clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

One of the biggest moments of Trump’s State of the Union went to Democratic women

Trump accidentally celebrated the backlash against him at the State of the Union.

Congressional representatives cheer during President Trump’s State of the Union address on February 5, 2019.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
Emily Stewart covers business and economics for Vox and writes the newsletter The Big Squeeze, examining the ways ordinary people are being squeezed under capitalism. Before joining Vox, she worked for TheStreet.

One of the biggest moments of President Donald Trump’s State of the Union address wasn’t about Trump at all.

The president, while bragging about his own record on the economy, noted high numbers of women joining the workforce.

“No one has benefited more from our thriving economy than women, who have filled 58 percent of the newly created jobs last year,” he said.

But it was the record number of women elected to Congress last year — many of whom vehemently oppose him — who stole the show.

At first, many congressional Democratic women — many of whom were wearing white as a sign of solidarity and in honor of the suffragists — remained seated. But slowly, as the applause continued, they began to point to themselves, stand, and celebrate. Some pumped their fists in the air.

“You weren’t supposed to do that,” Trump quipped, as cameras shot to high-profile new additions to Congress, including Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Rashida Tlaib (D-MI).

As Trump continued, so did the celebrations.

Democratic women in Congress celebrate their gains at the 2019 State of the Union address.

“All Americans can be proud that we have more women in the workforce than ever before,” Trump said. Amid more applause, he continued, “Don’t sit yet, you’re going to like this.”

“And exactly one century after the Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than at any time before,” he said.

Applause again erupted, and congressional women lawmakers — again, mostly Democrats — continued to celebrate, even dancing and high-fiving. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, wearing white and seated behind Trump, beamed. So did the president’s daughter Ivanka Trump, who wore black.

“That’s great. And congratulations,” Trump said after chants of “USA! USA!” broke out. Of course, many of the new female members of Congress aren’t there because they are fans of Trump but instead because they opposed him.

Women ran in record numbers in the 2018 midterms; many were inspired to make political bids by Trump’s surprise victory and antagonistic rhetoric and policies toward women. (Not to mention the “grab ’em by the pussy” tape.) And a historic number of women won, too: In January, 117 women were elected or appointed to Congress.

Trump, for the first time since Election Day, met them all face to face.

The news moves fast. Catch up at the end of the day: Subscribe to Today, Explained, Vox’s daily news podcast, or sign up for our evening email newsletter, Vox Sentences.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for Vox Recommends

Get curated picks of the best Vox journalism to read, watch, and listen to every week, from our editors.