Tuesday was a night of many firsts for President Donald Trump.
He delivered his first State of the Union address to Congress, but also he's actually attempting to follow through on his goal of bipartisanship and unity that very few Democrats and Republicans see as possible in 2018. He chose to restrain himself in calling House and Senate Democrats "obstructionists," and instead, dared them to not participate in the pageantry of the affair.
"I am extending an open hand to work with members of both parties — Democrats and Republicans — to protect our citizens of every background, color, religion, and creed," Trump said in his address. "My duty, and the sacred duty of every elected official in this chamber, is to defend Americans — to protect their safety, their families, their communities, and their right to the American Dream. Because Americans are dreamers too."
In his speech, he pulled a page from previous presidents, notably former President Barack Obama, to share personal stories of families who went through the most turbulent times. In the House chamber were the parents of two teenagers — Kayla Cuevas and Nisa Mickens — who were murdered by the Salvadorian gang MS-13 on Long Island in 2016.
"Everyone in America is grieving for you. And 320 million hearts are breaking for you. We cannot imagine the depth of your sorrow, but we can make sure that other families never have to endure this pain," Trump said as virtually every person in the chamber stood up and applauded.
The president also paid tribute to the parents of the late Otto Warmbier, who were also in attendance. Warmbier died in 2017 shortly after returning from North Korea where he was arrested and presumably tortured, although his cause of death remains a mystery. He also gave a shout-out to North Korean defector Ji Seong-ho, who had multiple amputations after a train ran over his legs. He stood on his artificial legs with his crutches in the air as the entire chamber stood and applauded.
Some of Trump's detractors might diminish these families and individuals as political props. On some level, they would be right. Former President Barack Obama did the same with Obamacare recipients at his State of the Union addresses to show how great his healthcare law was working.
But the stories told tonight, while devastating and captivating, not only play well with Trump's base, but they resonate with people who are entirely outside of and above partisan politics. With such stories like these, Trump might be humiliating Democrats by getting them to stand for stories and issues that are, on the face of it, reasonable.
What President Trump is really trying to do is get Democrats to work with him. And oftentimes you can't get that without some form of persuasion. That's what he did on Tuesday night.
Of course, there were some moments where Trump made Democrats particularly salty, especially with respect to the GOP tax cuts and the repealing of the individual mandate. But, in many instances, Trump got Democrats to stand up and clap for his lines in an environment where remaining seated is the preferred choice in the lead up to the 2018 midterm elections.
This was a good night for Trump. He did what he had to do. Now it's time for Democrats to play ball.
Siraj Hashmi is a commentary video editor and writer for the Washington Examiner.