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

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.

Did you know?

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