SOTU: Guests at the Farce

SOTU: Guests at the Farce

Tonight, 10 days before the next Federal shutdown, we’ll have the (rescheduled) State of the Union Address. Most presidents have fulfilled this annual constitutional requirement by submitting a document to Congress (“everything’s great, but here’s what you must give me”). With the advent of broadcasting, the SOTU morphed into an annual public spectacle, and nobody loves a spectacle more than Donald J. Trump. Mr. Trump sees this as just another rally, without the red ball caps but with better TV coverage, even if Nancy Pelosi is looking over his left shoulder and half the audience members are sitting on their hands and rolling their eyes.

The event is officially a joint session of Congress, but there are guests. The President is bringing a bunch of them, a ready-made claque. The First Lady is bringing a kid named Trump who’s not even an in-law but says he gets bullied anyway.

The many guests of Speaker Pelosi include: the president of Planned Parenthood, chef and humanitarian José AndrésFred Guttenberg (whose14-year-old daughter Jaime was killed in the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting), two active-duty transgender soldiers, Jeremy Butler of Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America, Angelica Salas of the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles,  National Education Association president Lily Eskelsen García, United Steelworkers president Leo Gerard, carpenters union president Doug McCarron, AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, and Mary Kay Henry of the Service Employees International Union.

Each member of Congress gets to bring a guest, and they’re making the most of it. Rep Donna Shalala (D, FL-27) invited DREAMer and grad student Edwin Herrera. Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is bringing transgender Navy officer Blake Dremann. Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer is bringing air traffic controller Ronan Byrne, who worked unpaid during the shutdown. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman (D, NJ-12 ) invited Victorina Morales, an undocumented immigrant recently fired from the Trump National Golf Club after working there for five years. Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D-Wisconsin) is bringing Diane Whitcraft, a constituent with MS who stopped taking a drug after 23 years because she could not afford it. Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-OR) will host Albertina Conteras and her daughter, Guatemalan asylum-seekers who were separated from her daughter by border agents. The guest of Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) will be Nicole Smith-Holt, whose diabetic son Alec died because he could not afford his insulin. Rep. Cheri Bustos (D, IL-17) is bringing Tom Mueller, a family farmer hit by the Trump trade war.  Ana Maria Archila, the activist who confronted Jeff Flake in an elevator during the Kavanaugh confirmation hearings, was invited by Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D, NY-14).

We regret to say that, once again, nobody invited Stormy Daniels.


“Democrats troll Trump with their State of the Union Guests,” Tina Nguyen, Vanity Fair

“Tonight’s State of the Union guests represent a deeply divided America,” Heather Timmons and Justin Rohrlich, Quartz


“When the state of the union is scary, the State of the Union gets weird,” Ted Widmer, Washington Post

“3 Reasons That State of the Union Speeches Don’t Matter,” Nathaniel Rakich, Geoffrey Skelley and Julia Azari, FiveThirtyEight

“It’s Time to Abolish the State of the Union Address,” Jared Keller, Pacific Standard


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Image by Mike Licht. Download a copy here. Creative Commons license; credit Mike Licht,

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