Perhaps, but it’s not the reaction issue that minority parties usually have after State of the Union speeches. Joe Kennedy III’s speech was balmy in more ways than one, to be sure, but it will pass quickly from the consciousness of everyone outside of the Beltway bubble. The same is almost certainly true of the Democrats’ responses during Donald Trump’s speech, fairly well represented in this short and hilarious clip of Nancy Pelosi and Steny Hoyer doing Grumpy Cat impersonations during Trump’s address:
The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay and Andrew Desiderio believe Pelosi & Co walked right into a Trump troll trap:
Democrats did their best to show their displeasure with Trump’s address—with many lawmakers rolling their eyes, shaking their heads, and groaning at some of the president’s remarks. Others looked down at their cell phones for much of the evening.
Even before Trump started, the indifference and rancor was evident. When the president made his way to the podium, Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) remained seated, reading a newspaper.
The structure of the speech seemed designed, at times, to produce this imagery. Trump led with positive economic news and a rundown of companies investing in the United States or awarding their employees raises or bonuses. With cameras attuned to the members of Congress in the crowd, the economic talking points produced memorable dichotomies between the ostensibly positive news heralded from the podium and the sour faces of congressional Democrats in the crowd.
The reactions delighted members of the administration who felt, early on, that the visuals of the evening would be as important as the speech itself.
Roger Simon agrees, calling it a self-immolation:
Let’s give them the award straight up: Worst Performance by a Minority Party at a State of the Union Address. …
Steny Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi watching Trump’s speech looked like a pair of sullen six-year olds on a sugar crash the day after Halloween. Bernie Sanders looked mummified. Schumer was slumped so deeply in his chair he was almost falling through the crack.
Other Democrats, even ones who should have known better or secretly felt otherwise, sat on their hands. You could see them glancing at each other, wondering whether they were allowed to applaud or stand up. What a bunch of cowards.
Roger’s not kidding about that. This clip of Sen. Joe Manchin’s profile in, ahem, “courage” has been making the rounds on Twitter:
Patrick Morrisey (no relation) will presumably have a field day with that clip in his challenge to Manchin this November for the Senate seat from West Virginia. I’ll bet at least one ad will carry the theme, “Will the real Joe Manchin please stand up?” and feature a bobbing Manchin while Morrisey walks through series of issues. Even the blue tint works — showing Manchin to be sold out to the deep-blue Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.
Hey, I can’t write all these myself, Team Morrisey.
Otherwise, though, reactions to SOTU speeches in the chamber usually matter less than the speeches themselves, which don’t have much staying power either. It’s about as meaningful as the White House bragging today of Trump having received a record amount of applause. It’s meaningless because (a) that’s a function of the speech length, the longest SOTU in 18 years, and (b) applause is just as manufactured as the stony silences on the other side of the aisle. Yes, it’s true that Democrats sat on their hands during the sunnier economic news, but let’s not ignore the fact that Trump was taking all of the credit for that, too. It’s gameplaying on both sides, nothing more.
It’s these responses that may do more damage to Democrats — after the speech when they opened their mouths. As Americans overwhelmingly approved of the speech, Democrats went out to the media to take personal shots at Trump:
“It didn’t deliver on substance. It wasn’t inflammatory, for the most part. But we’ll see what he tweets at 5 o’clock in the morning when his Adderall wears off,” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said in an interview with The Hill.
Fellow Democratic Rep. Tim Ryan (Ohio) called Trump “low-energy,” described his speech as “uninspiring” and said he is waiting for sunrise, when Ryan anticipates the president will take to Twitter, “thumbs moving.”
Stay classy, fellas. As Salena Zito reports this morning, this is how we got Trump in the first place, and how we’re likely to get a lot more Trump in the future:
Both Tony, 54, and Michelle, 41, voted for Trump is 2016. Tony is a grandson of immigrants and a highly regarded chief of surgery at a suburban Pittsburgh hospital. Michelle went to Carnegie Mellon University, is a breast cancer survivor and director of operations at the Ripepi home, driving the kids to tennis, piano, and hockey games and practices while also helping with her husband’s practice. …
Tony, who remains skeptical the president will become part of the swamp on DACA, was thrilled when Trump said “all Americans are Dreamers.”
“What a line, now that is what I am talking about,” he said. …
She was looking for decorum in the speech and she got it. “Whoever wrote this speech deserves a promotion,” she said.
“This speech is about us, there were no mentions of ‘I’ or ‘me.’ All he did was talking about taking us to a better place, it was aspirational, compassionate and strong,” she said.
Trump delivered on decorum and turned in a presidential effort. Democrats went out immediately afterward and sounded like petty ankle-biters. That’s the response issue that will damage Democrats most, and further separate them from the voters they need to take back the House and the presidency.