Kennedy’s speech — so how’d he do?

Rep. Joe Kennedy III (D-Mass.) had the utterly thankless task of delivering the response to the State of the Union. Speaking in front of a live audience that frequently applauded was smart. Did he look awfully young and have a distracting bead of sweat (or was it saliva) at the corner of his mouth? Yes, but by gosh he gave a fair to very good speech. (Moreover, millennials are overwhelmingly anti-Trump so a youthful image for the Democrats is probably a net plus.)

On Tuesday I urged Kennedy to give a nod to reality, by saying, for example: We are in abnormal, frightening times, led by an unfit president. He did just that: “Many have spent the last year, anxious, angry, afraid, we all feel the fractured fault lines across our country.” He went on, “We hear the voices of Americans who are forgotten and forsaken. Corporate profits climb but fail to give their workers their fair share. A government that struggles to keep itself open. Russia, knee deep in our democracy. An all-out war on environmental protection. A justice department rolling back civil rights by the day. Hatred and supremacy proudly marching in our streets. Bullets tearing through our classrooms, concerts and congregations, targeting our safest and sacred places. This nagging and sinking feeling, no matter your political beliefs, this is not right, this is not who we are.” The nagging and sinking feeling this is not right, this is not who we are. That surely will resonate with Democrats, independents and despondent Republicans and ex-Republicans.

He also drilled down on the abuses of power and violations of democratic norms that have intensified just this week. “This administration is not just targeting the laws that protect us, they are targeting the very idea that we are all worthy of protection.” Moreover, especially for Democrats who too often fall into a laundry list of constituent complaints, he made an admirable stab at unity — real unity, unlike the pretense of unity that President Trump cynically set forth. Kennedy insisted that “we are all equal, that we all count in the eyes of our laws, our leaders, our God, and our government. That is the American promise.” And indeed, it’s what Republicans would abandon and, worse, reject on the premise that America is a pitiful giant willing to take only people who are already successful and look like us.

Read more at The Washington Post.