Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was chosen to deliver the Democratic response to the president’s State of the Union speech for obvious reasons. Whitmer is pleasant looking, soft-spoken, moderate in appearance if not in political beliefs; a definite contrast with Trump.
In her response, Whitmer steered clear of bombast and anti-Trump hysteria to focus on “dinner table issues”: health care, child care, family leave.
It was, as liberal Matt Yglesias, wrote, “a boring speech.”
The problem is the speech was so boring that I was tempted not to write about it at all. But as someone who strongly believes that treating Trump as a more-or-less “normal” Republican politician is the best way to beat him, I have an obligation not to just tune Democrats out when they try.
That, though, is easier said than done. Trump has such a larger-than-life personality and is so skilled at pushing people’s buttons that following a speech full of reality show antics (a live medal presentation to Rush Limbaugh!) with an earnest discussion of why his paid family leave plan is grossly inadequate compared to Democrats’ plans for leave and a child allowance ends up seeming gray and sad.
It’s just not “exciting” unless you’re revolutionizing something, spending twice what everyone else thinks is prudent, and going far beyond what would be acceptable to a majority. Trump’s bipartisan paid family leave bill was not “acceptable” to most partisans, but it passed. The Democrat’s original bill never saw the light of day.
So Whitmer’s speech was “grey and sad.” And yes, it was boring. Whitmer appears to have the quaint notion that policy questions are going to decide the 2020 election.
“Instead of talking about what he is saying, I’m going to highlight what Democrats are doing,” she said.
She cited the policies of Democratic governors and lawmakers across the country focusing on infrastructure repairs and economic mobility. She also highlighted the fact that all the 2020 Democratic hopefuls have made health care reform a central part of their platforms, portraying them as a foil to Congressional Republicans and Trump.
“Bullying people on Twitter doesn’t fix bridges. It burns them. Our energy should be used to solve problems,” she said. “I lost my patience for people who play games instead of solve problems.”
Clever, but irrelevant. Democrats are pretty good at burning bridges themselves and to not acknowledge the culpability of both sides in the war is blatant, flaming partisanship.
Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) gave the Spanish-language response. She too was pleasant to listen to and earnest in listing policy accomplishments of Democrats. She also parroted the standard Democratic narrative about immigration that was supposed to rile up Hispanic voters.
“From attacks against Dreamers, family separation, the deaths of migrant children, to the Remain in Mexico policy that sends asylum seekers into dangerous situations,” Escobar said. “These are policies none of us ever imagined would happen in America in our lifetime.”
I think the proof of Trump’s immigration policies will be in the increase in Hispanic voting he gets in 2020.
All in all, truly boring. Democrats say they will spend more of our money and faster than Trump. And when you call the government takeover of American health care merely guaranteeing “greater access,” you’ve already lost the game.