How democracy ended up leaving the rails one election year, cursing us with this bizarre permutation of a presidency, is a topic that will be debated and written about for decades to come. First of all, it brings to mind the intriguing question of where would Donald and all the other Trumps be, if they were not where they are? In other words, what would they be capable of doing if Fred Trump hadn’t been a wealthy brothel-owner-turned-realtor, and bestowed his largesse upon son Donald, and he in turn upon his own spawn?

This is not a group that does well when the rules default to merit over money. Jared Kushner, for example, didn’t have a snowball’s chance in hell of getting into Harvard based on grades and test scores, until his father bestowed $2.5Mil upon that august institution, which bought Jared a place in the graduating class of 2003. Here are a few thoughts on what an un-wealthy Trump family could realistically expect to accomplish on their own merits. I found these ideas particularly interesting in the wake of the bland un-compelling SOTU address Tuesday. This is a succinct commentary on who they are.

The line “between gridlock and greatness” is a portion from a sentence in Trump’s State of the Union speech. The entire speech was clumsily inarticulate, largely because the concepts that the speech writer was attempting to illuminate are fuzzy and ill conceived to begin with — not to mention intellectually dishonest. The SOTU speech was not so much the endeavor at unity, which it was billed as, as the usual rehash of talking points and the opportunity to gin up the base once again with talk of a non-existent “crisis” at the southern border. But, be that as it may, using alliteration to sound literary, once again the Trump administration endeavored to make itself seem normal, if failing to sound the least bit original and certainly not credible for even a moment. ”We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance, and retribution,” Trump intoned, to a Congress that didn’t buy it for a minute, Democrat or Republican.

Trump has the most divisive agenda in the history of American politics, so it’s not likely that he’ll be able to cloak it in non-partisan terms and actually sell it to anybody. Moreover, Trump wouldn’t have even been at the podium delivering the address, but for the fact that his entire existence in politics is predicated upon tearing down all norms of both government and common decency. That’s the red meat that the base loves, that’s what Trump endeavors to deliver.

In Trumpworld, money and television are the great equalizers. Between the two of them, Donald Trump managed to cobble together a public image which he rode all the way down the Trump Tower escalator and into the Oval Office. The SOTU address is once a year, and at this time, it behooves us to pause for a moment and contemplate who exactly this man is, and who he would be if his success in life was predicated upon his actual abilities. The image of the carny barker as statesman is a jarring one, but we’re used to it by now; which is why this SOTU address will pass into oblivion with scarcely a nod. It was Trump as functionary, a role he does not play well, and since we’re long past the time when any commentary of him “becoming presidential” has any meaning, it was simply a meaningless exercise. Journalist Dan Rather, posting on Facebook, agrees:

Previous presidents facing political headwinds have used this speech to tack towards the center, to at least play lip service to the unity of our nation and the worth of those on the other side of the aisle. The President, by instinct, necessity or psychology, only knows the high stakes of doubling down no matter the hand. We’ve seen how that instinct ended up in his casino businesses. But here we have no choice but to watch him play his cards, no matter how ruinous.

Yet the power of the presidency, as we are seeing, has its limits. The opposition is riled and ready. No speech will change the battle lines and political calculus over the future and vision for our nation.

State of the Union speeches rarely last in the consciousness of the country. And one has a sense that this one is already being forgotten, or was never thought about in the first place.

At least other holders of the office have made a good faith effort to imbue the SOTU address with meaning. Here, it was Trump doing what he cannot do effectively, actually pretend to give a damn, and so the night fell totally flat.


Liked it? Take a second to support Ursula Faw on Patreon!