Donald Trump is notorious for delivering controversial remarks about others' patriotism. And on Monday, Trump called Democrats "un-American" for refusing to clap for him during his State of the Union address. He even went as far as suggesting that the Congressional Democrats who didn't clap for him during his speech were "treasonous."
If you were tuned in on that Tuesday night, you might recall that while some Democrats weren't cheering for Trump, the president was clapping for himself during his own speech. The topic of the lukewarm reception at the State of the Union came up while Trump was speaking with a crowd in Cincinnati, Ohio, on Monday.
The president was originally scheduled to promote his party's tax overhaul (while the Dow Jones had its biggest intraday drop ever at the same time) but went on a tangent to complain about Congressional Democrats for showing little to no enthusiasm during his speech. Likening Democrats' lack of applause with anti-American sentiment, Trump criticized his rivals and said,
Even on positive news — really positive news, like that — they were like death and un-American. Un-American Somebody said treasonous. Yeah, I guess, why not? Can we call that treason? Why not? I mean, they certainly didn't seem to love our country very much.
For context, Trump was referring to particular moments during his speech when some Democrats did not applaud him. In his Ohio speech, Trump brought up how he had mentioned the unemployment rate for African Americans in the country during his address. During his State of the Union speech, he said, "Unemployment claims have hit a 45-year low. African-American unemployment stands at the lowest rate ever recorded, and Hispanic American unemployment has also reached the lowest levels in history."
Most Black Congressional Democrats did not react to Trump's claim. Many sat stoically. Later on, Vox fact-checked Trump's claim and noted that the low rate of unemployment among Black Americans began in 2011 - not 2017.
Another moment when several Democrats did not applaud for Trump was when he mentioned a bill he signed in order to supposedly improve employment conditions for veterans. Speaking of the bill he signed in June, Trump said, "And we are serving our brave veterans, including giving our veterans choice in their healthcare decisions. Last year, the Congress passed, and I signed, the landmark Veterans Affairs Accountability Act." Again, several Democrats didn't clap for him and this much was noted online. One Twitter user said, "Shame on you #Democrats get off your phones and clap for VA reform."
Gripes about minimum clapping notwithstanding, it's important to note that leveling the title of traitor or treason, even casually, against another citizen is no trivial matter. As NPR did after this story broke, it's worth recalling the exact definition of what treason constitutes in the context of the United States of America. The American Constitution defines treason as a citizen who was been found guilty of participating "only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort."
The Constitution further adds that no one can be convicted of treason "unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court." Nowhere in the Constitution does it state that it is treasonous for a Congress member to show little interest in clapping during a State of the Union speech.
Additionally, it bears mentioning that Americans, regardless of their party allegiance, political ideology, and like or dislike for the president, are entitled to clapping a ton - or none at all - under the First Amendment.