After a 35-day federal government shutdown, in an apparent acknowledgement of a new political reality, President Trump focused much of his speech on calls for politicians of both parties to work together to solve the nation's most pressing problems. However, he soon moved on to some of the issues that most divide Americans – immigration and abortion.
Radio Sputnik has discussed the speech with David Woodard, a professor at Clemson University, political scientist and former political consultant for Republican congressmen.
Sputnik: It is certainly interesting times both from the American audience’s point of view, but also the global audience looking on in terms of the American political architecture. Trump is calling for building new coalitions and forging new solutions. What is your assessment of his themes and the way he is going to address this?
David Woodard: Well, I think he was successful. I thought he did a good job in setting a right tone and didn’t play to the adversarial side too much. And I thought it was a pretty good address and a good opening for him. He certainly is going to make a stand on the wall and that is going to really divide him with the Democrats. So I think it is probably his best speech so far.
Sputnik: So in this State of the Union address to a split Congress, Donald Trump is calling for bipartisanship and unity. Now obviously that is the key thing, because it is a split Congress. How willing are the two rival parties to cooperate, because what we have seen in the past, there doesn’t look to be much hope with regard to that, but do you think there is potential?
David Woodard: Well, I think most politicians are self-serving and they will find a way to get it done. So, yes, there will be some cooperation. It is not going to be as full as what Trump would like, but I think they will do okay.
Sputnik: One of the centrepieces of his speech was the issue of migration. It has obviously been very divisive in the last month or so, obviously with the shutdown of the government. Given the overwhelming opposition to his border wall plans from the Democrats — Nancy Pelosi was very, very robust with regard to refusing this request — what can Donald Trump do, especially [given that] his power is reduced now?
Sputnik: If he fails to secure the funding for the wall, what effects will it have on the support of his base and his chances in 2020? You have just answered in a specific way that you don’t feel that it is going to be too damaging and people have a short memory; is there anything you can add to that? Do you believe that President Trump is eventually going to get the funding?
David Woodard: It is kind of hard to say, because he is running against some people who were in the room last night. I think he could handily defeat almost every one of them. And so I think he is still in a powerful position, because the Democratic Party can’t find a candidate that they think they can beat him with. So I think he is still in a superior position to get most of what he wants.
Sputnik: I am reading here that you are a former political consultant for the Republican congressmen; knowing that, what do you make of Donald Trump? We have not seen the likes of him for many, many decades. I am 52, I have never seen a president that has had so much support and then so much indifference towards him. He has split the room right down the middle, I mean in terms of what he is trying to do in his policies, both domestically and globally. What can you say in terms of the experience that you have had with Republican congressmen? Is he going to get another term? What can you share with us?
Sputnik: I know you are focused towards Republicans, but what do the Democrats have to do? From where we are sitting, we just see division and obstacles and they don’t seem to have a clear plan or an ethical plan. What do they have to do to change the numbers and get back into office?
David Woodard: They have to find some personality that can unite them. Having the speech given by a defeated Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia was not the way to go. But that’s the way the Democrats often go. They pick the most extreme person, they give a speech and he ends up dividing them more and more from the mainstream electorate. There are some people in the Democratic Party that I think can unite the party and win in 2020, but we are just not hearing from them right now.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect Sputnik's position.