Trib editorial: State of the Union & disconnection

January 31, 2018 GMT

President Trump drove deep the pylons of his first year in office Tuesday night: the creation of 2.4 million jobs, a record-breaking stock market, a 45-year low in unemployment claims and a tax-cut package that will allow Americans who do pay federal taxes to keep more of their money. But atop these substantial supports, no bridge was built with Democrats during Mr. Trump’s State of the Union address.

From the sour looks of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi during Trump’s 80-minute address to the Democrat boilerplate from Rep. Joe Kennedy III, D-Mass., in a well-rehearsed rebuttal that wasn’t, the Dems opted to sit out this address, quite literally.

Of course, some dissatisfaction from the party out of power is to be expected. Indeed, President Obama got the cold shoulder, and more, from his Republican opponents during his State of the Union addresses.

But when changes that directly benefit Americans — for example, an economy that has boosted 401(k)s, college funds and retirement accounts — are met with such demonstrable contempt, when some Democrat caucus members hesitate to rise for a 12-year-old’s initiative to place more than 40,000 American flags on veterans’ graves, such division becomes toxic.

As State of the Union speeches go, Trump’s did not stray from the expected: grand objectives but precious few details, such as his $1.5 trillion infrastructure proposal with scant specifics of how it will be funded or how waste will be avoided (remember Mr. Obama’s “shovel-ready” chicanery?).

And while Trump did not go off the reservation in criticizing those who criticize him, as is his proclivity, he didn’t win any friends or influence opponents, either, by poking them with his plan to keep the prison at Guantanamo Bay open while entirely ignoring the investigation into Russian funny business in the 2016 presidential election.

Rather than any indication of unity, Americans witnessed in prime time the disconnection that’s become synonymous with Washington — for all of Trump’s gesturing toward seated Democrats. And that, sadly, could well presage a new year that won’t likely be much different from the one before it.