US Politics: State of the Union highlights a nation divided

Donald Trump delivers his State of the Union address
The State of the Union is far from unified

The State of the Union was an opportunity to bring unity to Congress, but stark divisions remain between Republicans and Democrats. The Tradefair team brings you the latest news in US politics...

"We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution - and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good."

- Donald Trump

The State of the Union is an annual address many view as indicative of the overall mood in US politics. It's a chance for the president to set out his vision for the coming year and to speak to his fellow political representatives.

Donald Trump delivered this year's address to a packed house on February 5, and with the eyes of the world watching it was a speech that gave great insight into the current mood in Congress.

Divisions apparent in more than just dress code

A surprising nuance to this year's State of the Union was apparent for all to see in the attire worn by many in attendance. With a record number of female representatives, a vast swathe of white was seen across Congress.

It was a decision taken by many Democratic women in reference to the Suffragette movement and offering a call for solidarity in commemoration of 100 years of women gaining the right to vote.

And with Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi having reclaimed her position as Speaker of the House, the image of her white-suited demeanour sat behind the president throughout his address was a visual reminder of the challenges he still faces in bringing accord to his plans.

The State of the Union saw a house divided, as with many of the president's statements there were responses of disapproving looks, raised eyebrows or veiled swearing as the cameras panned the room.

It was in stark contrast to the supposed tone of the speech, in which the president called for "unity" and an end to the constant and bitter fighting that has typified much of his time in office.

Indeed, the president stated early in his address: "We must reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution - and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good."

The sentiment was applauded by his fellow politicians, but in many ways it was a hollow pledge given what was to follow.

What were the key takeaways?

It was billed as being an address that would call for an end to partisan politics in the US. And while, on several occasions, the president spoke of the need for change, his own demeanour was one of a man for whom his agenda was of the utmost urgency.

Again, the president reiterated his hardline stance on immigration and the need for a border wall, arguing that "simply put, walls work and walls save lives". It was a statement that received widespread applause from his party, but looks of derision from the rest.

The spectre of further government disruption remains on the cards if a decision on the border wall plans cannot be reached by February 15. As a result, it was a timely reminder of the differences in opinion that typify US politics at present, as well as the real-world consequences of these diametric views.

Meanwhile, the bipartisan nature of US politics was further revealed in the president's statement: "If there is going to be peace and legislation, there cannot be war and investigation. It just doesn't work that way."

It was itself a veiled reference to the ongoing efforts of many in Congress to examine the president's role in any Russian meddling in the US election which brought him into office. The need for the truth, it seems, is outweighed in the president's view by the need for progress.

Stock markets slip after State of the Union

The eyes of the nation may have been on Congress in recent days, but that hasn't taken away from the realities of how the Trump presidency continues to impact the economy and major markets.

During the last week, US market performance maintained an upward trajectory overall, although a blip on Wednesday saw an end to five days of gains for the S&P 500, Nasdaq and Dow Jones.

Looking forward, the need for clarity over any potential new government closures is an issue that will need resolution if it's not to impact trading performance. However, the chances of cross-party agreement on such a contentious issue in the coming days seems slim at best.

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