“I will be there, with my guest, but I don’t plan on angling my way to the aisle”
Every year, when the President of the United States comes to Capitol Hill to deliver a message to a joint session of Congress, you see Members of Congress of both parties who get to the House Chamber early to get a prime spot along the aisle through which he enters. Whether the President is a Democrat or a Republican, Members of Congress angle to get a chance to shake his hand as he comes in for the big speech.
Unlike the inauguration, I plan to be at the President’s speech on February 28 — as always — and I will bring a guest from Chicago — as I often do. In this case, my guest will be a woman, a Muslim, an immigration lawyer who works with clients targeted by the Muslim Ban, and the daughter of refugees from Gaza. In the past I have been joined by representatives of Planned Parenthood and immigrants fighting deportation.
This year, I do not plan to applaud this President or leap to my feet to give him a standing ovation — even in the unlikely event he says something I agree with.
No, I am not boycotting, but I am planning to essentially sit on my hands. I plan to listen to every word with rapt attention, but zero enthusiasm.
I hope many of my colleagues feel similarly and join me in listening quietly.
No President has done so much in such a short amount of time to scare Americans, drive wedges between Americans, or show his disregard for unity. He is a habitual liar unable to distinguish truth from fiction or to tell news from the type of propaganda peddled on Breitbart.
His administration is allergic to transparency and their lying is just one symptom. They do not think of themselves as accountable to voters, the Courts or Congress and seem genuinely insulted and surprised when one or more of these institutions question their actions.
On the environment and the rights of transgender school children, their disregard for the American people is astounding. Dialing back consumer protections and basic oversight of financial institutions will hurt Americans in their wallets.
And on the issue I work on most directly, immigration, the Trump Administration’s actions have been nothing short of terrorizing. The executive orders they are implementing to make people deportable or inadmissible, to hire thousands of new agents and build new detention facilities, and to limit due process rights and oversight for citizens and non-citizens are cruel and have caused chaos not only at our major international airports but also in our communities large and small across the country.
Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions and Donald Trump know they don’t have the resources to round-up and deport ten million or so immigrants, so they are strategically injecting fear into immigrant communities and making the police, churches, and the courts danger-zones for immigrants. They want to turn the American people against immigration by driving home the lie that immigrants are a criminal element that detract from, rather than enrich, American life.
The strategy is based on vengeance, fear and fiction. Most undocumented immigrants have lived here more than a decade and their lives and families are here. They are not going to pack up to “go home” because their homes are here.
Attrition through terror simply does not work. We have tried the Trump strategy — in Arizona and Alabama where populist policies were written by current Trump Administration officials — and every time it failed, leaving a trail of lawsuits, broken families and a weaker economy.
The core American values of equality, fair treatment, a day in court, and a government that is accountable to the people who vote — these are all values that the Trump Administration flouts with arrogance and disdain.
So, I will be there, with my guest, but I don’t plan on angling my way to the aisle, I do not plan to shout “You Lie” even when he does, and I will also not be putting my hands together in support of his speech. He has a great deal of work to do for me to applaud him.