SOTU: 2019 Preview and 2018 Review

The show will go on tonight, but how about a look back at last year's achievements?

Nate Jackson · Feb. 5, 2019

Now that all the gamesmanship regarding the shutdown and the schedule for the State of the Union is over, the pomp and circumstance is on schedule for tonight at 9 p.m. Eastern in the House chamber. The annual address has become an increasingly tedious affair, marked less by actual policy achievements or proposals than endless hours of cable-news churn about who sat on their hands, made what facial expression, or brought what guest.

Democrats have already made quite the show of trolling President Donald Trump with their announced guests. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ) is bringing a Guatemalan woman who was fired from the Trump National Golf Club when it was discovered she was here illegally. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) welcomes a Guatemalan mother and daughter who were separated after trying to cross the border illegally. And Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) invited Ana Maria Archila, the George Soros-funded professional protester who publicly harassed Sen. Jeff Flake (R-AZ) during the Brett Kavanaugh fiasco.

Republicans also have statement guests, including Border Patrol agents. As for Trump, he’s invited Joshua Trump, a Delaware sixth-grader regularly bullied because of his name.

But the state of our union is far more than this ridiculous tit for tat. So as we prepare for tonight’s speech, let’s review highlights from last year’s SOTU.

Trump failed to reach agreement with Congress on proposals for infrastructure spending, paid family leave, or immigration reform. (As we’ve said before, both sides view immigration less as a problem to be solved than as a useful political cudgel. Until that changes, expect the stalemate to continue.) Iran and North Korea likewise remain in flux — though the president has made strides, Congress could not come to any meaningful agreement.

On the other hand, Trump succeeded in several areas. One partial success was signing an executive order making it easier to fire bad federal employees, though it was blocked by a federal judge (as are so many of Trump’s initiatives). But on that note, Trump has won Senate approval for more circuit-court judges in his first two years than any other president, and there are more in the wings. He signed the Right to Try Act so terminal patients can seek experimental medication, and he’s eased the FDA’s approval process for drugs, bringing the price of prescriptions down for the first time in 46 years. He increased military spending to rebuild our Armed Forces and protect America. And while he was merely able to boast at having passed major tax cuts last year, 2018 showed how well those cuts are working to fuel economic growth. The CBO even now projects those cuts will recover “costs” better than previously estimated.

Finally, the only excerpt released from his speech tonight is telling: “Together we can break decades of political stalemate. We can bridge old divisions, heal old wounds, build new coalitions, forge new solutions, and unlock the extraordinary promise of America’s future. The decision is ours to make.” Trump’s call for unity will probably be met with Democrats sitting on their hands. If not, Stacie Abrams will eviscerate it in her SOTU response.

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