Congressional speeches aren’t exactly an event with a stunning who’s-who guestlist. Most of the people that will be at President Donald Trump’s first address to Congress on Tuesday — outside of, you know, the president and a few key lawmakers — won’t be recognizable to the general public. But even though Tuesday isn’t exactly a red carpet event, the guests at Trump’s speech to Congress are certainly there to make a statement, and they don’t need couture to do it.
The Democrats are doing professional-level trolling through their plus ones. Each member of Congress gets one invite to the big shindig, which means that the Democrats have 136 opportunities to taunt the president. As NPR noted, a number of Democrats have invited refugees and immigrants to the speech, seemingly a clap back to Trump’s executive orders issued in the first days of his presidency. Those guests include a man who was detained in JFK for 18 hours following Trump's travel ban from seven Muslim-majority countries, a man who was the target of an alleged anti-Muslim hate crime, and a handful of undocumented immigrants.
Democrats are also targeting Trump's other presidential actions with their picks. Several Dems are bringing people who would be affected by the rollback of the Affordable Care Act, and two lawmakers are bringing guests who have somehow been touched by gun violence or police brutality.
Trump has curated his own politically-minded guest list for the occasion. Maureen McCarthy Scalia, the widow of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, is on the president's guest list on the heels of his nomination of Neil Gorsuch to replace the late justice. Congress blocked President Barack Obama's nomination for his empty seat, Merrick Garland, last year, so no doubt it's a sore spot in partisan politics.
Trump also invited some of the family members of three people who were victims of undocumented immigrants, including the widows of two California police officers killed in 2014 and the father of a high schooler who was killed by an undocumented immigrant in Los Angeles in 2008.
Both parties, in other words, are trying to make their policies clear through the people they've asked to bear audience to Trump's address to the joint-session of Congress. Trump may have the stage, but it seems that the Democrats are intent on making sure that he understands any dissent that they may have. So without saying a word, both parties have already spoken volumes.