Back when Donald Trump was holding Americans hostage with a government shutdown, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi told him that he wouldn’t be allowed to show up and give his State of the Union address to Congress unless he ended his shutdown first. Trump ended up caving, agreeing to reopen the government for three weeks without getting anything in return. Pelosi then invited Trump to give his address. Some have asked why she’s allowing it.
There are two reasons. The first is perceptual. Nancy Pelosi won her standoff with Donald Trump by every measure, and the people in the middle came away with a clear understanding of that. But if Pelosi were to now turn around and refuse to let Trump give his address after he caved, the people in the middle could perceive that as Pelosi brazenly piling on. The more important reason, however, is strategic.
No matter what Donald Trump says during his State of the Union address, he’s not going to change a single mind. We know this because Trump already tried a primetime televised address, a televised press conference at the border, and other stunts to sell his anti-immigrant message to the American people, and no one outside of his existing base saw it that way.
For that reason, the State of the Union won’t help Trump at all. In fact the mere existence of the speech gives the Democrats an opportunity to fight back. Stacey Abrams, a rising Democrat from Georgia, will give the rebuttal speech. Democrats have also invited the undocumented immigrants recently fired from Trump’s golf course. The SOTU will end up being a net negative for Trump – and that’s why Nancy Pelosi is letting him do it.
Bill Palmer is the publisher of the political news outlet Palmer Report