By Jackson Richman
On Friday, Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-OR) announced he will boycott President Donald Trump’s first State of the Union address later this month. The disunity ahead of a constitutional tradition has only just begun.
“Rather than listening to another destructive, divisive speech by Trump, I will not attend this year’s annual address to Congress,” Blumenauer posted in a Twitter thread. “Instead, like I did during his inauguration, I’ll be working at home listening to Oregonians about what they think about the State of the Union!”
Of course, it goes without saying that Rep. Steve King (R-IA) boycotted President Barack Obama’s last SOTU to protest government funding of Planned Parenthood. The following month at the Conservative Political Action Conference, when I prompted him about the move, he said, “If there was going to be an empty seat in the gallery for those who’ve died of gun violence, there was going to be an empty seat on the House floor for the fetuses that have been aborted.”
While principle matters, boycotting the annual tradition—which relates to the constitutional requirement that the president “shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient”—goes against the principle of respecting our institutions.
Regardless of today’s divisive politics, the SOTU is an opportunity for both sides of the aisle to gather and listen to the leader of the Free World address and try to inspire the nation even if he has brought baggage to the White House. There are ideas, like better access to education, that both parties agree upon, it is how those goals are accomplished where Democrats and Republicans differ.
While Trump is rightfully criticized for attacking institutions like the judiciary and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, two wrongs do not make a right. Therefore, Blumenauer should show the president respect for America’s institutions by attending. Otherwise, it makes any criticism of Trump’s disregard for our system of government hypocritical. No Democrat has yet denounced Blumenauer’s move.
Furthermore, Blumenauer is only further fueling the “destructive” and “divisive” nature of today’s politics by both releasing a statement and making a move that is as such. Show who the adult in the room is. Release a statement after the speech maturely disagreeing with what the president said. But boycotting the speech sends a closed-minded message and an utter disregard for America’s institutions, which still stand despite the volatile presidency.
Joseph Welch, who took down the divisive Wisconsin senator Joseph McCarthy, said: “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” That question should be asked to Blumenauer, the president, and those who aid and abet today’s toxic political climate.