The optics could not have been starker – President Donald TrumpDonald TrumpHillicon Valley — Presented by Xerox — Twitter's algorithm boosts right-leaning content, internal study finds Ohio Democrat calls Vance an 'ass----' over Baldwin tweet Matt Taibbi says Trump's rhetoric caused public perception of US intelligence services to shift MORE stood before America with an overarching message of unity. Meanwhile, Democrats sat firmly planted in their chamber chairs, still seething from their electoral pummeling.
As Trump delivered promises of soaring optimism, Democrats almost appeared disappointed – for their aims of regaining electoral control sunk as hopes for America’s future lifted.
Trump began by acknowledging that while “we might be a nation divided in policy… we are a nation that stands united in condemning hatred.” He ended with a similar message of American unity: “(W)e are one people with one destiny. We all bleed the same blood. We all salute the same American flag. And we all are made by the same God.”
America heard and received Trump’s proposal of unity, with a full 78 percent of viewers polled by CNN seeing it as very or somewhat positive.
Reactions to Trump's speech among those who watched: pic.twitter.com/BSwcIlzydR
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) March 1, 2017 >
But despite delivering an unquestionably positive message, Democratic members like Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi glared, shaking their heads and scowling in apparent anger. Notable were moments when Trump proposed bipartisan positions like extending treatment opportunities for Americans addicted to drugs. Despite the uncontroversial nature of these policies, Democrats sat in defiance.
But Trump’s message of one America nevertheless persisted. Between the bookends of unity, Trump doubled down on his campaign promises to the American people, but he did so in a way that broadened their appeal. He pierced through the unflattering portrayal of the mainstream media and articulated the well-reasoned impetus behind his proposals.
Democrats won't even stand when Trump talks about extending treatment for Americans addicted to drugs?? #JointAddress— Kayleigh McEnany (@kayleighmcenany) March 1, 2017
For instance, immigration enforcement is not about ostracizing “the other” as the left would have you believe; rather, it is about welcoming those who want to take part in the American dream while excluding those who wish to wreak havoc on American society.
To the critics, Trump posed a simple question: “(W)hat would you say to the American family that loses their jobs, their income, or a loved one, because America refused to uphold its laws and defend its borders?”
Indeed, the family members of Jamiel Shaw Jr., Danny Oliver, and Michael Davis — American citizens who lost their lives to illegal immigrants — were Trump’s presidential guests at the joint address and a visible reminder of the wounds that abrogation of law and order have left.
Likewise, combating radical Islamic terrorism is not Islamophobic; instead, it is a fight aimed at protecting innocents — Muslim and non-Muslim alike who are targets of a radical ideology.
The valiant efforts of our armed forces, like Chief Special Warfare Operator William “Ryan” Owens, whose widow also sat as a guest in Trump’s family box, are geared toward protecting all regardless of race, creed, or religion. Trump’s extenuation of this fight is not narrow-minded but practical.
Trump framed his fight against radical Islamic terror in humanizing terms: “It is not compassionate, but reckless, to allow uncontrolled entry from places where proper vetting cannot occur. Those given the high honor of admission to the United States should support this country and love its people and its values.”
And he continued by appropriately recognizing the sacrifices of the fallen saying, “The Bible teaches us that there is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friend. We will never forget Ryan.” Ryan Owen’s widow tearfully acknowledged the words of our president with her visible emotion garnering the longest standing ovation of the night, lasting longer than two minutes.
The uplifting and emotional high notes of the night were a healing opportunity offered to a starkly divided country. Trump extended an overture to Democrats last night: “Everything that is broken in our country can be fixed. Every problem can be solved, and every hurting family can find healing and hope. Our citizens deserve this. Why not join forces, and get the job done and get it done right.”
The question is — will Democrats put country above politics and accept it?
Kayleigh McEnany is a CNN political commentator who recently received her Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School. She graduated from Georgetown University's School of Foreign Service and also studied politics at Oxford University.
The views of contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.