Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hit back at President Donald Trump’s “blue collar boom” Tuesday night in her Democratic response to the president's third annual address before Congress.
The Democratic governor, who was selected by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to deliver the Democrats' answer to Trump’s address, focused on economic issues to counter the president’s message of unprecedented economic growth.
"It doesn’t matter what the president says about the stock market," the governor said. "What matters is that millions of people struggle to get by or don’t have enough money at the end of the month after paying for transportation, student loans, or prescription drugs."
Trump used his address to tout the U.S. economy and reinforce his stance on stricter border security. His speech reflected the policy portions of his campaign rallies, and he largely avoided the impeachment drama overshadowing his presidency. The House impeached Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress on Dec. 18. The Senate is set to acquit Trump on Wednesday afternoon after a three week trial.
But the State of the Union address also had made for T.V. moments, such as when Trump awarded conservative radio icon Rush Limbaugh the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian award. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Trump appeared to engage in a dramatic tiff, with the president turning away from her outstretched hand at the beginning of his speech and Pelosi tearing up her copy of his prepared remarks at the conclusion.
Whitmer, who beat Republican Gov. Bill Schuette in 2018 only two years after the state voted for Trump in the 2016 election, pushed her party to focus on "dinner-table" issues in the lead up to her election, particularly reforming access to health care and other issues that impact the middle class. Speaking Tuesday night, Whitmer reflected those priorities, focusing on the need to look away from political infighting and toward health care and child care.
"Instead of talking about what he is saying, I'm going to highlight what Democrats are doing," she said.
She cited the policies of Democratic governors and lawmakers across the country focusing on infrastructure repairs and economic mobility. She also highlighted the fact that all the 2020 Democratic hopefuls have made health care reform a central part of their platforms, portraying them as a foil to Congressional Republicans and Trump.
"Bullying people on Twitter doesn't fix bridges. It burns them. Our energy should be used to solve problems," she said. "I lost my patience for people who play games instead of solve problems.”
Rep. Veronica Escobar (D-Texas) offered the Spanish-language response and focused on similar themes. Escobar represents El Paso, a city shaken by a mass shooting in August that was targeted against the city's Latino community.
Escobar lamented the state of health care in Texas, but offered an optimistic message centered on Democrats' efforts to lower drug costs and shore-up protections for people with pre-existing conditions.
Escobar also went after Trump for his treatment of immigrants who entered the country without documentation and recipients of DACA. It was a rebuke to Trump's on-brand, anti-immigrant moments during his address, where he characterized undocumented immigrants as a drain on American resources. Trump spent a number of minutes linking undocumented immigrants to violent crime.
"From attacks against Dreamers, family separation, the deaths of migrant children, to the Remain in Mexico policy that sends asylum seekers into dangerous situations," Escobar said. "These are policies none of us ever imagined would happen in America in our lifetime."