Rep. Barbara Lee Is Boycotting Trump’s State of the Union Tonight—Here’s Why

Lee released a statement denouncing Trump’s racism, lies and ties to the alt-right.

Rep. Barbara Lee January 30, 2018

A guard walks between buildings at the Lee Correctional Institution, in Bishopville, South Carolina, on April 16, 2018. The prison was on lockdown after an overnight riot killed seven while also injuring seventeen others. (LOGAN CYRUS/AFP/Getty Images)

Ahead of Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump’s State of the Union Address, In These Times is pub­lish­ing in-full Rep. Bar­bara Lee’s state­ment about why she plans to boy­cott the speech. After more than 60 Democ­rats skipped Trump’s inau­gu­ra­tion cer­e­mo­ny just over a year ago, some are now declin­ing to attend tonight’s address — with many cit­ing his lies, racism and bru­tal­i­ty toward immi­grants and refugees (even as lead­ing Democ­rats fall under crit­i­cism for their com­plic­i­ty in Trump’s anti-immi­grant attacks). Mean­while, the Nation­al Domes­tic Work­ers Alliance and oth­er orga­ni­za­tions are host­ing a State of OUR Union alter­na­tive event in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., in response to the president’s remarks.

He’s led the effort to turn back the clock on women’s rights and undermined civil and human rights.

Since my elec­tion to Con­gress in 1998, I have attend­ed every State of the Union. I have always believed that this event should be non-par­ti­san because I respect the office of the Pres­i­den­cy. I will not attend this State of the Union because this pres­i­dent has not hon­ored nor respect­ed the office of the pres­i­den­cy and has shown a total dis­re­gard for our demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tions. From relent­less attacks on the press to out­ra­geous state­ments that under­mine the intel­li­gence com­mu­ni­ty and the Rus­sia inves­ti­ga­tion, and repeat­ed threats to our judi­cial sys­tem, Pres­i­dent Trump has launched an all-out assault on our democracy.

Pres­i­dent Trump’s un-Amer­i­can approach to immi­gra­tion — most recent­ly call­ing Africa, El Sal­vador and Haiti s”-hole coun­tries — is racist and fur­ther demon­strates a lack of respect for the office of the pres­i­den­cy. His will­ing­ness to allow his Chief of Staff to lie about the good work of Con­gress­woman Fred­er­i­ca Wil­son, with­out requir­ing an apol­o­gy, reflects a total dis­re­gard for the truth. This is yet anoth­er exam­ple of this pres­i­dent under­min­ing the dig­ni­ty of the high­est office in our land. Accord­ing to the Wash­ing­ton Post, over the last year Pres­i­dent Trump has lied or mis­led the Amer­i­can peo­ple more than 2000 times, send­ing a mes­sage to our chil­dren that lying is acceptable.

Whether it’s his response to Char­lottesville, embrac­ing the alt-right agen­da, reviv­ing the failed War on Drugs, or end­ing the Deferred Action for Child­hood Arrivals pro­gram, Pres­i­dent Trump has estab­lished over 50 bla­tant­ly racist poli­cies, reduced the stan­dard of liv­ing for com­mu­ni­ties of col­or and dis­hon­ored the office of the pres­i­den­cy like no oth­er pres­i­dent in our his­to­ry. The pres­i­dent has also sup­port­ed poli­cies that rip health­care from 13 mil­lion Amer­i­cans and give tax breaks to bil­lion­aires and cor­po­ra­tions while forc­ing mid­dle and low income fam­i­lies to pay for it. He’s led the effort to turn back the clock on women’s rights and under­mined civ­il and human rights.

His­to­ry has shown us that democ­ra­cy is frag­ile. It can only be main­tained by engaged cit­i­zens and elect­ed offi­cials who are will­ing to pro­tect and pre­serve our sacred insti­tu­tions. While I respect our demo­c­ra­t­ic sys­tem, I can­not in good faith attend the State of the Union. Instead of lis­ten­ing to Pres­i­dent Trump man­u­fac­ture accom­plish­ments, attack his polit­i­cal ene­mies and inten­tion­al­ly mis­lead the Amer­i­can peo­ple, I will join prin­ci­pled activists to strate­gize the next phase of resis­tance and our vision to move Amer­i­ca forward.

Rep. Bar­bara Lee is a mem­ber of the Pro­gres­sive Cau­cus and rep­re­sents Cal­i­for­ni­a’s 9th District.
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