a prime time audience at an extraordinarily partisan political juncture.
“It was the courteous thing to do considering the alternatives”, Pelosi told reporters, sticking to the bare-knuckle theme of US politics as the clip went viral on social.
Awkward moments between bitterly divided political camps dominated the storyline of the night as Democrats sat silently with straight faces, sometimes exchanging muffled laughter as Trump boasted about the “great American comeback”.
Trump’s speech comes exactly when his Democratic rivals botched their biggest political moment in years, unable to get the Iowa caucus results because of a needlessly over-engineered solution instead of a simple paper trail of votes. Trump’s approval rating on Gallup has meanwhile jumped to 49 percent, the highest so far in his presidency.
Picking up a signature theme of his presidency and each of his State of the Union speeches, Trump reaffirmed his campaign promise to restrict the flow of new people into the country,
“This demonising of illegal immigrants is chilling and repulsive — and a foretaste of the election to come”, Financial Times’ Edward Luce tweeted.
David Hogg, student leader and survivor of the Parkland school massacre, reacted to Trump’s speech saying “it’s time for a new generation of leadership” and “we need the highest youth voter turnout in American history to save this country.”
During the course of the evening, Trump awarded conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh with the medal of freedom, the country’s highest civilian honour and orchestrated the surprise reunion of a solider from Afghanistan with his family in the balcony as chants of “USA! USA!” rang through the chamber.
Voters agreed that the soldier’s reunion with family was a “beautiful moment” but some cringed at the fear-laced political red meat Trump flung throughout the 78 minute speech.
Richard Haass, President, Council on Foreign Relations, reacted on the two big headlines: “The SOTU2020 began with Trump refusing to shake Speaker Pelosi’s hand, and ends with the Speaker tearing up her copy of the speech. Contrary to what was declared, the state of the union is not good.”
“Just keep telling yourself, “This is his final State of the Union, this is his final State of the Union…” read a Mike Bloomberg campaign message. Bloomberg has said that even if he fails to win the Democratic nomination, he is prepared to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to deny Trump another stint in the White House.
Trump is headlining America’s economic success as his campaign push for a second term,”My fellow Americans, the best is yet to come,” he closed.
(Nikhila Natarajan can be contacted at @byniknat)