Strength in Numbers: Political point scoring shapes State of Union guest list

You wouldn’t dare walk into the Mos Eisley cantina without an 8-foot tall Wookiee at your side. That joint is known to “be a little rough.”

Batman goes to fight the Joker, Riddler and other miscreants liberated from Arkham Asylum. Best have Robin and Batgirl nearby.

The Pittsburgh Steelers playing the Cincinnati Bengals? Eleven players apparently aren’t enough. Dispatch assistant coach Joey Porter to the field to mix things up.

And if it’s State of the Union at the U.S. Capitol, bring your pals, too. Everyone needs a wingman for this rumble.

President Obama has Democratic members of the House and Senate.

Republicans also have their members. But both sides bring along “guests” for the speech to back them up. Protect them from political “fire” by watching their back.

Often the presence of these guests just makes the point. It’s a boast. Look who’s on our team. Our guys are better than your guys. Nah-nah-nah-nah-nahhhh!

The Sharks and Jets weren’t this bad.

House viewing gallery has about 660 seat. So lawmakers and the administration will populate the grandstands with as many of their own as they can.

For Republicans, it’s still about ObamaCare. The House and Senate just voted to repeal the 6-year-old law -- a measure swiftly vetoed by Obama. House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., insists the GOP will eventually pass an alternative.

Two nuns from the Catholic order known as The Little Sisters of the Poor will make the scene as guests of Ryan in the speaker’s box: Sister Loraine Marie Maguire and Sister Constance Veit.

The nuns sued in federal court, arguing that ObamaCare forces them to purchase a health care plan that provides contraception. The Little Sisters of the Poor say the birth control requirement violates their religious beliefs.

The case goes before the Supreme Court in March.

That’s not the only social issue at center stage. Sitting in the first lady’s box is Jim Obergefell. He’s the plaintiff in last year’s landmark Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges. It legalized same-sex marriage.

Obergefell sued after discovering that Ohio wouldn’t recognize his Maryland marriage to his partner of 20 years, John Arthur.

And then there’s the other side of the equation. Fox News is told that Rowan County, Ky., clerk Kim Davis will also be in attendance.

Davis defied a federal court order that she issue marriage licenses to gay couples, claiming she was acting “under God’s authority.”

The debate over guns and the president’s plan to impose gun safety restrictions via executive order also will play a prevalent role.

House Minority Whip Steny Hoyer, D-Md., invited Wen-Ling Chestnut as his guest. She’s the widow of the late Capitol Police Officer Jacob Chestnut, killed in a shooting rampage by a deranged gunman at the Capitol in 1998.

Rep. Pete Aguilar, D-Calif., is bringing along San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan. The guest of Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., is Amanda Wilcox of the California Brady Campaign. Wilcox’s daughter was shot and killed at a mental health clinic 15 years ago.

With the firearm debate, perhaps what’s most poignant is who’s not there.

The White House plans to leave open a seat in the first lady’s box for those who were killed by gun violence. The White House says the empty chair is for those “who no longer have a voice.”

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., will train their focus on the president’s environmental policies. McConnell invited as his guest former coal miner Howard Abshire, who lost his job. Daines extended an invitation to Jason Small of Boilermakers Local 11.

“Jason is a proven leader in standing up against the Obama administration’s devastating anti-coal, anti-energy agenda that threatens hardworking Montana families,” Daines said in a statement.

Donald Trump isn’t scheduled to be at the speech. But the front-running GOP presidential candidate’s statement that he would ban Muslims from entering the U.S. will certainly reverberate throughout the Capitol.

This comes after Republicans tried to tighten restrictions on all refugees coming to the U.S. from Syria and Iraq.

Democrats are highlighting Trump’s rhetoric and GOP efforts on a couple of fronts.

Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., is hosting a 9-year-old Syrian refugee Ahmad Alkhalaf at the speech. Alkhalaf lost both arms after a bomb hit the refugee camp where he lived.

Meanwhile, the first Muslim elected to Congress, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Democratic National Committee Chairwoman Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz, D-Fla., asked their colleagues to invite Muslims to the address.

In a letter to lawmakers, Ellison and Wasserman Schultz criticized what they termed as “vile comments castigating the entire Muslim population of the world.”

In a joint invitation, Reps. Dan Kildee, D-Mich., and Matt Salmon, R-Ariz., invited to the Capitol the sister and brother-in-law of former Marine Amir Hekmati. Iran arrested Hekmati in 2011 and accused him of spying for the CIA.

If you’re going to go into a barroom fight, make sure you have sufficient backup. A few pals nearby to help make your point and help you out.

That’s how everyone approaches State of the Union these days. Bring out everyone in their colors and in strong numbers -- mostly to make a point or a contrast.

The irony is that few besides the president speak at these confabs. But invites aren’t about speaking. It’s about showing. Showing who has who on what team and strength in numbers.