- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Democrats remain a conductor-less choir a year into President Trump’s tenure, delivering a cacophony of responses to his State of the Union address on Tuesday.

Potential 2020 contenders competed with Democratic Party leaders’ “official” response. Liberal activists across the anti-Trump resistance also staged rallies, marches and webcast responses, hoping to push leaders to an even more confrontational approaches.

“#Congress may not have the courage to stand up against racist @realDonaldTrump & #PresidentMiller, but women do,” Moveon.org tweeted prior to the event, in part alluding to Stephen Miller, a top White House aide. “Our courage is contagious.”

Rep. Joe Kennedy III, delivering Democrats’ official English-language reply, said Mr. Trump administration has divided the nation.

“Bullies may land a punch,” Mr. Kennedy said from Fall River, Massachusetts. “They might leave a mark. But they have never, not once, in the history of our United States, managed to match the strength and spirit of a people united in defense of their future.”



Mr. Kennedy said Democrats support “A Better Deal” in support of a “living wage,” paid family leave and strong schools as well as affordable child care, fair trade pacts, and reliable roads and bridges.

Virginia Delegate Elizabeth Guzman gave Democrats’ Spanish-language reply criticizing the president for embracing “a dark and extremist agenda that damages our national values and endangers national security.”

“He eliminated DACA and has threatened to deport young patriotic and brave Dreamers — who call the United States their home, because it is the only one they know,” Ms. Guzman said, alluding to the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program that shielded young illegal immigrants from deportation. “He has demeaned communities of color — launching a mass deportation agenda, and insulting the heritage of anyone who doesn’t look like him.”

In a Democratic Party tilting ever leftward, lawmakers and activists were competing for attention with Sen. Bernard Sanders, a Vermont independent who planned to rage against the Trump machine on Facebook Live.

Other potential 2020 candidates, including Sen. Kamala Harris of California, went the more traditional route by making the rounds on national television networks.

Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat who has called for Mr. Trump’s impeachment, was scheduled to give her rebuttal on BET News special “Angela Rye’s State of the Union.”

Black community leaders, meanwhile, participated in a “Real State of Our Union” at the Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, where they said former President Barack Obama — not President Trump — deserves the lion’s share of the credit for overseeing an economic recovery that has led to the downward trajectory of black unemployment.

“This would be the rooster saying they made the sun rise because they were crowing,” William E. Springs, chief economist of the AFL-CIO, said of Mr. Trump’s attempts to claim credit for the black unemployment rate.

Asked about the smattering of Democratic responses, Darrell West, vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, said that beyond opposition to Mr. Trump “Democrats aren’t particularly united on what the policy alternatives should look like.”

“There are significant internal divisions within the Democratic Party on how far left to go,” Mr. West said. “There remain tensions between the progressive and centrist parts of the party. Those divisions will challenge Democrats as they move towards 2020 and seek a nominee to challenge President Trump. It may be hard to unify the party around a common platform.”

Some liberal groups hoped to overshadow Mr. Trump himself.

Dozens of groups — including Planned Parenthood, National Domestic Workers Alliance, Girls For Gender Equity and Color of Change, sponsored a two-hour, live-streamed “The State of Our Union” event at the National Press Club at the same time Mr. Trump was speaking.

Catalina Velasquez, president of End Rape on Campus, who is an illegal immigrant and transgender, pledged in 2018 to fight for immigrant families facing “separation due to the fear-mongering, mass deportation, xenophobic agenda in place under the Trump administration.”

Several Democrats who usually would be in the chamber watching the president’s speech were instead planning to address the anti-Trump rally, including Reps. Pramila Jayapal of Washington and Barbara Lee of California.

UltraViolet, another women’s group, projected “DONALD TRUMP HARASSED OR ASSAULTED TWENTY WOMEN. CONGRESS: INVESTIGATE TRUMP” on the Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.

In terms of strategy, the groups were pulling a page from former Rep. Michele Bachmann’s playbook.

The Minnesota Republican in 2011 delivered the tea party response to President Obama’s State of the Union, stepping on the toes of Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, and criticizing the president’s record on spending, the economy and national debt.

Liberal groups on Tuesday did not benefit from the national platform that television networks afforded to Mrs. Bachmann and instead channelled their attacks against Mr. Trump through Facebook, Twitter and other online platforms.

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