While I usually enjoy the annual State of the Union Speech (though I won’t be watching this year’s debacle), for the most part they’re more symbolic than anything else. It’s a president standing in front of Congress reading a long speech mostly written by other people meant to tout their accomplishments of the past year (though often exaggerated) while laying out their vision for the next twelve months.
Usually, the most important thing about these speeches is what comes next.
For example, this year we can almost certainly expect:
- Some sort of Trump meltdown on Twitter over something someone said about him.
- Trump retweeting complimentary things said about him from people on Twitter.
- Fact checkers to be working overtime to debunk what’s probably going to be a record-setting number of lies told during a speech.
- The conservative media to spend the next few days hyping Trump as the next coming of George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan — combined.
- Trump to say or do something over the next few days to negate any positive momentum he might have built from the speech, when the real Donald J. Trump comes out during a rally or, more likely, a morning Twitter rant.
Another thing to always keep an eye out for is who the opposing party picks to deliver its response to the speech.
That brings me to the point of this article. For their response, Democrats have chosen Rep. Joe Kennedy (D-MA). The 37-year-old Kennedy isn’t just a rising star within the party because of his family name, he’s also building a political career in a progressive image by fighting for the middle class.
For a while now I’ve said Democrats must start “getting younger.” While I appreciate the work folks like Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Sen. Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden, and Hillary Clinton have done over the years for the party, the “youngest” of that group is Schumer — at 67.
By contrast, here are a few of the most well-known Republicans right now:
- Paul Ryan: 47
- Ted Cruz: 47
- Rand Paul: 55
- Tom Cotton: 40
- Marco Rubio: 46
Even heading into 2020, two names that have been tossed around by many have been Biden and Sanders. Two men who’ll be 77 and 79, respectively, when voters go to the polls for that election.
Democrats needs to start handing over leadership of their party to younger members such as Sen. Cory Booker (48), Sen. Kristen Gillbrand (51), Sen. Tammy Duckworth (49) and, yes, Rep. Joe Kennedy (37).
I’m not trying to be an “ageist,” I’m just being realistic.
That’s why I was happy to see that the Massachusetts representative was chosen to give the response to Trump’s State of the Union during a year where this country is headed toward possibly the most important midterm election in most of our lifetimes.
I truly hope people take note of the stark contrasts in the speeches between Trump and Kennedy. Instead of spewing self-serving, dishonest, and divisive propaganda, I’m expecting Kennedy to give a strong and hopeful message to millions of Americans who’ve been watching this circus from home feeling hopeless, helpless, scared, and ashamed at what this “president” is doing to our country.
Tonight could be a huge night for Democrats. A rising star in the party has a fantastic opportunity on a national stage to instill confidence in the party’s vision for America, and become an even bigger force against the rapid radicalization of the GOP.
So even if you don’t want to watch Trump’s speech tonight — and I don’t blame you if that’s the case — please tune in to watch Kennedy’s response. I think it’s definitely something that could be a pivotal moment for not only the Democratic party, but this country as a whole.
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