The Racist-in-chief will deliver his State of the Union Speech on January 30, 2018. As reported here and elsewhere, several Democratic members of the House and Senate—all women–have already announced their intention to register both their solidarity against the prevalence of violence against women as well as their disgust with a President accused by nineteen women of harassment and unwanted sexual advances, by wearing black during the speech, in support of the #MeToo movement. Many have also invited survivors of sexual assault to accompany them as their guests in the gallery during the speech. These gestures are obviously well-intended, but I think their impact will be negligible on a narcissist like Trump, who, if he addresses the subject at all, will be well-coached to co-opt it in some manner pleasing to his racist and misogynist base. And as far as political impact, I would suspect that most women concerned about sexual violence already know which political party represents their interests.
The State of the Union speech provides one of the few opportunities the Democrats will have to collectively register their contempt of Trump to his face. I would argue that the situation we have with Trump is so aberrant that gestures such as wearing black, sitting down or refusing to applaud this monstrosity are wholly insufficient to convey the wholesale rejection of this person and his policies felt by a huge portion of the population, and in particular by an overwhelming number of enraged Democrats. Trump is more than just a rotten, vile human being. He’s an insult to our existence, and that of the country. He diminishes us by his presence, and speaking from the lectern of the Presidency he is simply an obscenity. Everything that comes out of his mouth on January 30 will be a self-serving lie calculated to please his base. But beyond that, what comes out of his mouth will be spoken with the intent to hurt and divide this country along the lines of race.
Representative Maxine Waters (D-CA) understands this, and will be boycotting Trump’s speech:
Representative Maxine Waters, who famously reclaimed her time in July 2017, has announced that she will not be attending Donald Trump’s State of the Union later this month because “he does not deserve [her] attention,” the Hill reports.
“Why would I take my time to go and sit and listen to a liar?” Waters asked Hayes. “Someone who lies in the face of facts, someone who can change their tune day in and day out. What does he have to say that I would be interested in?”
Representative John Lewis (D-GA), who will also be boycotting the speech, makes a similar point:
“I cannot in all good conscience be in a room with what he has said about so many Americans. I just cannot do it. I wouldn’t be honest with myself,” Lewis said.
Others, such as Representative Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, have announced their intention to not attend, but to stay in their Districts to tend to the needs of their constituents. Ultimately the choice comes down to weighing the political consequences of boycotting in light of one’s personal principles. But Democrats really need to search their souls and ask themselves what exactly do they accomplish by affording this person any type of audience.
There are different ways a wholesale boycott by Democrats could play out in the media. Fox News and right-wing media would of course heap derision on it. What we certainly would not see is the spectacle of one-half of the chamber being utterly empty. The Republicans would simply disperse around the chamber to fill the seats, and while the media would report that the Democrats had boycotted, the visual impact would be lost.
Another option would be for Democrats to turn their backs on the President during the speech. While that could be effective it frankly looks a little childish. If the whole point is to register your rejection of this President, what’s the point in being there in the first place?
And it shouldn’t be forgotten that while Trump is the focus of the SOTU, it is the Republicans, both in the House and Senate who have been enabling on his heinous policies, who have confirmed his revolting appointments, and who have shielded him from investigation into his entire family’s conspiracy with the Russian Federation. They deserve to be shamed as well. Their actions have betrayed and this country every bit as much as Trump’s.
If Democrats really want to make a statement about this appalling excuse for a President and the Republican Party that enables him, what they should do is show up for the State of the Union, and as soon as Trump begins to speak they should walk out slowly en masse. At that point Trump will have two choices—he can stop, while the media takes in the full extent of the Democratic revolt, or he can keep speaking, and look like a fool. My guess is that, egomaniacal sociopath that he is, he would choose to keep talking. Either way the Democratic position on his empty and hateful words would be made clear.
These are not normal times, this is not a “normal” President, and we should not be treating the “State of our Union” as anything but under severe distress.