Political groups react to Trump’s first State of the Union


President Trump stuck to his script and promoted his “America First” policies. (Photo courtesy of the Associated Press)

President Trump’s first State of the Union address was, like everything the president does, divisive. Democrats denounced his racially charged rhetoric in his immigration talking points, and Republicans applauded his unwavering adherence to the speech’s script – an unusual phenomenon for the notoriously wandering speaker.

At DePaul, that same divisiveness manifested itself through the university’s political groups: the DePaul College Republicans (DCR) and the DePaul College Democrats (DCD).

When speaking on his willingness to negotiate a bipartisan immigration deal, he said that it is his duty to defend Americans of “every color, background, religion, and creed.”

“Because Americans are dreamers too,” the president said, referring to DACA recipients.

Doug Klain, secretary of DCD, found this line to be “worrisome.”

“(That line) shows the president’s penchant for racist dog-whistling,” Klain said. “The immediate reaction from the white supremacist sects of the Republican party were those of approval and vindication.”

David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and prominent white supremacist Richard Spencer both praised the line on Twitter.

Where Klain saw racist dog-whistling, John Minster, president of DCR, said that the “Americans are dreamers too line” was “perhaps the president’s strongest line of the night.”

“It highlights what Democrats often forget,” Minster said. “That immigration is an issue where the most important concern must be determining how prospective immigrants will benefit the American populace. That does not mean discounting how the immigrant is affected, but the American government’s priorities must be to the American citizenry, not foreign nationals.”

In a bombshell announcement, the president said he would be signing an executive order to keep the Guantanamo Bay detention center open (he signed the order immediately after leaving the joint session).

“President Trump, Gen. John Kelly, Gen. James Mattis and Gen. H.R. McMaster know a heck of a lot more about this than me or anyone else, and as long as their chief concern is national security, I’m confident in their decision on the issue,” Minster said.

Guantanamo Bay has been under fire for at least the last decade, with critics arguing it is unconstitutional for people to be held there for years with no charges or trials. Opponents also say the harsh conditions at the detention facility create an easy propaganda tool for recruiting terrorists.

“Some of the most effective propaganda tools for recruiting and radicalizing people around the world to hurt Americans comes from places like Guantanamo,” Klain said. “When we violate human rights and international law, we cede the moral high ground and actively aid in the recruitment of radicals to terrorist groups like ISIS.”

The Democrats fired off a rebuttal to the president’s State of the Union immediately after it aired. Rep. Joe Kennedy III of Massachusetts delivered the Democrats’ response – and his rhetoric has people speculating about a possible 2020 run for the young Kennedy.

Klain said the Democratic field in 2020 is going to be full of strong contenders, but Kennedy made a strong case for himself.

“Kennedy certainly gave proof that were he to be a candidate, he would clearly be a strong and dynamic one,” he said. “(There would be) an interesting layer of symbolism in imagining an election where the descendant of one of America’s most revered leaders would square off against one of its most reviled ones.”

Minster, however, sees Kennedy as too untried to emerge as a significant challenge to the incumbent president.

“If Democrats want to fasten their incendiary, faulty message of identity politics and a rigged economic system to an inexperienced Congressman from perhaps the most privileged family in the county, by all means, go ahead,” Minster said.