President Trump’s State of the Union on Tuesday night clocked in at just over an hour and 20 minutes, marking it as one of the longest in the history of the yearly address. In it, Trump hit on plenty of the year’s talking points, including shootings, immigration, North Korea, energy, natural disaster and taxes. He also brought plenty of guests into the limelight with him, from a small business worker to a North Korean defector. Despite all of this, I was left with a feeling of incompleteness from his speech. It seems as though many important issues were left out, although they did seep into the event in other ways.
Many of these unspoken topics are obvious sore points for the administration, but that does not make them any less pertinent to the United States in 2017. The most clearly overlooked issue was that of partisanship. Republicans and Democrats have not been on the same eye level all year, it seems. Through the tax bill and the more recent immigration disagreements, to larger points of contention like climate change, Congress feels just as divided if not more so than ever. Trump’s gesturing to Democratic Congress members to stand and applaud at one point, demonstrated that the past year’s toxicity is hot in the minds of Democrats in office. The block of disinterested and disapproving leftists was a stark reminder of the lack of cooperation between parties in 2017.
Among those not standing was the Congressional Black Caucus, a group of almost 50 black Congress members. As Trump proclaimed about the low black employment, the group just sat in disapproval. They even wore Kente cloth as protest. The disappointment of this group in America and the Trump administration is not unfounded, either. As the UConn community has seen in recent months, race relations have come to a head in 2017. Much of this is a bigger issue than government (although even then, some feel the Trump administration’s mere existence is an affront to minorities), but there are missteps by the president in forging a less racist path for the country. Notably, Trump neglected to mention his response to the NFL protests, which were dissenting to say the least.
Perhaps the most telling exclusion, though, was that of the instability and suspicious actions of the Trump administration. Well over a dozen officials, including Sally Yates, James Comey, Sean Spicer, Michael Flynn, and Steve Bannon, either stepped down from or were ousted by the still-young government. It may be hard to even remember the complete list, given how common firings and resignations have become. Of course, even an otherwise successful and controversy-free administration would be hesitant to mention such exits. Given the other issues plaguing the Trump administration, however, it is more difficult to look past the shuffling of positions.
In terms of dubiosity, there is the Siberia-sized elephant in the room. Despite mounting evidence that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election and has every ability to repeat this tampering in the upcoming midterm elections, Trump’s only mention of the country all night was in regards to being a “rival” in economics and interests. This is especially worrisome given the speech came less than 48 hours after the Trump administration’s announcement to go back on sanctions that Congress and Trump himself previously approved almost unanimously. It feels strikingly clear that Russia is a threat to American democracy, and yet Trump remained starkly and suspiciously silent and wary of decrying the federation.
From my memory, this is the State of the Union. Of course, there is a lot that Americans must remain at least hopeful for, but the United States is not in the flourishing state that Trump spoke of on Tuesday. There are so many issues that were ignored for both valid and deeply troubling reasons. In this article, I was still not able to talk about the condition of Puerto Rico, the climate, or education, which all present themselves as monumental events in 2017 and moving into 2018. But without the 80 minutes that Trump had, I was able to hit on many problems that Trump did not even approach. Do not let the State of the Union address be the only perspective on 2017 to remember, as so much more happened than the Trump administration would like to let on.
Peter Fenteany is a weekly columnist for The Daily Campus. He can be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.