At this year’s State of the Union, the women are the ones to watch. A record number will fill the seats in Congress and are likely to make a splash on D.C.’s biggest night of the year. Whether in attendance, attire, speech, or body language, there will be a theme, however wrong, that only a progressive ideology can benefit women. Here’s what we can expect to see.
One of the biggest gestures leading up to the address is the invitation by the House Democratic Women’s Working Group for the women in attendance to wear white. The color, known to honor the women’s suffrage movement, has been adapted to serve another purpose — a progressive ideology of the new Democratic Party. The party thinks all women must agree on issues related to healthcare, taxes, and abortion, to name a few.
Be prepared for cutaways of congresswomen showing their dislike of President Trump’s speech, as well as media coverage that will make it seem like the women in white represent all women. Thankfully, women across the country know the opposite is true — all issues are women’s issues. We know that we can still wear white and stand up for the equality of women without subscribing to big government.
Speaking of wearing white, last year first lady Melania Trump stunned in a white pantsuit. She received applause from those in the room, but the mainstream media coverage focused on the health of her marriage. Last year’s State of the Union was Melania’s first appearance following the Stormy Daniels scandal, and she and Trump just happened to arrive separately.
While liberal women are never treated this way — for example, we rightly never heard negative coverage of former first lady Michelle Obama during the State of the Union — we can expect more of the same for Melania. Even if she joins the other women in wearing white, her appearance will be downplayed.
Nancy Pelosi’s Body Language
Watching House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., sit behind Trump will be especially interesting. The first phase of the shutdown battle is over, but with Feb. 15 approaching and her recent retraction of the original State of the Union date, she will be icy at best. We can expect her to lead the charge with her body language. She will pick the right moments to stand, to sit, to smile, to frown — maybe even boo or hiss? — in reaction to what Trump says. Other Democrats in attendance will take her cues.
But this behavior won’t resonate with women across the country. Women are rightly concerned about the tax plans of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., the proposal to eliminate private health insurance by Sen. Kamala Harris, D-Calif., and Pelosi’s main agenda to stop the Trump administration at every turn. We can expect the antics regardless, even if she doesn’t represent what many women want.
The Abrams Response
This year’s Democratic response will be given by Stacey Abrams, who lost her race for governor in Georgia. While it’s unusual for someone not currently in office and without a strong national name identification to give the response, it fits the theme of the Democrats this year — I am woman, hear me roar.
As someone who is a charismatic speaker, she will need to rely heavily on her TED Talk skills to excel in this notoriously tough gig. Many have failed, both Republican and Democrat alike, and she would be wise to move from the typical direct-to-camera approach to deliver in front of an audience instead, as Democrats have tried with Trump's previous two addresses to Congress.
But beyond the optics, it will be interesting to note if she talks about racial issues. As someone who claimed that she lost her bid for governor because of “systemic disenfranchisement,” it will be a tough sell to categorize Republicans as racist given the current scandal in Virginia with Gov. Ralph Northam. If she wrote her speech prior to Friday, she probably needs to make some edits as most people will see through the hypocrisy.
RBG — Will she be there?
If anyone represents the liberal feminist movement, it’s Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. Her popularity is at an all-time high thanks to a recent documentary, feature film, and the numerous well wishes from both sides of the aisle for a speedy recovery. Because she missed a few oral arguments last month, an unusual move for her, the big question is whether she'll attend. Democrats are terrified of her declining health because Trump may get another Supreme Court pick before his term ends. Her presence and overall well-being are important to watch — just remember, naps are normal.
The 2019 State of the Union will give us more to watch for than in previous years. Women will dominate the coverage, but favorability will be determined by party affiliation. Though it may seem like the women on the screen speak for all women, it’s not true. The unity we’ll see tonight is only possible if you agree with a progressive ideology.