I Explain the State of the Union Address For You

President Trump delivering last year's State of the Union address. It was so pleasant and bipartisan that it put Paul Ryan to sleep.CNN

Fight disinformation: Sign up for the free Mother Jones Daily newsletter and follow the news that matters.

You have probably heard that President Trump plans to stress “unity” and “bipartisanship” in his State of the Union address tonight. I have no doubt that he will. He does this every year, after all.

Here’s how things work. When Trump is, say, speaking via Twitter, he’s speaking solely to his base and feels free to be as nasty and partisan (and untruthful) as he wants. Conversely, when he’s delivering the SOTU on national TV with a big audience, he likes to appear calm and statesmanlike. That way, the folks who only see him once a year get the impression of a serious man with serious proposals. They leave wondering why he gets so much bad press.

Trump has an instinctive ear for the media, and one of the most important lessons of dealing with the media is knowing your audience. Trump is very good at this. When he’s speaking at a rally in Biloxi, he gives them red meat. But when he’s speaking from the well of the House to an audience that expects presidential behavior, that’s what he gives them. I don’t expect he’ll get through his whole speech on nothing but sweetness and light, but he’ll get through most of it.

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up to $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

FOLLOW THE MONEY

Corporations and billionaires don’t fund journalism like ours that exists to shake things up. Instead, support from readers allows Mother Jones to call it like it is without fear, favor, or false equivalence.

And right now, a longtime friend of Mother Jones has pledged an incredibly generous gift to inspire—and double—giving from online readers. That's huge! Because you can see that our fall fundraising drive is well behind the $325,000 we need to raise. So if you agree that in-depth, fiercely independent journalism matters right now, please support our work and help us raise the money it takes to keep Mother Jones charging hard. Your gift, and all online donations up $94,000 total, will be matched and go twice as far—but only until the November 9 deadline.

$400,000 to go: Please help us pick up the pace!

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate