Over the next four years it is incumbent upon all Americans and their representatives to fight Trump and his cowardly, selfish, callow and nihilistic world view. That fight will have to take the form of hard and substantive work. Small acts, thankless tasks and incremental progress will be required. It will take years to restore all that has been destroyed, even if it has only taken a week to destroy it.
In light of that, it might be understandable to dismiss the efficacy of symbolic gestures. And to be clear, symbolic gestures are no substitute for substantive action. But symbolism is important too, and to suggest that we must choose between substance and symbolism is to suggest a false choice. A symbolic gesture can inspire and galvanize a substantive opposition to tyranny.
To that end, I propose the following symbolic gesture: Members of Congress who oppose the destructive agenda of Donald Trump — be they Democrats or Republicans — should walk out of Trump’s first State of the Union Address, tentatively scheduled for late February. Show up, take your seats and then, as soon as Trump begins speaking, stand up and walk out.
Doing so will show the world that, even if our president has no regard for historical norms and American ideals, the rest of us are not idly standing by and accepting it. It will show Trump that he does not, contrary to his belief, have a monopoly on the spotlight. It will also, without question, rattle Trump. He’s a narcissist, possibly in a clinical sense, and the temper tantrum he will throw in response to such an act will simultaneously reveal the depths of his insecurity and impotence, while likewise derailing his momentum and, in turn, impeding his destructive agenda.
Some may say that such an act is immature or disrespectful. Nonsense. Walking out of the State of the Union is not unprecedented (see here and here). And a principled stand will not, by damn sight, be the most disrespectful thing which has occurred at a State of the Union Address in recent years. Beyond that, Trump has already done much to damage notions of normalcy and decency in office, so he is not entitled to the deference afforded previous presidents which he does not appear to value and certainly has not earned.
Angry tweets are not going stop this destructive man’s agenda. Press releases are routinely ignored. Congress’ voting record, thus far, has suggested that official opposition to Trump exercised through normal channels is weak and ineffective. Opponents of Trump have, thus far, showed that they lack the spine to do anything of value.
But this is something that can change that. Congressmen: walk out of the State of the Union Address. Show Trump that he if he is not going to run this country in accordance with its historical ideals, he is not going to receive the same level of deference his predecessors received.
Take a stand now. If not, when in the hell will you?