As President Donald Trump delivered his State of the Union address before Congress on Tuesday night, a group of about 15 local Republicans watched him live at a Romeoville restaurant.
Most watched the president speak intently, nodding at what they thought was a good point or powerful line. Some applauded when Trump spoke about the economy, immigration and what he called the “partisan” investigations.
“I was really proud of what he said,” said Steve Balich, a Republican Will County Board member and Trump supporter. “As a citizen, it made me feel good.”
Balich said he thought the president was trying to push ideas that would be unifying and popular so the country can move in a positive direction.
Cornel Darden, the president of the Will County Young Republicans, said while he admits Trump’s speeches can be unconventional, he saw Tuesday’s address as a clear rebuke of the Democrats and their policies.
“I think he’s phenomenal,” Darden said. “He nailed it. Every point that he touched upon was pretty much a slap in the face to the Democrats.”
Both Darden and Balich said they liked that Trump specifically called out the increase in popularity of socialist policies among some in the Democratic Party. Balich said he didn’t think Trump tried to take too many jabs at Democrats – only the “socialist Democrats.”
At the Republican watch party, when Trump said, “America will never be a socialist country,” many in the crowd applauded.
Richard Rodriguez of Joliet argued that line was meant to divide the country. Rodriguez is a national board member of Our Revolution, the progressive organization that rose out of Sen. Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign.
“For anybody that thinks socialism is a bad word, they can give up their Social Security,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez added he was mostly looking forward to Sanders’ reaction. He thought the senator’s point, about the richest 25 hedge fund managers making nearly twice as much money last year as the 140,000 kindergarten teachers in the country, was particularly effective.
Darden was adamant there are places for bipartisan cooperation, but when it comes to socialist policies, he doesn’t think so.
“There’s no way to find common ground on something like that,” he said.