The Democrats finally got a cup of strong black coffee Tuesday night, something to help them finally come down from their epic post-election hangover. Donald Trump’s remarkable speech to Congress was notable for its tone, the public reaction it engendered and the way it left so may critical listeners speechless.
The Donald Trump who stood before the Congress and the cameras was not the beloved caricature the elites have kept in their sights, but a president with whom they will have to reckon for the next four years, and maybe longer. The president’s critics who expected a confrontational and a dark view of what ails the republic, and what he wants to do about it, were shocked, shocked! by the skillful way he projected optimism and a plea for national unity without abandoning his campaign promises.
Equally shocking was the reaction from some of the politicians, pundits and talking heads who were reduced to saying good and positive things about the president’s performance. Van Jones, a self-professed Marxist and sycophant from the circle of Barack Obama’s closest allies, called the president’s moving recognition of the widow of a Navy SEAL and her gratitude for the recognition of the sacrifice of the man she loved “one of the most extraordinary moments you have ever seen in American politics.” With that, Mr. Jones and others said, “Donald Trump became president of the United States in that moment, period.”
Even more extraordinary, perhaps, was the revealing picture caught by the cameras panning over Democrats sitting silently on their hands when the president said his administration sees the interests of American worker and meaningful jobs for them as his number one domestic priority. He was elected in November precisely because the Democratic elites have ignored and dismissed as irrelevant the concerns in the nation’s heartland that was once Democratic country. The party’s scorn was underscored by the silence in the ranks on view in the House chamber.
If Mr. Trump manages through a combination of tax cuts, regulatory reform, common-sense immigration reform and a pro-growth energy policy, stimulating an economic resurgence in the heartland, he will have altered the American landscape. His party will reap benefits at the polls for years and perhaps decades to come.
Mr. Trump’s critics expect that his plans will crumble in the face of opposition within his own party, and that he will, as Republicans before him often have, surrender to a Democratic prescription of higher taxes and enormous deficits. The president’s reason and optimism — his turning to the Democratic side of the aisle with a pointed finger and a plea for bipartisan cooperation to work for the common weal — produced only sour expressions and stone-cold eyes from Charles Schumer, the leader of the Democrats in the Senate, and Nancy Pelosi, the leader of the Democrats in the House. They could see, through the dark and gloom of what they have wrought, vivid handwriting on a not-so-distant wall.
If the president can restrain the combative urges of the fighter that has brought him to the pinnacle of power, if he can recognize what others recognize, that with Tuesday night’s work he has finally established himself as the president of everyone, he will give his party a priceless gift just as establishment elites are busy writing it off.
His success will inspire the Democrats to work harder to put obstacles in his way, but the president has put the wind at his back. Few presidents before him have had such an opportunity to make the fundamental changes for which millions have worked and prayed for decades. It’s an opportunity that won’t soon come again. This gives Donald Trump, full of bluster and bombast though he has been, the rare chance to pivot toward greatness.