State of the Union, Democratic Response


Grandson of Robert F. Kennedy, Congressman Joe Kennedy gives the Democratic response to the 2018 SOU speech in Fall River, Mass.

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After President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night, there wasn’t just one Democratic response. There were five.

The party’s official response came from 37-year-old Rep. Joe Kennedy III , who gave a speech at an auto-body shop in a Massachusetts technical school, sounding the alarm about America’s deepening divisions under Trump.

It would be easy to dismiss the past year as chaos. Partisanship. Politics. But it’s far bigger than that, Kennedy said. This administration is not only taking away the laws that protect us. They are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection. For them, dignity isn’t something that the matter is where you are born or where you come from.

Kennedy’s speech was broadcast on major networks, but on social media, other progressive more important people were offering up their own vision of the Democratic Party.

The State of the Union response was in each party, and Kennedy’s national star certainly rose on Tuesday as Democratic pundits talked about him as a bright spot in the party’s future. His speech certainly stood out in a crowded field, but it’s clear that whatever the future of the Democratic Party holds, there are many diverse voices shaping it.

In addition to Kennedy, the official Spanish-language response was said by Virginia Del. Elizabeth Guzman. There were also responses from Sen. Bernie Sanders , a speech by Rep. Maxine Waters set to broadcast on BET Wednesday night, and a speech from former Congress member Donna Edwards of Maryland on behalf of the progressive Working Families Party.

On the one hand, this could be seen as evidence of a divided party struggling to unify, with multiple factions feeling that the official Democratic response doesn’t speak for them. On the other hand, the Democrats have always been a party made up of many different coalitions, and the fact that there are so many responses signals energy in the party’s base headed into crucial 2018 midterms.