The 2020 State of the Union Address on Tuesday was a battle of partisan politics between President Trump and the Democrat-controlled House of Representatives. Though this has been a growing trend since the shift to massive political polarization in the 1990s, this address comes amid several circumstantial tensions that made it more polarized – most significantly the impeachment trial and an anticipated acquittal on Wednesday.

Before the address began, Trump snubbed an attempt at a handshake from Pelosi, a move adored by his supporters amid the impeachment nearing acquittal and sharply criticized by Democrats as deeply disrespectful. Pelosi quickly withdrew her hand and chose to present the president to the room without the traditional introductory honors, generally something along the lines of having the “high privilege” or “honor.” 

Pelosi ripped up her copy of the speech at its conclusion and threw it down onto the table in front of her. Republicans harshly slammed Pelosi after the address, claiming it was a highly dishonorable and disgraceful act to take regardless of political loyalties and some concluding regardless of her intent, the content of the speech spelled out good news for all Americans. Many Democrats, however, were fully supportive of Pelosi’s actions in tearing up what she called a “manifesto of mistruths” and blamed the necessity on such direct political divisions on Trump and his administration’s policies, claiming they seek common ground but refuse to back down when it cannot be found.

Pelosi, like the majority of Democrats, remained seated and refrained from applauding as Trump went through his many accomplishments in the speech which fostered enormous Republican support and applause. However, despite this general political division, certain achievements were able to bridge the divide and receive praise from both parties – such as the description of bipartisan criminal justice reform legislation, which even warranted a positive response from Pelosi. 

The ceremony also held a variety of events that were largely nonpolitical and unorthodox for a State of the Union address but fostered enormous praise from Trump’s supporters and Republicans, as well as from some Democrats. The night included an emotional reunion of a military husband back from months in Afghanistan (earning an at least partially bipartisan “USA” chant), the honoring and promotion to the rank of Brigadier General of a 100-year-old Tuskegee airman along with the recognition of his great-grandson who aspires to join the newly created Space Force and the presentation of the Venezuelan opposition leader to Maduro, Juan Guaidó. 

Trump also presented radio personality Rush Limbaugh with the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor achievable (and the civilian equivalent to the military’s Medal of Honor and the public safety officer’s Medal of Valor), just a day after the host’s announcement of advanced-stage lung cancer. Trump also surprised a young Pennsylvanian elementary schooler with a scholarship to attend the school her mother (also at the address) wanted her to, but was unable to due to the Democrat policy restricting school choice, which her governor follows.

Despite the trending political antics – most notably at the beginning and end of the address and between Trump and Pelosi – the night saw a surprising amount of bipartisan praise during the less political and unorthodox parts of the address as well, such as the administration’s achievements noted within the speech. It, again, highlights the division where much of the discontent between parties, as in the address, occurs over policy and crediting political opponents rather than the accomplishments. 

Written ByConnor Sheehy

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