I am not going to rehash President Biden’s State of the Union Address. You either watched it or not. You either liked it or not. Where you stand on this likely depends on where you sit.
However, I would like to comment on both the Republicans’ and Democrats’ behavior surrounding the President’s speech.
A considerable number of Republican Senators and Congresspeople decided not to attend the speech. Marco Rubio (TX), Chip Roy (TX), Mary Miller (IL), Bob Good (VA), Matt Rosendale (MT), and Andrew Clyde (GA), among others chose not to attend due to the Covid test requirement. Many of those mentioned made their announcements with some sort of derogatory comment about the need for testing and/or the President.
Marjorie Taylor Greene (GA) and Lauren Boebert both heckled the President during his speech. Greene spent the speech grumbling about Covid policy before shouting some remark about women’s sports when the President spoke of his displeasure with laws targeting transgender Americans. Boebert interrupted the President as he was speaking about battlefield conditions contributing to the deaths of veterans (“13 of them”, Boebert shouted, apparently referencing US service members killed in an attack during US withdrawal from Afghanistan last year.) Proving that timing is everything, she managed to get this out right before the President mentioned that one of those veterans was his son, Beau Biden, who served in Iraq and died of brain cancer in 2015.Boebert and Greene then apparently got confused as to whether they were sitting in the U.S. Capitol or attending a Republican rally when they started a “build the wall” chant when the President spoke of reforming immigration laws. To their credit, few Republicans followed their lead.
Governor Kim Reynolds (IA) gave the Republican “rebuttal” to the President’s speech, focusing on how the Republicans are more “family” oriented because they defer to what they interpret as parental wishes rather than advice from medical professionals regarding vaccine, mask, and remote learning requirements for school aged children. She then claimed that Republican governors are producing “balanced budgets,” conveniently forgetting to mention that most states have balanced budget requirements in their constitutions, thus making a balanced budget a requirement regardless of the party in power.
Reynolds, a Trump supporter and potential Trump running mate for 2024, was chosen to be the face of the party because she represents the ‘mainstream’ wing of the Republican party. One can assume that this choice was in contrast to the Boebert, Greene, Gosar, Rand, Cruz, Cawthorn, Biggs, Tuberville, Cotton, aka the batshit crazy wing of the GOP.
Only a party attempting self-immolation would give a “rebuttal” to the State of the Union speech by a President of their party, but that’s just what the Dems did. As a member of “The Squad” (the gift to the GOP that keeps on giving), Rashida Tlaib (MI) criticized the President’s stand on climate change and funding the police, the latter one of the few topics the President mentioned that drew bipartisan applause. She also gave a good jab to the “corporate-backed obstructionists” in the Democratic Party, presumably calling out Joe Manchin (WV) and Kyrsten Sinema without actually naming them.
But the Dems being the Dems, that appalling display of disunity wasn’t enough. Colin Allred (TX) delivered remarks on behalf of the Congressional Black Caucus, while Rep. Josh Gottheimer (NJ) gave a “bipartisan perspective” for the centrist group No Labels. Gottheimer, not helping party unity, also criticized Tlaib for offering her own response, comparing it to “keying your own car and slashing your tires,” according to Axios. (Source: Politico)
What does all of this tell me about the two parties?
For the Republicans, it reinforces my belief that they are either incapable, or unwilling to discipline their own, regardless of the egregiousness of the behavior. I am going with unwilling because I believe the party leadership actually wants those behaviors to occur while they maintain plausible deniability.
Last month both Green and Gosar attended and spoke at the America First Political Action Conference, a white supremacist gathering in Florida. While McConnell, McCarthy and a few others condemned that behavior, their response amounted to nothing more than mild admonishment with little consequence. The real concern here is that despite leadership rhetoric, a fair portion of the party either agrees with or tolerates the racist, antisemitic, anti-immigration position these white supremacist extremists espouse.
