In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Donald Trump spoke of American bravery, the United States' "incredible progress," and his plans to make America prosper once again. It was a self-congratulatory speech that relied heavily on the rhetoric that defined his presidency so far, albeit delivered in a reserved tone. Notably absent from his State of the Union, though, was a strong focus on families beyond being used as a plot device. Just consider how many times Trump said "women" and "families" in his speech last night. Short answer: Not many.
A search of three different transcripts of Trump's State of the Union address (NPR, Politico, and CNN) yielded the same numbers: Trump mentioned "families" five times and "children" four times, "woman" one time, and didn't utter the word "women" once. To that last point, it's not at all surprising that the president failed to discuss women in any real capacity during his State of the Union address. After all, over the last year, Trump has either enacted or supported policies that are decidedly anti-women, such as rolling back birth control coverage or reinstating the global gag rule. But it is disturbing how he spoke about families and children in his speech—and how he used them to push hateful rhetoric.
At first, it seemed Trump would lay out the ways in which he planned to bolster families struggling in today's economy. His first mention of "families" in his State of the Union touched on paid leave, according to NPR's annotated transcript of the address. Trump said,
And let's support working families by supporting paid family leave.
It's unsure what Trump meant by that line. As noted by NPR, Trump's first iteration of his budget included six weeks of paid parental leave. But the Republican Party doesn't exactly support government-mandated paid leave, even though they love to praise private businesses who offer the benefit, according to Politico.
Prior to that specific reference to "families," Trump patted himself on the back for increasing the child tax credit under the GOP's recently passed tax bill. He also discussed how the Republican's contentious tax reform plan would reduce tax bills for "a typical family of four making $75,000," according to CNN.
All of these points together would suggest that, in his State of the Union address, Trump planned to discuss families and children in the context of jobs and the economy. But that would be a false assumption, as the rest of his speech revealed.
Trump quickly — very quickly — shifted his focus from helping families to using them as a plot device to advance fear mongering rhetoric about immigrants. The president traded a much-needed discussion on supportive employment policies for an anti-immigrant tirade riddled with inaccuracies and lies. In fact, following his line on paid family leave, Trump said, according to CNN,
Struggling communities, especially immigrant communities, will also be helped by immigration policies that focus on the best interests of American workers and American families. For decades, open borders have allowed drugs and gangs to pour into our most vulnerable communities. They have allowed millions of low-wage workers to compete for jobs and wages against of the poorest Americans. Most tragically, they have caused the loss of many innocent lives.
Of course, Trump isn't being truthful with his anti-immigration stance. First, the Department of Homeland Security said in a report released in September that the southwest border "is more difficult to illegally cross today than ever before," as noted by Politico. Second, Trump's implication that immigration hurts American families and American workers is far off-base; in fact, a 2014 analysis by the Cato Institute shows that immigration has had very little to no effect on wages and employment for U.S.-born workers. And third, multiple studies show that immigrants are less like to commit serious crimes than native-born people, according to the American Immigration Council.
But these facts did not stop Trump from pitting American families against immigrant communities.
And that one instance in which Trump uttered the word "woman"? He took that time to praise a man.
Towards the end of his State of the Union, Trump recalled a meeting between an Albuquerque police officer named Ryan and an unidentified homeless woman. The president said in his speech, according to CNN,
Last year, Ryan was on duty when he saw a pregnant, homeless woman preparing to inject heroin. When Ryan told her she was going to harm her unborn child, she began to weep. She told him she didn't know where to turn, but badly wanted a safe home for her baby. In that moment, Ryan said he felt God speak to him. You will do it, because you can. He heard those words. He took out a picture of his wife and their four kids. Then he went home to tell his wife Rebecca. In an instant, she agreed to adopt. They named their new daughter Hope. Ryan and Rebecca, you embody the goodness of our nation. Thank you.
Let's review this passage: The one and only time Trump uses the word "woman" is to praise a police officer and his wife as "the goodness of our nation" for adopting the child of a homeless woman living with a heroin addiction. Yet, and possibly not surprisingly, Trump fails to mention all of the systems or policies that caused this woman to become homeless and addicted to a harmful illicit substance in the first place.
Not only that, but Trump doesn't give any insight into what happened to the mother. Did she get help for her addiction? Did the officer put her in touch with a counselor or shelter? You wouldn't know from Trump's State of the Union address because, as typical of the Republican Party, women don't matter in the long run — only the birth of their child does.
Trump may have toned down his bombast for his first official State of the Union, but he did not abandon his fear-mongering rhetoric. And if his speech is any indication, America could expect more of the same over the next three years: Hate, racism, and a divided country.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.