Americans hold their ideological opposites in historically low regard. That very fact tends to undermine those delivering the admonitions about partisan polarization.
Take one glance at a roundup of RealClearPolitics’ headlines from Sunday: “Trump’s Triumphant First Year in Office.” “Trump's Attack on FBI an Attack on the Constitution Itself.” “Sorry, Skeptics, Trump's Tax Cut Working Wonders.” “Governing by Chaos Is Not Governing.” Although one of the most appealing aspects of RCP has long been its broad sampling of perspectives, the first year of Donald Trump’s presidency has been marked by a near-infinite loop of brags and broadsides.
Amidst all the cloudiness that divide has created, the president will take to the podium before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night and give his first State of the Union address. He’ll obviously be highlighting the most positive developments of the past year, as all presidents do, but it does seem to be a bit of an open question: How are things really going in America?
Trump will undoubtedly tout the rapidly rising stock market, an improving economy and the tax bill that stands as his signature accomplishment thus far. He’ll likely discuss the current tightrope he, Republicans, and Democrats are attempting to walk regarding immigration reform and a proposed deal on the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. He’s rumored to be rolling out calls for a large infrastructure plan again, as well.
In short, he’s going to detail every bit of progress, lay out ideas for yet-undone initiatives and, considering the source, he’ll probably have a few heretofore unknown ad-libs that completely depart from the script. And to offer a bold prediction, the reaction(s) will likely amount to a mixed bag. Democrats won’t clap for him. Republicans (mostly) will. Commentators from either side will follow suit. Which all leads to one of the strangest characteristics about the Trump presidency: its stark similarity to his presidential campaign.
In 2016, Donald Trump made mistakes that should have been fatal and would have been were they made by anyone else. Yet, notwithstanding those who still attribute his win to a Russian conspiracy, his campaign was quietly effective in solidifying its base and attracting disaffected swing voters in midwestern states underneath the spectacle of its standard bearer’s antics. And all the while, there were those on either side of the aisle that couldn’t take their eyes off the show.
In many ways, the president’s first year has been a continuation of that dynamic. The Robert Mueller investigation has loomed over the administration for months, the GOP-controlled Congress has repeatedly stumbled when trying to achieve its legislative goals and virtually every social interaction Americans have nowadays seems to contain some sort of politically-charged subtext. Meanwhile, unemployment is lower than it has been in over a decade, the stock market is at an all-time high and consumer confidence is approaching levels not seen since the early 2000s.
So, taken together, what is the state of our union? Probably neither as great or as terrible as anyone will tell you.
Tamer Abouras is a contributor to the Washington Examiner's Beltway Confidential blog. He is a writer and editor from Williamstown, N.J.
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