Some things never change and neither does Trump. The American president continues to punch on, but this time, in velvet gloves.
One day, we will all wake up. Or not. Judging by the State of the Union address that took so many unexpected twists and turns on a Tuesday evening, America seems more confused than ever. Who was clapping, who sat tight, who holds the ownership of the American dream and whose guests took more spotlight, are just some of the headlines that emerged on the Wednesday morning of February 6, 2019.
Trump’s State of the Union address was not by any definition a Republican one. Trump’s “cold open” calling for the rejection of politics of division and his carte blanche invitation to “choose greatness” would rather fit the mandate of a Democratic president. But wait. Is Trump suddenly changing his communications tactics to carve out a harsh message in a velvet glove? Quite possibly.
Trump’s aversion to change
I was listening to Jake Tapper of CNN on Tuesday night stating how Trump’s State of the Union was incoherent. No matter how much I would like to state here that Trump failed to deliver the State of The Union, he actually for the first time adopted the formal demeanor of the American president.
Trump’s new presentation style and rhetoric, his hardline politics all wrapped up in a velvet glove of an elevated, American spirit, represents in fact, a coherent danger of Republican political strategy.
More than what initially meets the eye, Trump is listening to his advisors. If he was not, his State of the Union address would have been his usual, cold punch in the face against anyone who does not hold the shared views of his constituency.
At the State of the Union, he actually started to appear presidential. For the optics, of course, but if there is a change happening here, it’s because someone told him that Americans are the most responsive to Washington’s favorite buzzword, “bipartisan”.
Because of his uncharacteristically controlled and rather formal speaking style, without insulting anyone the way he usually does, Trump managed for one brief moment to deliver his message in a way that leaves the critics with nothing else but to disagree with his policies.
That is a big step forward, as it is opening an opportunity to cut through the noise and have more civil public discourse. That’s good and bad: good, as it invites a more substantive analysis from political commentators and bad because it puts a velvet cellophane wrap around the hairline, isolationist and anti-immigrant policies.
Trump, of course, has put up the State of the Union show for the masses. Even for the “Ladies in White” who took “men’s seat” in Congress as well as in other walks of life.
If Trump had a choice, he would gift each one of us a pink vacuum cleaner, a jar of breadcrumbs and a pair of Ivanka’s stilettos.
But what Trump showed last night was that he knows how to behave well when needed and keep up the appearance of the “picture perfect” that’s expected of the American president.
This battle of public opinion is optimistic and scary at the same time and only shows that Trump can be anything to anybody. His ideology is one of the highest personal interest, and in this case, it’s the survival interest. Trump is a businessman of any goods. The outcome of his presidency and with it, the future of America, will depend on the highest bidder.