When United States President Donald Trump came to deliver his State of the Union message before a joint session of the US Congress last Wednesday, Speaker Nancy Pelosi extended her hand in welcome, but the President ignored it, refusing to shake hands with her. That marked the start of the annual presidential address that turned out to be most divisive.
Over an hour later, as Trump ended his speech, and Senate President Mike Pence stood up to join the applause, Speaker Pelosi tore up her copy of the president’s speech and tossed it aside.
It was a show of open enmity between the two leaders of America’s two major political parties—the Republicans and the Democrats – and it looks like that same enmity will govern the coming election campaign leading to the presidential election in November.
The President used the speech to claim notable achievements in increased American manufacturing, new lows in unemployment, and the benefits gained in the trade war with China. The Republican legislators repeatedly stood up to applaud their president, while the Democrats mostly sat quietly on their side of the hall.
Some of the lawmakers put on a show of bipartisanship. And about two dozen of them wore purple coats — purple being the mixture of red, the Republican color, and blue, the Democratic color. But the dominating images of this year’s State of the Union affair were President Trump ignoring Speaker Pelosi’s extended hand of welcome, followed over an hour later by the speaker tearing up her copy of the speech. “It was the courteous thing to do, considering the alternatives,” she explained later.
There will be little courtesy in the coming presidential election campaign, whoever the Democrats finally chose to be their presidential candidate. They will be choosing from among several aspirants in a series of state conventions and caucuses.
So many have come out to seek the nomination, an indication of the intensity of their desire to fight Trump, with former Vice President Joe Biden, Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Pete Buttigigue, and Michael Bloomberg among the more prominent ones.
There has been much hostility in the Democratic intramurals at times, but they should all be together when the final one is chosen to face the Republicans’ Trump in an election campaign that could be bitter and divisive for the nation.