clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The 4 Democrats delivering responses to Trump’s State of the Union

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar are delivering the Democrats’ official responses.

Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer will deliver the Democrats’ official English-language rebuttal to President Trump’s State of the Union address.
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images
Nicole Narea covers politics and society for Vox. She first joined Vox in 2019, and her work has also appeared in Politico, Washington Monthly, and the New Republic.

The Democratic Party won’t have one lawmaker giving a response to President Trump’s State of the Union address on Tuesday night.

It will have four.

The Democrats have anointed two up-and-comers, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and Texas Rep. Veronica Escobar, to deliver their official televised rebuttals in English and Spanish respectively.

Massachusetts Rep. Ayanna Pressley, speaking on behalf of the progressive Working Families Party (WFP), and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders are giving their own rebuttals.

Aside from Sanders, every Democrat speaking is a woman in her first term. Trump is expected to preview his priorities for the 2020 general election in his speech. They’re tasked with presenting another vision to voters.

Here’s how you can watch their responses:

The official Democratic response

Whitmer was chosen to deliver the Democratic Party’s official response to Trump’s address, which will air on all major broadcast networks — ABC, CBS, NBC, and PBS — and on cable news networks after the State of the Union.

Michigan, which Trump won by fewer than 11,000 votes in 2016 in defiance of expectations, will be critical for 2020 Democrats. Whitmer, who won the governorship in 2018 by an 11-point margin, is in a good position to make the case for why her state should turn blue in 2020. (For more on Whitmer, check out this brief explainer from Vox’s Dylan Scott.)

Traditionally, the party delivering the rebuttal chooses one of its rising stars to showcase its vision for the future, and this year is no exception. It’s the second year in a row that Democrats have tapped a Washington outsider to give the rebuttal — last year, they chose former Georgia gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams, the first black woman to be a major party’s nominee for governor, who narrowly lost to Republican Brian Kemp in 2018 in the solidly red state.

The Spanish-language response

Escobar, one the first Latinas to represent Texas in Congress, is giving the Democrats’ official Spanish-language rebuttal from a community center in El Paso. Her address will air after the official Democratic rebuttal.

Escobar won the seat previously held by former Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke in 2018. She has been a vocal critic of Trump’s immigration rhetoric and policies sending asylum seekers back to Mexico, arguing that they have stoked the kind of hate that led to last year’s shooting in El Paso, in which 22 people died.

The Spanish-language rebuttal, which has been delivered by both Democrats and Republicans over the years, is a relatively new tradition that started in 2011 in an effort to reach out to the 37 million Latinos living in the US who speak Spanish at home. While Spanish is the US’s most common non-English language, the share of Latinos who speak Spanish is actually decreasing, in part because many Latinos living in the US are US-born.

Latino outreach will be important for 2020 Democrats in states like Florida, which Trump won by a razor-thin margin in 2016 and where Latinos make up nearly a quarter of the population.

Bernie Sanders’s response

For the third year in a row, Sanders will deliver his own rebuttal to the State of the Union address. It will be live-streamed on his presidential campaign website at 10:30 pm Eastern from the Currier Museum of Art Auditorium in Manchester, New Hampshire, where he is campaigning ahead of the February 11 primary.

Sanders won the New Hampshire primary in 2016, and his ability to replicate that win in 2020 will be closely scrutinized. Sanders’s rebuttal could be an opportunity to appeal to voters after he couldn’t claim success in the Iowa caucuses. Candidates who perform well in Iowa have historically gotten a big boost in the polls, but since the results of this year’s caucuses remain inconclusive, Sanders might be able to grab some attention from his rebuttal instead.

In his response to Trump’s State of the Union address last year, Sanders slammed the president’s characterization of America’s economy as the “hottest ... of anywhere in the world,” arguing that income inequality has obscured the financial struggles of the middle class.

The Working Families Party’s response

Ayanna Pressley, one of four first-term members of Congress sometimes referred to as “the Squad,” will deliver a response on behalf of the left-wing, Democrat-aligned Working Families Party right after the official Democratic rebuttals. It will be streamed live on the party’s Facebook page.

Pressley announced Tuesday that she is boycotting the State of the Union, along with other progressive members of Congress:

Both Pressley and WFP — which prioritizes universal health care, family leave, paid sick leave, and a living wage — have endorsed Sen. Elizabeth Warren to be the Democratic nominee, and Pressley has hit the campaign trail on her behalf. WFP’s decision to back Warren surprised Sanders’s supporters, who considered it a snub given that the party had endorsed the Vermont senator in 2016.

WFP also backed Pressley in her run for Congress. She has so far pushed back against abortion bans and filed an impeachment resolution against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. She’s also introduced a House resolution that calls for abolishing cash bail and the death penalty, as well as other criminal justice reforms.

Sign up for the newsletter Today, Explained

Understand the world with a daily explainer plus the most compelling stories of the day.