Two states of the union

Two states of the union
© Getty Images

Many people, including me, were shocked by the open hostility of congressional Democrats to President TrumpDonald John TrumpHouse Republican threatens to push for Rosenstein impeachment unless he testifies Judge suggests Trump’s tweet about Stormy Daniels was ‘hyperbole’ not defamation Rosenstein faces Trump showdown MORE’s State of the Union address. It had been preceded and followed by the usual snarky, dishonest hostility of the elite media. That part seemed normal.

What was unprecedented was the relentless, public hostility of Democratic senators and representatives.

ADVERTISEMENT

The first indicator was the number of Democrats who refused to stand when the president of the United States entered the House Chamber. As a matter of principle, it is the presidency, not the person, who is being respected by the act of standing. But now the hostility is so great that the hatred for the personality overwhelms the symbolism of the office for many Democrats.

 

At a more personal level, the seemingly uncontrollable reactions of former Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy Patricia D'Alesandro PelosiDisclosures suggest rebates and insurers responsible for rising out-of-pocket drug costs Democrats keeping GOP from motivating voters with Trump impeachment threat, analyst says Celebrities, lawmakers wear black to support Kavanaugh’s accuser MORE (D-Calif.) were astounding and unprecedented. In picture after picture she appears to be in a rage, moving her jaw around and trying to contain her fury at having to listen to President Trump. A former senator wrote to me, “Nancy Pelosi needs a course in anger management.”

Then there was the overt hostility of the black and Hispanic caucuses. When told that we had the lowest unemployment rates in their communities in our history, they refused to applaud and sat staring with hostility at the president.

And, of course, there is the general Democratic rejection of the tax cuts — even though the Ways and Means Committee analysis indicates every single congressional district will see a reduced tax burden under the law. Most families of four in the district of Rep. Joe KennedyJoseph (Joe) Patrick KennedyDemocrats opposed to Pelosi lack challenger to topple her Ex-GOP donor urges support for Dems in midterms: 'Democracy is at stake' Joe Kennedy: Trump's math counts black and brown lives less than white lives MORE III (D-Mass.), for example, get a tax cut of more than $5,800 — something he avoided mentioning in his response speech.

When President Trump said that the Capitol Building is the “living monument to the American people,” Republicans in the House Chamber erupted in chants of “U.S.A! U.S.A!” as an expression of their pride in our republic.

However, this display of patriotism was too much for Congressman Luis GutierrezLuis Vicente GutierrezTrump changes mean only wealthy immigrants may apply, says critic Trump seeks to restrict green cards from those on food, housing assistance Trump ignores practical solution for stopping illegal immigration MORE (D-Ill.), who felt “compelled” to walk out of the chamber. He later tried to rationalize his decision by saying, “I was hoping to get through my life without having to witness an outwardly, explicitly racist American president, but my luck ran out.”

When a variety of heroic and sympathetic guests were introduced, many Democrats refused to honor them.

When the president said, "In America, we know that faith and family, not government and bureaucracy, are the center of American life. The motto is, ‘In God We Trust,’ ” Sen. Joe ManchinJoseph (Joe) ManchinThis week: Kavanaugh nomination thrown into further chaos GOP plays defense on ObamaCare’s pre-existing conditions Doug Jones to McConnell: Don't 'plow right through' with Kavanaugh MORE (D-W.Va.) was one of the few Democrats to stand.

For an entire day, we marveled at this decisive break from tradition.

Then, my colleague, Joe Desantis, helped me to better understand this new world we are entering.

We were discussing the departure of Andrew McCabe as deputy director of the FBI.

I had commented that, for most Trump supporters, this was a validation of the idea that some senior FBI agents had been doing bad things.

“Yes,” Joe replied, “but for anti-Trump people, beginning with the New York Times, this is proof that the obstruction of justice is under way.”

Joe’s point was that there were now two narratives in America. Depending on which narrative you believed in, you could take a specific fact and put it into your narrative to reinforce what you already thought.

I have been thinking about the two-narrative vision of our times ever since that conversation.

This model explains what we are living through better than anything I have encountered.

What we saw Tuesday night was two State of the Union addresses.

For President Trump and his supporters, America is winning again. Unemployment is going down. The stock market is rising. Companies are announcing bonuses, pay raises and new investments based on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. ISIS has been nearly defeated. Our borders are getting stronger. Criminals are being deported. Problems are being solved.

For the Trump-hating Democrats, as Congressman Kennedy’s rebuttal speech and the left’s behavior during the speech indicate, America is in terrible trouble and their values are being destroyed by President Trump.

President Trump sees the lowest black unemployment rate in history as a very real, positive achievement. The Trump-haters see language and policies which they interpret as “overtly racist.”

President Trump sees tax cuts creating jobs and helping working Americans. The Trump-haters see money taken away from their government programs and the big, rich corporations winning.

President Trump sees deregulation as a positive effort that is liberating business, creating jobs and returning power to state and local communities. The Trump-haters see this as a repudiation of two generations of effort to control and change America through Washington bureaucracy. He is overjoyed. They are in agony.

There are two big implications from this pattern of two states of the union.

First, it is going to be very hard to get anything big done. The loathing against the president is so deep in the Democratic Party that group-think will keep most of them from collaborating on anything.

Second, in recent polls, independents are shifting away from the Trump-haters toward President Trump. In the CBS poll released immediately after his speech, 75 percent said they favored the address, and the president received overwhelming support from Republicans and strong approval from independents.

According to the network, eight in 10 Americans who watched the State of the Union on Tuesday evening felt President Trump was trying to unite the country, rather than divide it.

These numbers do not bode well for the supposed Democrat advantage in the 2018 midterms that the media have been touting over the last few months.

The 2018 election will revolve around this tale of two states of the union and which one the American people decide they favor.

Newt Gingrich is a former Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, chairman of the board at Gingrich Productions and a Gallup senior scientist.