Last night, Donald Trump delivered the State of the Union Address. In the American system, the executive and the legislative branch of government are independent from each other. But the constitution says that the president shall inform congress about the state of the union. This is the historic origin of the yearly speech. Nowadays it is of course a great opportunity for any president to deliver a message to the American people watching at home.
The tax breaks, which congress passed late last year, were a central theme in Trump’s speech. Even though I think that the long-term consequences of this will be disastrous for the deficit, it must have come across well for many American voters. The speech also contained some conciliatory words and a call for bipartisanship, but they are just that, words. A lot of the accomplishments Trump touted were in fact undoing accomplishments by the Obama administration (rolling back regulation, single-payer mandate). By the mere tone and vocabulary he is using, it is always very obvious when Trump reads a speech from a teleprompter such as last night, and when he speaks in his own words. It’s not that the firing of the FBI Director, the Russia probe, the government shutdown, the changing of the voting rules to appoint Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch and the twitter battles didn’t happen last year. They did happen. The USA are today more polarized than they have been in probably fifty years. One of the consequences of this is also that opinions about the president are quite defined already with a majority of voters disapproving of the job he is doing. In that sense, I would assume that he will gain a few points in the surveys over the next couple of days and weeks, but I doubt the speech marks a new chapter in Trump’s presidency.