Facing a joint-session of Congress Tuesday, and tens of millions of Americans at home, President Donald Trump will speak to a nation divided over his plans to build a border wall, and wary of another government shutdown.
In Trump's second State of the Union address, Palestine residents will listen, with little hope, for signs that Trump's speech will unify the country. Trump and the Democrats will have to compromise to avert the start of another shutdown on Feb. 15, but voters here think the two sides remain too far apart.
“The whole thing is toxic,” Walmart manager Jeffery Berry, 35, of Palestine, told the Herald-Press Monday. “The people elected a businessman as their president, and he's using business tactics to keep his promises. They also elected a Democratic Congress, and they're trying to show these tactics don't work.”
Proudly nonpartisan, Berry believes the president and Democratic majority were equally to blame for the government shutdown, as well as the ensuing animosity.
The shutdown hurt everyone, he said.
“It's everyone's problem,” Berry said. “We all know people that have been affected; we've all been trying to help each other. Minimum wage retail workers have been sending money to government employees.”
Tuesday's speech has the potential to help unite the nation, Berry said.
He's not banking on it, however.
“If the President is willing to fund the wall in a different way, then maybe it will help,” he said. “But I'm not sure it's about the wall anymore, or the amount of money he wants. Either way, we're preparing for another shutdown.”
U.S. Navy veteran Donnella Bates said House Democrats and the national media share most of the blame for a sorely divided nation.
“The media has a great impact,” Bates, 46, a Republican, told the Herald-Press. “Whatever he [President Trump] does, they're going to make him out to be the bad guy.”
As a veteran, Bates backs the Commander and Chief, but worries that he speaks, or tweets, before he thinks.
“He's too reactionary,” she said. “He really needs to stick to politics and out of other, more local issues.”
Bates said, even if the president delivers calls for compromise and unity Tuesday, the Democrats' rebuttal will still be negative.
“They think he looks weak because of the shutdown,” she said. “[Speaker of the House] Nancy Pelosi has made a stand and said she's in charge.”
On Tuesday, Bates hopes to see Trump propose a national agenda to help those who cannot afford basic needs, such as healthcare, food stamps, and housing assistance for the homeless – particularly veterans.
“Charity begins at home,” she said. “We have to take care of our own before we can help the world.”
Retired parole officer, and former Palestine city councilman, Doug Smith said unemployment is down, but many workers cannot afford necessities. He hopes the President addresses this problem Tuesday.
“We are the wealthiest country in the world,” Smith, 67, told the Herald-Press. “We don't need people dying for lack of basic care.”
A Republican, Smith said he believes most Americans are united already, and that they agree with President Trump and his policies. It's the media, he said, that depicts the citizenry as divided.
“When Trump drove through McCallen, the crowd was six to eight people deep, all cheering for him, for miles,” Smith said. “You didn't see that on any of the national networks. I'd say a good 75 percent of the country is unified with the president.”
Smith said Trump's insistence on going through Congress to build a border wall shows his commitment to unity.
“He doesn't need Congress,” he said. “Without declaring a national emergency, the Commander and Chief has the authority to order whatever is needed for national security – that includes a border wall.”
Smith said he does not know if the President will use Tuesday's address to argue for his border wall, or to help unify the country; he is certain, however, House Democrats won't follow suit with any efforts by Trump for compromise or unity.
“The Democrats will use their rebuttal to continue to preach their socialist message,” Smith said. “They don't want to admit the majority of Americans, as a whole, are behind the president.”
Democrat Sharon Davis, 70, hopes the president will listen to his own intelligence team, before making his national speech. She doubts, however, that will happen.
“I would like to hear he is willing to compromise on border security,” she said. Davis thinks a wall is unnecessary.
She also hopes Trump assures the American people he will keep the government open in two weeks, even without funding for the border wall.
“I do think it was a mistake that he was going to accept the first deal before reneging on that agreement,” Davis said. “I don't know if he will address that (on Tuesday night.).What I want to hear and probably will hear will not be the same.”
She said the president is unpredictable; no one really knows what he will say.
Davis, a Democrat, said she plans to listen to the State of the Union, but isn't looking forward to it.
“I think this country is in deep trouble right now,” she said. “We have not reunited children on the border with their parents. That's unacceptable. It is scary to me, just scary.”
Waite Birdow, 33, said he hopes to hear the wall won't be built on the public's back.
“I think he will shut down the government again,” he said. “He's going to get the wall built. I hope he says Mexico or someone else will (fund) the wall. His speech is going to be about the wall.”
Zara Gonzalez, 25, hopes Trump's speech will address improving immigration, and offer better and long-term protection to the people affected by DACA, or Delayed Action for Childhood Arrivals, including her.
She said the prospects for DACA under the Trump Administration frighten her. “There should be more protection,” Gonzalez said.
Trump's proposed border wall won't stop the illegal actions of a few people, who will find a way to get around the wall, she said.
Gonzalez has no plans to watch Trump's speech. She just wants a summary.