NEWS

Local panel of voters judges Trump's State of the Union

Ireland Stevenson interviewed two ABC News panelists, Enrico Trevisani and Mark Toth, after President Donald J. Trump's State of the Union address.

ABC News hosted a State of the Union address showing at the Arizona State Museum with a dozen local voters, six Democrats and six Republicans, who were invited to participate in a panel before and after the showing as a part of ABC’s Nightline series. 

Reporter Tom Llamas hosted the event, where panelists were shown live coverage of both Donald Trump’s address and the Democratic response, a speech given by Massachusetts Congressman Joe Kennedy III. 

ABC hosted this segment in Tucson because of Arizona’s fairly equal amount of liberal and conservative voters. As evidenced by Trump’s 4-percent win in the state, Arizona is a microcosm of the entire nation’s division. Tucson’s sizable Latino population also influenced the network’s choice.

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Llamas began by asking the Republican panelists if, in retrospect, they would cast the same votes for president as they did in 2016. The panelists answered with a resounding affirmation. The Democratic panelists were just as resolute in their choice to vote against Trump. 

The hot-button topics of the night were the economy, immigration and national security. Trump touched on the changes his administration would make in these respective areas. 

The Republican panelists received Trump’s remarks about the border wall and the economy, as well as anecdotes about the heroism of his guests, with applause and praise. 

The Democratic panelists were relatively silent, making critical comments intermittently and only applauding when Trump expressed his intent to ensure paid family leave for American families and to provide federal inmates with “a second chance” after their release. 

After the address, heated discussion occurred between both sides of the panel while they waited to hear Congressman Kennedy’s speech. One Republican panelist asked why the Democrats were silent throughout most of the speech, despite the guests’ affecting stories of heroism and tragedy.

A few Democrats stated their belief that Trump had tokenized these individuals to further his agenda. This conversation continued until the Democratic response’s broadcast began. 

During the Democratic speech, the Republican panelists continued to comment frequently, while the Democrats responded to a few of Kennedy’s statements with scattered applause and no verbal commentary. 

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The event ended with a final segment in which Llamas inquired about a number of observations he made on individuals’ reactions. Many were particularly concerned with the president’s phrase “Americans are dreamers, too.” 

Democrats found that the phrase falsely implied that Dreamers receive special treatment or downplayed the particular challenges these individuals face. 

Conversely, Republicans said this phrase obscured the label of “Dreamer” by suggesting that these individuals are not different from other Americans and that every American’s dream — regardless of immigration status — should be equally important.

 Jahnavi Akella is a reporter for the Daily Wildcat. She also was a participant on the Democratic side of the panel.


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