President Donald Trump gave the annual State of the Union address Tuesday night, and Rep. Brad Schneider, a Democrat from Deerfield, brought Lake County State's Attorney Mike Nerheim, a Republican, as his guest. In addition, he and U.S. Rep. Randy Hultgren, a Plano Republican, made plans to sit together on the floor.
In an era of an acrimony on The Hill as well as in our national discourse, these were rare gestures of refreshing bipartisanship. On the other hand, Rep. Jan Schakowsky, a Democrat from Evanston, decided the best way she could fulfill her obligation to her constituents and the country would be to join a handful of other Democrats who decided not to show up.
"My constituents have spoken loud and clear," Schakowsky explained in a statement released by her staff. "They've told me that they don't want their member of Congress acting as if this is just another Republican administration. They've asked me to resist and they've asked me to boycott."
Have they really?
More than 700,000 people live in the 9th Congressional District that Schakowsky is supposed to represent and we'd be interested in knowing how many of them reached out to her to tell her to stay home. Could we see the names from Arlington Heights and Des Plaines, Mount Prospect and Prospect Heights, and from all the gerrymandered places farther east? Surely there must be letters and emails and Voicemail recordings telling Schakowsky that the best way to deal with the president is to ignore him, that the best way to collaborate with her colleagues in the House and Senate is to draw red lines that no one can cross.
Funny that the constituents of other Democratic lawmakers -- Reps. Schneider, Bill Foster of Naperville, Raja Krishnamoorthi of Schaumburg, Mike Quigley of Chicago as well as Sens. Tammy Duckworth of Hoffman Estates and Dick Durbin of Springfield -- apparently didn't tell them the same things. They're all strong critics of the Trump Administration, but the last we heard, they all showed up. They all showed respect to the institution of the presidency and the tradition of the State of the Union. Durbin made that very point in explaining why he decided to attend rather than boycott.
We have, for some time, bemoaned the lack of bipartisanship in Washington. We remember chatting with Rep. Schakowsky about this problem during Barack Obama's administration. We remember Schakowsky saying she was eager to collaborate but Republicans in Congress refused to work with President Obama.
Talk about hypocrisy. Seems now the shoe is on the other foot.
Collaboration requires listening. Collaboration requires respect.
We are not fans of the way the president conducts himself. But he is the president. Denial is not a constructive response to that fact.