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

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.

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.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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