President Donald Trump put congressional Democrats in an awkward position Tuesday night by co-opting a number of issues long associated with their party.
On a number of issues that Democrats have fought for — or pretended to — for years, Trump reached out destroyed the foundation of the Democrats’ carefully tended moral high ground.
“My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make child care accessible and affordable.”
Trump promised to devote significant government resources to a massive infrastructure overhaul. “Crumbling infrastructure will be replaced with new roads, bridges, tunnels, airports and railways gleaming across our beautiful land,” said Trump — as cameras panned to a stone-faced Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.).
“America has spent approximately 6 trillion dollars in the Middle East, all this while our infrastructure at home is crumbling. With this 6 trillion dollars we could have rebuilt our country — twice,” said Trump. Words that could have fit seamlessly into any Democratic stump speech were met with resounding Democratic silence.
“To launch our national rebuilding, I will be asking the Congress to approve legislation that produces a $1 trillion investment in the infrastructure of the United States — financed through both public and private capital — creating millions of new jobs,” Trump said.
This is the precise type of program Democrats have been advocating for years — their preferred solution to spur economic growth held up repeatedly as an alternative to tax cuts traditionally favored by Republicans.
And barely a peep was to be heard from the Democrats’ side of the aisle. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi just looked shell-shocked, her face a thousand-yard stare into a future in which some of her favorite talking points have vanished.
Trump also promised support for two more of the Democrats’ professed favorite causes — women and the environment. “With the help of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, we have formed a council with our neighbors in Canada to help ensure that women entrepreneurs have access to the networks, markets, and capital they need to start a business and live out their financial dreams,” Trump said.
“My administration wants to work with members in both parties to make child care accessible and affordable, to help ensure new parents have paid family leave, to invest in women’s health, and to promote clean air and clear water,” the president said. Democratic lawmakers barely reacted.
By appealing to what are generally thought to be bread-and-butter Democratic issues, President Trump is defanging some of the Democrats’ hyperbolic fear-mongering about his administration, as well as offering a clear olive branch which is the Democrats’ alone to decline — something that could hurt them further in 2018 if the next two years are good to the administration.
Trump even appealed directly to the Democrats to work together for the good of the nation, a direct challenge to drop their partisan charade for a moment of unity. “Why not join forces to finally get it done?” asked Trump. “Democrats and Republicans should get together and unite for the good of our country, and for the good of the American people,” he said.
President Trump just made it exponentially more difficult for the Democratic Party to cast him as a divisive and anti-progressive figure. It’s no wonder most of them couldn’t wait to get out of the room, and many could be seen scurrying for the exits the very moment Trump finished his speech.