Jason Chaffetz: Boycotting the State of the Union shows intolerance for differences

The failure of some members of Congress to even show up for President Trump’s State of the Union address Tuesday night is a flat-out embarrassment. It is a signal to the world that some among us lack the maturity to listen to each other.

I find it ironic that those who preach tolerance the loudest are often the least tolerant of all. Obviously, some members of Congress already had their talking points written about President Trump’s speech beforehand.

For eight years in a row, I sat on the House floor and listened to President Obama address the American people. I had vigorously campaigned on behalf of his challengers each cycle. But during that one night in January, we all came together as Americans to listen to our president deliver his State of the Union address.

Listening to President Obama, I applauded the things I agreed with. I sat politely when I disagreed. It wasn’t easy to hear the president rebuke the Supreme Court in 2010 or wade into primary politics in 2016. But I was there along with my Republican colleagues. We listened. We tried to understand. We applauded when we found common ground.

I acknowledge the good men and women in the Democratic Party who accept the need to follow our example and do what Republicans have done for the last eight years. They understand the importance of coming together in respect for our Democratic institutions in a show of unity, despite their differences with the president of the other party.

The United States is the greatest country on the face of the planet. We can argue vigorously about positions and policies, but do so in a respectful way. Even when our candidate loses or we’re in the minority, we should not act like spoiled children who didn’t get their way.

The United States is the greatest country on the face of the planet. We can argue vigorously about positions and policies, but do so in a respectful way. Even when our candidate loses or we’re in the minority, we should not act like spoiled children who didn’t get their way.

We need to continue seeking common ground because we were elected to be part of the solution, not part of the problem. The American people do not pay us to wait around for the next election before doing our jobs in the hope that maybe our side will win more votes. They want us to earn our salaries now.

Business guru Stephen R. Covey famously counseled: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” That is a principle everyone in government should strive for. Having a president with whom one disagrees does not tear this country apart – our inability to listen to each other is what threatens the very fabric of this nation.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., were invited to the White House in November to engage with President Trump, to listen, and to be listened to. They didn’t even show up. It’s pretty hard to win the argument when you don’t even come to the table. That’s not what the American people send their representatives to do.

We can do better. If we disagree on domestic policy, can’t we at least be united on the night of the State of the Union and come together in supporting our U.S. military? Can’t we all stand together to thank members of the military for their service? We were elected to show up and do our jobs. Let’s recognize those who do so. 

Jason Chaffetz currently serves as a contributor for both FOX News Channel (FNC) and FOX Business Network (FBN.) He is based in Utah and joined the network in July 2017 after resigning from his position in Congress after nine years.