Narration: On the night of Feb. 5, President Donald Trump delivered his second State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress. Just under 46.8 million people watched the president’s 82-minute address across 12 networks. The viewership was up by 10 percent compared to 2018.
The president touched on issues such as border security, abortion, the economy, criminal justice reform, ending unfair trade practices, bringing American troops back and more. Trump also lambasted the resurgent trend of socialism in the United States.
President Trump: Here in the United States, we are alarmed by the new calls to adopt socialism in our country.
America was founded on liberty and independence, and not government coercion, domination, and control. We are born free and we will stay free.
Audience: USA! USA! USA!
President Trump: Tonight, we renew our resolve that America will never be a socialist country.
Audience: USA! USA! USA!
Narration: According to one count, the president was interrupted by applause 98 times. A CBS and YouGov poll found that 76 percent of viewers approved of Trump’s speech, versus just 24 percent who disapproved. About 97 percent of Republicans approved of the speech, 82 percent of independents approved, and 30 percent of Democrats approved.
Simone Gao: I also attended the State of the Union address. I saw Democrats enter the room glum and angry at Trump, but they left the speech clapping and laughing. Sure, when the president first mentioned his special guests, the 90-year-old war heroes, the Democrats were guaranteed to stand and clap. But the spontaneous moment came when Trump celebrated the fact that this Congress had the most women representatives in American history. That’s when Democratic women cheered and gave each other high fives. Does this mean much? What has been changed and what has not been changed. Here is my discussion with Tom Del Beccaro.
Simone Gao: What is your biggest takeaway from President Trump’s State of the Union address?
Tom Del Beccaro: I think there were two big takeaways: Number one, President Trump once again defied his critics and gave a really good speech. And it was a unifying speech. Even the Democrats on several occasions stood up and applauded. And that’s why you saw that even in the CBS and CNN polls that the approval rating for the speech was in the mid-70s. So that’s number one. Number two, and perhaps the most striking picture, was when President Trump said that we would not become a socialist nation, and the whole country, if not the world, got to see the Democrats sitting there in defiance of that statement and made it very much look like they wanted us to be a socialist nation. And we have to ask whether the Democrats are becoming the socialist party of America.
Simone Gao: So do you think the American people are with the president on this? First, we don’t want to be a socialist country. Second, we are on track to become one.
Tom Del Beccaro: Well, remember long ago Thomas Jefferson said the natural order of things is for liberty to yield and government to gain ground. The United States government sector has been growing for decades. We now have a $4.4 trillion federal budget and overall government spending is 36 percent of the economy. And we have government schools, government pensions, government health care, and many other government programs. So yes, we are becoming a massive government-based economy. We’re still only at 36 percent. Europe’s above 50 percent. But if we kept going in that direction, yeah, you could make the case that we would be becoming a socialist country. Trump’s right to stand up for that, because as you know, the larger the government sector the lower the growth in the private sector and, over the long term, the lower the standard of living. Americans don’t want that. But then again, government doesn’t creep so much in the eyes of Americans. It does it sort of behind the scenes, so they don’t realize how very big their government is. But if the Republicans were smart and demonstrated how big it is and what the cost is, then I think Americans would be on their side.
Simone Gao: What do you think the president wanted to achieve through this speech, and do you think he achieved it?
Tom Del Beccaro: Well, keep in mind half the nation is prepared to dislike President Trump, especially when they get their news from places like CNN and MSNBC. So I think the biggest thing that Trump wanted to achieve was to show that he’s not the ogre that they make him out to be and that America can achieve things. He wanted to rise above the divided era, if you will. And I think he did achieve that. That’s how you saw such sky-high approval ratings.