Democrats Remain Unimpressed
By Courtney Bergsieker
Staff Political Strategist
On February 5, 2019, President Trump delivered the State of the Union Address to the most diverse Congress in American history. Determined to make a statement, most of the female representatives of the Democratic Party arrived wearing white to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of women receiving the right to vote, according to Jeff Mason with Reuters. Regularly casting unamused looks at the President and choosing to remain seated when others stood to cheer, the Democratic congresswomen made it known that they were not pleased with the Trump Administration’s performance. Briefly following a comment that “women have filled 58% of newly created jobs last year,” the women cheered approvingly to show their support, but icy stares mostly dominated the address. Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez particularly rifled social media platforms with her shiny silver hoops and pursed red lips. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi also joined the ladies in white and offered her fair share of eyerolls.
President Trump briefly interacted with the Democratic Congresswomen, playfully remarking, “You weren’t supposed to do that,” when the female representatives stood to applaud after the President reported the increase in female employment. He then added, “All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before.” After praising increased female employment rates, however, President Trump delved into his call to action regarding abortion laws. Trump made an emotional reaction to New York’s recent change in legislation allowing late-term abortions for women if medical complications are present. He stated, “These are living, feeling, beautiful babies, who will never share their love and dreams with the world,” and went on to encourage Congress to pass a law banning late-term abortions nationwide.
Stacey Abrams addressed President Trump’s statement on abortion in the Democratic Party’s response: “America achieves a measure of reproductive justice in Roe v. Wade, but we must never forget, it is immoral to allow politicians to harm women and families to advance a political agenda.” According to Lawrence Hurley with Reuters, Abrams shed light on the fact that President Donald Trump’s political opinions on abortion have fluctuated in the past and have only seemingly become anti-choice to gain support from his conservative voter base.
Social media moguls were quick to jump on Trump’s claims about abortion. Notably, Kamala Harris tweeted, “Politicians should not tell women what to do with their bodies. #SOTU.” On the other side of the aisle, columnist, Kimberley Strassel tweeted, “Wow. That is quite the message. Democrats, including all those women in white, sit motionless at the call to restrict late-term abortion–which polls show 70-80% of public disapproves. Who is out of step with the country? #SOTU.”
In an attempt to win over his female audience, Trump made several obscure claims in his address regarding women’s rights. When promoting his infamous border wall, he stated, “One in three women is sexually assaulted on the long journey north.” Danielle Kurtzleben with NPR, however, argues that his comments were likely a simple tactic used to promote his anti-immigration policies under the guise of concern for victims of sexual assault.
Immigration policy taking up a large portion of the speech, President Trump went on to emphasize that human traffickers and sex traffickers “take advantage of” loose border security, subjecting women to a life of “modern-day slavery.”
On a similar note, President Trump announced that the federal government will be “launching the first ever government-wide initiative focused on economic empowerment for women in developing countries.” The economic initiative was reportedly spearheaded by Ivanka Trump who announced the launch for the program in an article for the Wall Street Journal. She writes, “W-GDP (Women’s Global Development and Prosperity Initiative) establishes an innovative new fund at the U.S. Agency for International Development to support proposals that enable women to succeed in the economy. The president has directed USAID to allocate an initial $50 million for this new fund.” Although lacking detail, the plan is focused on increasing female entrepreneurship to stimulate economic growth.
Overall, the State of the Union address was a major point of contention for women. Hot off the heels of the annual Women’s March and the election of 102 female representatives to Congress, the Democratic Party’s women in white showed up to make a statement that they will be a force to be reckoned with. Although moments of bipartisanship and promising statements of initiatives to promote female-driven economic growth earned applause, President Trump’s address was peppered with anti-choice rhetoric that left many Congresswomen unimpressed.