Washington – Through fashion choices, Twitter storms or sheer absence, Democratic members of Congress found ways to express disdain for President Donald Trump at this year’s State of the Union.
At least 10 Democrats decided to boycott Trump’s address. Reps. Earl Blumenauer of Oregon, Steve Cohen of Tennessee, Al Green of Texas; Hank Johnson of Georgia, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Presley of Massachussetts, Bobby Rush of Illinois, Bennie Thompson of Mississippi, Maxine Waters of California, and Frederica Wilson of Florida.
#BoycottSOTU is hardly new; 14 Democrats skipped the address in 2018 after Trump described African nations as “s—hole countries” on Twitter. Six House Democrats boycotted the address last year. This year, the boycott appears to be in response to the expected Senate vote to acquit Trump of impeachment charges on Wednesday.
On Twitter, Ocasio-Cortez said she refused to legitimize Trump’s conduct and therefore would not attend. Another one of the four first-term congresswomen known as “The Squad,” Pressley, tweeted that she could not “in good conscience attend” the State of the Union.
Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., and Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., the two other “Squad” members, did attend the speech. Omar said on Twitter that she was “attending on behalf of all of those targeted by this President,” and her presence is a form of resistance. Tlaib took to twitter to not only express her support for those boycotting, but also to announce that she would be at the address in solidarity with all the women in Congress wearing white.
However, Tlaib walked out halfway through the address. While most Democrats were at the speech, other members of the party also left during it, including Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio.
“The lies, the bigotry, and the shameless bragging about taking away food stamps that people depend on to live– it was all beneath the dignity of the office [Trump] occupies,” Tlaib said. “Shame on the this forever impeached president.”
For the second year in a row, women of the Democratic party wore suffragette white, it being exactly a century since women won the right to vote.
Rep. Lois Frankel, D-Fla., said wearing white is a direct response to Republican attempts to roll back women’s progress. From reinstating the gag rule to appointing anti-abortion Supreme Court justices, Frankel said Trump “has taken every opportunity to undermine women’s health protections.”
“Today, we #WearWhite to send a strong message that the women in America are watching and we are not backing down,” Frankel said.
Women Democratic lawmakers first wore white in 2017. In 2018, they wore all black as a tribute to #MeToo and the death of African American activist Recy Taylor. Last year was a return to the all-white ensemble.
However, two dozen Republican and Democratic lawmakers who sit on the House Problem Solvers Caucus wore purple as a symbol of bipartisanship. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., was in purple instead of white despite a presidential campaign that put women’s issues at the forefront.
Additionally, women and men from the Democratic party wore buttons that read “ERA YES” to show support for the Equal Rights Amendment, which would guarantee equal legal rights for all American citizens regardless of sex.
Democrats sat in silence amid cheers from Republicans as the president pointed out that unemployment rates for women had reached a record low.
“The unemployment rate for women reached the lowest level in almost 70 years, and last year women filled 72 percent of all new jobs added,” Trump said.