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

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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.

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is the first thing despots go after. An unwavering commitment to it is probably what draws you to Mother Jones' journalism. And as we're seeing in the US and the world around, authoritarians seek to poison the discourse and the way we relate to each other because they can't stand people coming together around a shared sense of the truth—it's a huge threat to them.

Which is also a pretty great way to describe Mother Jones' mission: People coming together around the truth to hold power accountable.

And right now, we need to raise about $400,000 from our online readers over the next two months to hit our annual goal and make good on that mission. Read more about the information war we find ourselves in and how people-powered, independent reporting can and must rise to the challenge—and please support our team's truth-telling journalism with a donation if you can right now.

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