Prior to last night’s joint session of Congress, at which President Donald Trump delivered his first formal address to legislators, there was much anticipation of what gestures, symbolic or otherwise, the Democrats would make to register their antipathy for the President and their repudiation of the positions and policies he has sought to enact in the past six weeks. Would they shun the President as he glad-handed the aisle? Sit on their hands as he spoke? Jeer? Or would the respect customarily due to the office be extended to the office-holder.
At the event, the most striking demonstration of dissent was the wearing of white by many female members of Congress, who responded to a call put out by the Democratic Women’s Working Group to outfit themselves in the color associated with the women’s suffrage movement—the same choice that Hillary Clinton made when she wore a white Ralph Lauren pantsuit to accept the Democratic nomination, last July. Television cameras showed several rows of female representatives attired in white blazers, dresses, and suits: “Not the white power Trump intended,” “The Daily Show” quipped on Twitter.
But as the chamber filled with lawmakers and their guests, the TV cameras revealed another expression of dissent. When Melania Trump, the First Lady, emerged atop the steps of the gallery above, from which it is traditional for members of the First Family and their carefully curated guests to observe the proceedings, and descended to take her seat, Republicans gave her a long and enthusiastic welcome. Many Democrats, meanwhile, declined to join in the ovation; they could be seen turning back to their seats, forgoing what might, in less contentious times, be a routine gesture of good manners.