Why you should care
There are some unlikely areas of agreement, even if President Trump didn’t touch on them in his address to Congress.
President Donald Trump’s speech before a joint session of Congress on Tuesday night continued his case for the nationalist agenda he campaigned on — something he never seems to shy away from discussing (or tweeting). While much of what he spoke about is already running aground on Capitol Hill’s rocky shoals — a massive infrastructure plan and a new lower-cost national health care law will be tough, but not impossible, to pull off — there are other, lesser-discussed areas that could also define his agenda over the next four years and get both sides of the aisle clapping.
Fix Inner Cities
Trump’s Election Day exit polls showed an improvement among Black voters compared to Mitt Romney, but at 8 percent, that support was still anemic. No. 45 talks often about the plight of America’s inner cities, including a reference during last night’s address to Chicago’s murder rate with a call to support law enforcement. But there’s also an overlooked piece of Trump’s urban agenda: allowing cities and states to seek federal disaster aid to wipe out blight.
The notion of FEMA at a drug corner near you isn’t new; Rev. Jesse Jackson pitched it before, equating Chicago’s worst neighborhoods with post-hurricane New Jersey. “It could work,” Jackson told OZY on Tuesday, hours before Trump’s speech. Yet he quickly added that the president’s rhetoric on civil rights is dispiriting. Urban renewal “requires a plan and an investment, and not just an observation that people are shooting each other,” he says. If Trump can follow through with a Jackson-friendly plan, it could be a powerful and unlikely partnership across the aisle.
Your State of the Union Address
We wanted to hear the message you would deliver if you were leading the U.S.
“We have gathered here tonight to hear about the security of our present and the projection of prosperity for our future. To do so requires me to reach out to each and every one of you and request that you — we — take the hand of our neighbors regardless of race, sex or religion and pledge to give more than receive, to freely lend support instead of endeavoring to denigrate, to uplift instead of demean.” — Allene E. Swienckowski of Quechee, Vt.
Boost Medical Research
Former Vice President Joe Biden helped push through billions in new research funding for cancer, Alzheimer’s and other maladies in the final weeks of President Obama’s administration through a bill that got huge congressional margins. Trimming the fat, as Trump has pledged to do with $54 billion stricken from nonmilitary spending, sounds nice — until it’s put into practice at places like the National Institutes of Health, which devotes more than $5 billion each year to cancer research.
But among the biggest boosters of medical research funding in GOP circles is none other than Newt Gingrich, the former speaker of the house, who wrote an op-ed in favor of doubling the NIH budget in 2015. He doesn’t have a formal role in the administration, though he does have the president’s ear. You have to think Trump would relish the chance to be the president who helped cure cancer. Indeed, his push Tuesday night for the Food and Drug Administration to fast-track rare disease cures — which included spotlighting Megan Crowley, a college student diagnosed with Pompe disease — was one of a handful of bipartisan feel-good moments. “Cures to illnesses that have always plagued us,” Trump said in his denouement, “are not too much to hope.”
“I want to have Trump condemn anti-hate, anti-woman, anti-LGBT speech, and the acts that follow. I also would have him show his support for domestic spending and not increase the defense budget at the cost of programs that actually work.” — Patricia Lynch of Washington, D.C.
Forge Closer Foreign Ties
Trump’s diplomatic dances with Russia and China have dominated headlines of late, as they should, but he now also has an opportunity to forge closer ties with India. The world’s largest democracy has a sunnier view of Trump than most countries — in part because Trump’s muscular rhetoric against “radical Islamic terrorism” matches its own posture against Pakistan. India also is ripe for more investment, as it’s less developed than China.
Former ambassador to the U.N. John Bolton, during a panel discussion last week at the Conservative Political Action Conference, said America should cozy up to a fellow free society with a dynamic economy to hedge against a possible showdown with China. “Just as in the ’70s, [Henry] Kissinger and [Richard] Nixon played the China card against Russia; playing the India card against China has appeal,” Bolton said. Trump has already invited Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the White House, though there are plenty of land mines ahead for this relationship. For starters, a crackdown on high-skill immigrants would devastate an India loaded with tech talent. And while the U.S. plans to send $75 million in aid to India this year, mostly for health initiatives, Trump has vowed to gut the foreign aid budget.
“If I were him, I’d simply say: ‘I’m resigning.’” — Steve Ernst of Franklin, Mich.
Wire Rural Communities
Trump took office vowing to help the “forgotten” people of rural America and to rebuild crumbling infrastructure, and now he’s teased at an Eisenhower-type plan for $1 trillion in public and private investment, without going into all the details.
Rather than reviving a 1960s economy of coal mines and steel mills, he’d have a better shot at helping his red-hatted rural backers by threading their hometowns with high-speed fiber-optic cable, linking them to the 21st-century economy. The Obama administration conducted a large multiagency push, but the digital divide remains a reality for millions of Americans — with Trump-friendly Appalachia and the South particularly lacking in bandwidth.