While many in the media were focused intensely on the rip heard ’round the world, there was one Democratic lawmaker — Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — who set the example for unity during Tuesday’s State of the Union address.
From an optics perspective, the biggest moment during President Donald Trump’s speech last night came at the end: when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) meticulously tore through the transcript of the Republican leader’s address.
It was a lowbrow move — one that, unfortunately, defines much of our political discourse in the Trump era: two parties so divided, their members can hardly see past their own noses, their words and actions often patently vitriolic, further eroding what little unity might remain in our cultural fabric.
But even in its fragility, you’d be mistaken to believe that unity is gone entirely.
At one point during his speech, Trump praised Sen. Tim Scott (R-S.C.) for his work in so-called “opportunity zones,” which constitutes the promotion of investment, economic growth, and job creation in underdeveloped communities.
The “opportunity zone” program, which Scott fought to include in the Republican-led tax cuts of 2017, grants capital gains tax breaks to investors who pour money into economically distressed areas. The initiative was initially promoted as a standalone bill with bipartisan support before being attached to the tax legislation.
Trump praised Scott for spearheading the investment into underdeveloped communities around the country.
It was in that moment that Sinema set aside the politics of the moment and instead chose to celebrate what is a bipartisan, and unifying, success. She gave Scott a standing ovation.
Sinema showed Americans of all political stripes what it truly means to be unifying. It’s easier to show support across the aisle in a less divisive time, when the country hasn’t been as plagued by partisanship as it is today. What the senator from Arizona did Tuesday night was genuinely bold.
She stood athwart her own political party, whose members sat in stoic opposition to a president they loathe. Unmoored from the status quo of the Democratic Party, Sinema broke ranks, setting aside her myriad disagreements with Trump to stand in solidarity with her Republican colleague whose efforts have bettered the lives of Americans around the country.
The two senators — Scott and Sinema — continued showing unity on social media after Trump’s speech wrapped. Scott thanked Sinema for her support, and in response, the Arizona Democrat said she “couldn’t be prouder” to support his efforts, counting herself “lucky” to call the South Carolina Republican “a friend.”
Whether your perspective matches Trump’s or more closely aligns with Sinema’s, we can all learn a lesson from the 43-year-old lawmaker’s actions during the SOTU address. In her ovation we can also find a thread of unity in our national fabric — one that desperately needs to be rewoven.