Not long after celebrities appeared at the Golden Globe Awards in black gowns and tuxes in solidarity with the #MeToo movement, Democratic women in Congress announced they would follow suit at the State of the Union address.
Women on the left side of the aisle have been vocal about the prevalence of sexual misconduct in the workplace as the topic has dominated headlines, introducing bills to better handle allegations in Congress and calling on their own accused members to resign.
But many Americans argue that fighting sexual assault should be a bipartisan issue in light of the number of Republican lawmakers facing sexual misconduct allegations, including President Donald Trump. So some wondered if there would be a bit of bipartisanship among the women in Congress, starting with Republican women wearing black.
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Hours before the State of the Union speech, it was clear they would not.
Rep. Martha McSally, R-Ariz., told USA Today that Republican women in the House planned to wear red, white and blue to show support for the military.
The idea came from a female member who emailed her colleagues, saying the suggestion came from a constituent “to show our support for the flag, and the country and the troops and to be a contrast.”
The decision from Republicans to show their allegiance to the military is a common one – especially as liberal lawmakers or activists seek to highlight injustices against marginalized communities.
When NFL players take a knee to protest racism in the United States and alleged police violence against people of color, Trump regularly criticizes the athletes, calling them “sons of bitches” and saying the act is disrespectful to the military and veterans, despite players saying their protest has nothing to do with the military.
Trump addressed this issue again in his speech Tuesday while honoring Preston Sharp, a 12-year-old who organized the placement of more than 40,000 flags at the graves of veterans.
“Young patriots like Preston teach all of us about our civic duty as Americans. Preston’s reverence for those who have served our nation reminds us why we salute our flag, why we put our hands on our hearts for the Pledge of Allegiance and why we proudly stand for the national anthem.”
The military and veterans are a demographic group that has historically leaned right, so it is understandable that Republican lawmakers are mindful of them. It’s their base. But pivoting the conversation to veterans whenever Americans ask about the treatment of people of color, women or the LGBT community creates a false dichotomy between the military and everyone else.
Americans don’t have to choose between supporting the military and these groups. And as valuable as the military is in keeping America safe, elevating this group of Americans in conversations about these issues seems to brush aside how prevalent they have historically been in the military.
The question many Americans, especially those who do not support Trump, have is: Will the president and his supporters find a way to honor all Americans – those in their base and those outside from groups that Americans feel are marginalized?