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Nancy Pelosi’s Clap-Back to Trump Is Its Own State of the Union Response

February 6, 2019, 12:39 PM UTC

On Tuesday night, Democrat Stacey Abrams navigated what is perhaps the hardest 10-minute job in Washington: delivering the official response to the State of the Union.

She dodged any visual mishaps that befell her predecessors (over-moisturized lips in 2018, awkward thirst-quenching in 2013) and clearly communicated Democrats’ agenda. The first-ever black woman to assume the role, Abrams touched on lowering health care costs and passing a more inclusive immigration policy. She also pressed an issue she holds especially close: voting access.

“This is the next battle for our democracy, one where all eligible citizens can have their say about the vision we want for our country,” she said. Her message, sprinkled with personal anecdotes, will only feed speculation that she’s eyeing her next election—a 2020 Senate run.

Even before Abrams formally responded to President Donald Trump, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi issued her own impromptu feedback, making the most of her reclaimed seat behind the president—one that’s well within the camera shot.

At times during Trump’s address, Pelosi grimaced, shook her head, and smirked. When Trump said that only “politics or ridiculous partisan investigations” could slow the economy, she visibly scoffed. And then there was the meme-ified moment when Pelosi clapped—arms outstretched toward the president, perhaps to indicate sarcasm—as Trump urged lawmakers to “reject the politics of revenge, resistance and retribution, and embrace the boundless potential of cooperation, compromise and the common good.” Yes, from this time forward, Nancy Pelosi’s “clap-back” will be part of Internet lore.

Pelosi issued her body language rebukes dressed in all white, like the rest of her female colleagues from the House. The tradition honors suffragettes, but the practice sent an even starker visual message this year since the sea of white reflected Democrats’ electoral gains, especially those by women candidates.

The female Democrats were largely unmoved by Trump’s speech, but there was a moment when they roared. “Exactly one century after Congress passed the constitutional amendment giving women the right to vote, we also have more women serving in Congress than at any time before,” Trump said. “That’s great. Really great. And congratulations.”

The remark was met with cheers and high-fives among the white-wearers, along with one audible, “Thank you, Nancy!”

It seems for a moment, at least, the president couldn’t ignore the female presence in front of him—or the one behind him either.

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