Feature 01.28.2019 3 minutes

Make Democrats Offers They Can’t Refuse

President Trump can address the people outside of Congress.

Nancy Pelosi became the first Speaker of the House in American history to bar the President of the United States from addressing Congress when she “disinvited” President Donald Trump from delivering the State of the Union address earlier this month.

Though the Constitution does not require a live speech—it merely says the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union”—the address has been an annual tradition for more than a century.

Until now.

Pelosi originally claimed that it was unsafe for the president to deliver the address during a government shutdown—a claim both the Secret Service and the Department of Homeland Security denied.

When the shutdown ended, Pelosi did not immediately agree to allow Trump to deliver his speech on the original date the following week.

Her gesture was pure, petty, partisan politics.

In other circumstances, however, there might actually be a case for disinviting the president.

In 2014, after Republicans won Congress in the midterm elections, President Barack Obama decided to impose, unilaterally, an amnesty for illegal aliens called Deferred Action for Parents of Americans (DAPA)—something he had repeatedly said before would be a violation of the Constitution.

In response to the president’s usurpation of Congress’s legislative power, I argued Congress should decline to invite Obama to deliver the State of the Union address.

But then-Speaker John Bohener invited Obama anyway.

Trump has not violated the Constitution, nor has he snubbed Congress. On the contrary, he has invited congressional leaders repeatedly to negotiate.

On the border security issue, Trump has stated clearly that he prefers to resolve the problem through legislation rather than—legally!—using his executive authority to declare an emergency and use the military to build a wall.

He stunned everyone—including his supporters—when he acceded to Pelosi’s wishes and agreed to postpone the State of the Union. He seemed determined to show deference to the legislature—unlike his predecessor.

Trump wants to deliver the speech from the House of Representatives—but as my Breitbart News colleague John Nolte has written, Pelosi may give Trump a “yuge” opportunity, if she persists in barring him from the House.

Freed from the constraints of formality, and far from the disapproving glares from opposition benches, the president could stage his State of the Union address wherever and however he wants—and dare the news networks not to carry it live.

He should not deliver a campaign rally speech, but rather a serious address—to an audience of the people.

He should lay out the accomplishments of his administration—perhaps using videos, maps, or even PowerPoint slides.

He should invite guest speakers to share the podium—people like the Angel Families, who have lost loved ones to crimes by illegal aliens.

And he should make the Democrats offers they cannot refuse—that they have, in fact, accepted in the past.

In addition to funding the border wall or fence—something many Democrats once voted for—he should invite them to back a private-sector-led infrastructure program, to raise the Social Security retirement age, and to pass his new U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement.

It is a win-win for the president: if they oppose these common-sense proposals, he can run against their refusal in 2020; if they agree, he can notch up more accomplishments ahead of his re-election campaign.

Trump’s political position is similar to that of Bill Clinton and Barack Obama, both of whom faced a divided government after their first midterm elections.

Clinton chose accommodation—embracing the policies of the other side. Obama chose confrontation—doubling down on his left-wing policies.

Trump is not as weak as Clinton was, but should not do what Obama did—not with the media, and a faction of his own party, against him.

Instead, he should offer reasonable compromises that preserve his core priorities and principles—all in an optimistic tone.

That should be Trump’s approach—even if he does, finally, ascend the rostrum in the House of Representatives.

And if he does, it will be to declare victory, with a solution to the border crisis in hand—not quite what Pelosi had planned.

The American Mind presents a range of perspectives. Views are writers’ own and do not necessarily represent those of The Claremont Institute.

The American Mind is a publication of the Claremont Institute, a non-profit 501(c)(3) organization, dedicated to restoring the principles of the American Founding to their rightful, preeminent authority in our national life. Interested in supporting our work? Gifts to the Claremont Institute are tax-deductible.

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