The response to President Donald Trump's first formal State of the Union address on Tuesday was divided heavily along party lines, with liberal activists, Democratic politicians, and left-leaning organizations describing the speech as "divisive," an exercise in "showmanship," and blatant "propaganda."
Former Virginia governor and potential 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Terry McAuliffe was one of the most vocal critics of the address. McAuliffe, who attended the speech as a guest of House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D., Calif.), told MSNBC host Chris Matthews that he witnessed a young Dreamer, an illegal immigrant brought to the U.S. as a child, break down in tears when Trump addressed immigration reform.
"She had tears in her eyes listening to the president of the United States," McAuliffe said. "This is embarrassing."
McAuliffe also castigated the speech as nothing more than "a continuation of a presidency defined by bigotry" and "partisanship" on Twitter.
"This was not the speech of the unifying leader our nation needs, it was a continuation of a presidency defined by bigotry, partisanship and attacks on the foundations of the open and welcoming American society that has led the world in innovation, democracy and progress.
#SOTU," McAuliffe tweeted.
This was not the speech of the unifying leader our nation needs, it was a continuation of a presidency defined by bigotry, partisanship and attacks on the foundations of the open and welcoming American society that has led the world in innovation, democracy and progress. #SOTU https://t.co/8ed7wiek64
— Terry McAuliffe (@TerryMcAuliffe) January 31, 2018
Elected Democrats across the country, including members of Congress and governors, echoed similar sentiments.
— Nancy Pelosi (@NancyPelosi) January 31, 2018
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— John W. Hickenlooper (@GovofCO) January 31, 2018
— Cory Booker (@CoryBooker) January 31, 2018
I went to the #SOTU. I wanted it burned into my eyes. If there’s ever a moment when I’m too tired to keep fighting, I just have to close my eyes & see @realDonaldTrump , @mike_pence & @pryan applauding themselves for punching working families in the gut, & I'm back in this fight.
— Elizabeth Warren (@elizabethforma) January 31, 2018
The President paid lip service to bringing the country together tonight, but continued to push the GOP’s extremist vision of America.
After one of the most divisive years in memory—it's up to the President to deliver. Actions speak louder than words. #SOTU
— Andrew Cuomo (@NYGovCuomo) January 31, 2018
Many Democrats took particular umbrage at what they saw as Trump's attempt to take credit for the African-American unemployment rate hitting a record low.
Any way you square it, the drop in Black unemployment was a trend that started under President Obama. President Trump is just along for the ride. However, we can do better — the Black unemployment rate is still approximately double that of white unemployment. #SOTU
— Kamala Harris (@KamalaHarris) January 31, 2018
— YoungDems of America (@youngdems) January 31, 2018
African American Unemployment Rate: Under Obama, African American unemployment rate fell from 16.8% to 7.8 % – a decline of 9 % points. Under President Trump, the African American unemployment rate has fallen to 6.8 percent – a decline of 1 %. #SOTU
— Rep. Brendan Boyle (@CongBoyle) January 31, 2018
Trump exploited Obama‘s policies to take credit for low black unemployment rates and then, seconds later, exploited a black man to justify a tax bill that overwhelmingly benefitted rich white men. #SOTU
— Samuel Sinyangwe (@samswey) January 31, 2018
Several media figures responded similarly to Trump's speech. MSNBC host Joy Reid claimed that the president was trying "to call on the tropes of 1950s-era nationalism" by discussing "church, family, military, police," and "the national anthem."
Church … family … police … military … the national anthem … Trump trying to call on all the tropes of 1950s-era nationalism. The goal of this speech appears to be to force the normalization of Trump on the terms of the bygone era his supporters are nostalgic for. #SOTU
— Joy Reid (@JoyAnnReid) January 31, 2018
CNN commentator Sally Kohn said on Twitter that when members of the audience began chanting "USA" in response to Trump's "nationalistic hate mongering," it "sent chills down" her "spine."
I am a patriot and I love my country but the way people have been chanting "USA" lately, especially in response to nationalist hate mongering, sends chills down my spine.
— Sally Kohn (@sallykohn) January 31, 2018