Kennedy rebuts Trump: 'This is not who we are'

Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyJoe Kennedy introduces resolution rejecting Trump’s transgender military ban Warren launches White House bid with call for 'structural change' Joe Kennedy to endorse Warren during campaign announcement MORE III (D-Mass.) took on President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump nominates Jeffrey Rosen to replace Rosenstein at DOJ McCabe says ‘it’s possible’ Trump is a Russian asset McCabe: Trump ‘undermining the role of law enforcement’ MORE Tuesday night on issues as diverse as immigration, health care, trade and wages, using the Democrats’ official response to the State of the Union address to hammer the president’s first-year track record as a descent into moral chaos and partisan division.

The 37-year-old Kennedy portrayed the last year as an ominous time that’s left many people “angry [and] afraid” while outlining the Democrats’ “better deal” economic plan for a middle class revival — a departure, he argued, over the “zero sum” economic model championed by the Republicans.

“The strongest, richest, greatest nation in the world shouldn’t leave any one behind,” Kennedy said, speaking from the town of Fall River in his Bay State district.

Without mentioning his name, Kennedy reserved his sharpest punches for Trump, portraying him a polarizing figure who’s tearing down the nation’s institutions and dividing communities into winners and victims.

"We all feel the fault lines of a fractured country," Kennedy said.

"Hatred and supremacy proudly marching in our streets; bullets tearing through our classrooms, concerts, and congregations, targeting our safest, sacred places," he said. "And that nagging, sinking feeling, no matter your political beliefs, this is not right. This is not who we are."

Kennedy accused the Trump administration of attacking core American principles in a way that goes beyond normal partisan politics.

“This administration isn’t just targeting the laws that protect us — they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection.”

The Democrats have long accused Trump, a billionaire real estate mogul, of pushing policies that favor the wealthy over the middle class — a charge lobbed most recently at the Republicans’ sweeping tax-code overhaul. Kennedy was quick to use the backdrop of Fall River, a former powerhouse of textile manufacturing, to drive the point home, lamenting the “fault lines of a fractured country” that have left too many people “angry, afraid … forgotten and forsaken.”

Kennedy’s response is indicative of the balancing act the Democrats are attempting as they head into November’s midterms, where they’re eying big gains in both chambers. On one hand, they’re hoping Trump’s historically low approval ratings will be a boon at the polls. On the other, they’re taking pains not to focus their message too intently on Trump — a strategy that backfired in 2016 — instead emphasizing the economic policy priorities they think will resonate with voters of all political stripes.

Kennedy, the grandnephew of the nation’s 35th president, leaned heavily on issues of civil rights, lending shout-outs to the MeToo activists combating sexual harassment, the BlackLivesMatter activists fighting racism, a transgender student who suffered bullying and the so-called “Dreamers,” young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children.

“We will fight for you,” he said of the Dreamers. “We will not walk away.”

Kennedy also suggested that Trump’s combative governing style, while effective in the short-term, won’t endure.

“Bullies may land a punch,” Kennedy said. “They might leave a mark. But they have never, not once, in the history of our United States, managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defense of their future.”