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Donald Trump delivering his State of the Union

State of the Union Showmanship

Gettyimages | Pool
By Brian Hurwitz

Politics is theater. The men and women who step the podium do so to inspire hearts and change minds. Whether it's during an election cycle or while they're comfortably seated in the office, the most successful politicians know how to work a crowd. In delivering his State of the Union address on Tuesday night, President Trump drew strict party lines and proved he learned a thing or two from all those seasons on The Apprentice. Reactions to his speech and its content will no doubt be polarizing, but there's no denying he is a showman.

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The greatest takeaway from the speech is that Congress as a whole can no longer restrain the mutual contempt radiating from both sides of the aisle. Mutual respect and bipartisanship were left outside in the cold as Democrats and Republicans didn't lose a single opportunity to throw scorn and shade at one another. It's hardly surprising when a recent Gallup Poll showed an 84-point gap between those respective parties' approval of the President. That divide was first illustrated by Trump's refusal to shake Speaker of the House Pelosi's hand moments before starting his speech. It was further illustrated by Pelosi, who unabashedly tore a copy of the President's speech in half after his closing remarks.

Democratic Congresswomen watch the SOTU
Gettyimages | Alex Wong

Well before Pelosi showed the President precisely what she thought of his remarks, Trump awarded controversial radio host Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom. As some questioned whether Limbaugh was worthy of being awarded the nation's highest civilian honor, others took umbrage with the setting since such medals are most often conferred during ceremonies and not State of the Unions. Soon after, Trump added another element of showmanship when he surprised a military wife and her two sons with the husband they all believed to be deployed overseas.

Rush Limbaugh and President Trump
Wikimedia | https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rush_Limbaugh_%26_Donald_Trump_(49290976201).jpg

As Democrats continue to push for some version of Medicare for all, Trump assured his supporters and critics that he would fight any attempts to let "socialism take over health care." The President then drew a firm line in the sand by avowing to fight any efforts to fund healthcare for "illegal aliens." Suffice it to say, his words were met with rousing applause from Republicans and eerie silence from the Democrats. And when Trump pronounced his intent to lower drug costs for tax-paying citizens, a contingent of Democrats took to their feet while chanting of "HR3" in reference to the late Elijah Cummings proposed plan to do just that.

This being an election year, the economy was a hot button issue. Trump called upon his signature style to point out the substantial increase in the stock market and the record low minority unemployment rate since he took office. Democrats regularly point the extent to which they believe Trump exaggerates those claims. Judging from their faces in the chamber on Tuesday night, none were swayed by his oratory. In fact, during the 82-minute speech, it seemed the only instance when both sides came together and applauded the President's remarks was when he addressed the need to rebuild America's infrastructure.

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