America’s divisions will enter into burning focus when President Donald Trump delivers the annual State of the Union speech to Congress, later Tuesday just ahead of his expected acrimonious impeachment acquittal.
The State of the Union is a grand set-piece in the US political calendar, a rare occasion when bitter opponents traditionally observe a truce while the president lays out a vision for the future.
But Trump will drive up Pennsylvania Avenue to the Capitol at a time of rancor arguably unmatched for decades -- and likely to worsen as the November presidential election approaches.
The White House promises Trump will be “relentless” in talking up the US economy and the “blue collar boom” when he takes to the podium at around 9:00 pm (0200 GMT Wednesday).
The reality is that Trump will be entering a chamber where only last December the Democratic-led House of Representatives, the lower chamber, impeached him for abuse of power and obstructing Congress.
And he’ll be looking out over a group of legislators where only a narrow Republican majority in the upper chamber Senate is likely to save his job when a verdict vote comes today.
The speech could in theory be an opportunity to reach out and heal a nation boiling over in mistrust.
Trump could express regret for what even several of his own Republican senators agree was wrongful behavior in pushing Ukraine to open a questionable corruption probe against one of his main Democratic presidential opponents, Joe Biden.
Or he could seek to calm the waters by entirely avoiding the topic of impeachment, just as Bill Clinton did during his post-impeachment State of the Union in 1999.
White House officials say they don’t know what he’ll do.