President Trump’s first State of the Union address Tuesday will emphasize that his policies have helped minorities, even as liberal Democrats and black leaders intensify their opposition to him.
White House advisers say Mr. Trump will offer a “unifying” message to Congress for the year ahead, based in part on his first-year record that includes more jobs than ever for black and Hispanic workers.
“He’s going to talk about where we are today as far as growing an economy, an economy that now has grown at a 3 percent clip over the last three quarters,” White House legislative affairs director Marc Short said on Fox News Sunday. “[It’s] an economy that now has the lowest unemployment rate in 17 years, an economy that has the lowest unemployment rate among African-Americans and Hispanic Americans, in the history of collecting data that’s broken demographically that way.”
The unemployment rate for black workers was 6.8 percent in December, the lowest in 45 years. The highest level was 16.5 percent in 2010.
A senior administration official said Mr. Trump’s speech will be “optimistic.”
“It’s also very unifying in the sense that it is unifying around the greater opportunities for all Americans as a result of the last year’s jobs growth and success in the economy,” the official said.
In spite of those positive trends, prominent Democrats say they’re more determined than ever to stop Mr. Trump’s agenda. Many of them aren’t even willing to hear him out.
At least four members of the Congressional Black Caucus, all House Democrats, plan to boycott the president’s address — CBC Chairman Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, John Lewis of Georgia, Maxine Waters of California and Frederica Wilson of Florida. Rep. Pramila Jayapal, Washington Democrat, also plans to skip the speech because of what she called “all the racism coming from the White House.”
Mrs. Waters, one of Mr. Trump’s harshest critics who frequently calls for his impeachment, will give a rebuttal to the State of the Union address instead on the BET network Tuesday night.
The NAACP plans to hold a rival event online Tuesday night to challenge Mr. Trump’s policies.
“It’s clear from his tax giveaways to the wealthy and subsequent $13 million takeaway from health care to his failure to protect the vote and civil rights, that this president’s agenda represents nothing but pain and suffering for communities of color, the poor, women and immigrants,” said Derrick Johnson, NAACP president and CEO.
Even hip-hop music mogul Jay-Z, a friend of former President Barack Obama, took up the criticism of Mr. Trump over the weekend, saying of improved economic conditions for minorities under Mr. Trump, “It’s not about money at the end of the day.”
“Money is not — doesn’t equate to, like, happiness,” he said on “The Van Jones Show” on CNN. “We treat people like human beings. It goes back to the whole thing, you going to treat me really bad and pay me well. It’s not going to lead to happiness.”
The president fired back on Twitter against Jay-Z on Sunday.
“Somebody please inform Jay-Z that because of my policies, Black Unemployment has just been reported to be at the LOWEST RATE EVER RECORDED!” the president tweeted.
In his speech, the president also plans to cite his proposals on immigration and infrastructure rebuilding as topics where the administration and Democrats can work together.
But Democrats are criticizing Mr. Trump’s proposed solution that offers a pathway to citizenship for 1.8 million young illegal immigrants called “Dreamers.”
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi of California called Mr. Trump’s proposals to limit family “chain” migration and to end the visa lottery program “a campaign to America white again.”
Mr. Short said Democrats “have continued to cry that they don’t want to solve the problem” of the Dreamers, and challenged them to stop playing politics with the issue.
White House advisers also say Mr. Trump will promote in his speech a $1.7 trillion public-private plan to rebuild the nation’s roads and bridges.
“The president is also going to make an appeal to Democrats, to make an appeal to say, we need to rebuild our country and to make an appeal that to do infrastructure, we need to do it in a bipartisan way,” Mr. Short said.
But many Democrats say Mr. Trump’s first year in office, in which he engaged in fights with opponents over issues ranging from his travel ban to NFL player protests, have poisoned the well beyond recovery.
“Assuming he can competently read the Teleprompter long enough to deliver his message of unity, he is always one tweet away from upending his agenda, and I think most Democrats understand that,” said Democratic strategist Jim Manley. “He has always been a polarizing figure and is not going to change now. There will no pivot to unity — he is who he is.”
Allies of the White House say Mr. Trump also has a public-private partnership plan for urban revitalization to be unveiled as early as next month, encouraging businesses by deferring or lowering capital gains taxes to invest in “opportunity zones” to spur retail growth in distressed cities.
The Rev. Darrell Scott, a minister from Cleveland and co-founder of National Diversity Coalition for Trump, has been working on that proposal with the administration.
“It’s going to be the biggest thing since sliced bread for the black community,” Mr. Scott said. “He’s given us the green light.”
A senior administration official said Mr. Trump “will be speaking from the heart” Tuesday night about his goal of lifting up all Americans.
“People will be reminded — in some cases, surprised — but will be reminded about how much President Trump has accomplished in his first year for all Americans,” the official said. “The economic upswing is helping everybody, from the lowest, to the highest income groups.”
The president gave a major speech to a joint session of Congress about one month after his inauguration, but those addresses in the first year of a presidency aren’t billed as an official State of the Union speech. The prime-time address on Tuesday night is expected to last about one hour.
The White House will have presidential guests in the gallery of the House chamber representing each of the policy areas that Mr. Trump will address, from the opioid crisis to immigration to the military and business owners.
While the president will talk mainly about domestic policy, he’s also expected to address the threat posed by North Korea’s nuclear weapons and missile programs. The administration reportedly is seeking a major increase in the defense budget in fiscal 2019 to about $716 billion, which would be a 13 percent increase over 2017 levels.
Aides said Mr. Trump will touch on some of the same principles that he covered in a speech on Friday at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where he emphasized the need for economic policies to improve the lives of all citizens.
“To be successful, it is not enough to invest in our economy,” Mr. Trump said at Davos. “We must invest in our people. Only by hearing and responding to the voices of the forgotten can we create a bright future that is truly shared by all. The nation’s greatness is more than the sum of its production. A nation’s greatness is the sum of its citizens: the values, pride, love, devotion, and character of the people who call that nation home.”
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