More disturbing, and I quote NBC news, “…America First Political Action Conference [organizer Nicholas] Fuentes, a white nationalist activist who gained national prominence after he attended the 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, has praised Russian President Vladimir Putin as “brilliant” in recent days as Putin ordered his military to invade Ukraine. Before he introduced Greene in Orlando, Fuentes appeared to offer praise for Adolf Hitler, to whom Democrats have been comparing Putin. “Now they’re going on about Russia and Vladimir Putin is Hitler — they say that’s not a good thing,” he said. Fuentes then urged the crowd to rally behind Russia in its war with Ukraine; the crowd chanted back: “Putin! Putin!”
Greene defended her appearance, telling a CBS News reporter that she knew very little about Fuentes. “I do not know Nick Fuentes. I have never heard him speak. I have never seen a video. I do not know what his views are, so I am not aligned with anything that is controversial,” Greene said.”
Two salient points here. First, this is a party that is increasingly comfortable with authoritarian regimes and exhibits authoritarian tendencies. In many instances, the party follows the behavior of other authoritarian parties in using “the big lie” to undermine confidence in our institutions. Whether this is true of the majority of Republican voters is doubtful, but it cannot be doubted is that there is little to no effective Republican pushback. Second, in reference to Greene’s weak-ass excuse for attending (yeah, the dog ate my homework), one must ask why any party would put up with someone that goddamn dumb. That is rhetorical. As said above, the party must want this.
For the Democrats, the take-away is much, much simpler. There isn’t one Democratic Party, there are at least three.
The Very Progressives, they of defund the police, tax the rich, deny Israel the right to exist, advocate massive increases in government spending, are the most liberal of the liberals, mostly supportive of much of the ‘woke’ culture. A small number of these are also known as Democratic Socialists on the far left (as in Bernie Sanders and AOC). While they are a distinct minority in the party, they are the most active, vocal, and their supporters have the highest level of voting participation.
At the other end, we have DIRS….Democrats in Republican States, typified in the Senate by Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema, and Ed Case and other “Blue Dog Democrats” in the House. Also including the so-called “Reagan Democrats,” this wing of the party is the most conservative. But they are not monolithic by any means, accommodating libertarian, social conservative, and fiscal conservative tendencies. To satisfy their constituents, they oppose or attempt to water down legislation that would protect voting rights or a woman’s right to choose, as well as legislation that promotes large-scale infrastructure and economic stimulus actions and gun control.
The main part of the party (but by no means the most vocal) is the Center-Left or Modern Liberals. Combining most of the Clinton “New Democrat Coalition” and those with somewhat more Progressive tendencies, this is the wing of Clinton, Biden, and Obama as well as Tammy Baldwin and Elizabeth Warren. Again, by no stretch of the imagination is this group monolithic.
The big tent has actually gotten bigger over time. Bigger means less unified in their messaging and thus in effectiveness. With one end of the Democratic spectrum vocally critical of not doing enough and the other end of the spectrum voting closer to the Republicans, the result is that when it really counts, passing Democrat-sponsored legislation that in many cases is supported overwhelmingly by Democratic voters, is much more of a crapshoot than it should be.
For the Dems, this gives rise to the uncanny ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. The Dems appear inadequate in combating the big lie, the misinformation, and the fear-inducing language (“socialism!,” “defund the police!,” “immigrants are taking our jobs!,” “Black Lives Matter protesters are terrorists!,” “taxes!!!!”, etc.) used by the Republicans. They are seemingly incapable of finding a set of messages they can all rally behind (e.g., “lowest unemployment in decades!,” “don’t believe the Big Lie!,” “Save Democracy!”, “Liars, Cheaters, and Fascists, oh my!, “Let’s leave our children a world they can live in!,” “America: it is not just for white people anymore, it is for ALL of us!”). Yeah, I am kidding about the last one. It is true but will not sell well.
Bottom line: Currently, I find one party repugnant and the other party ill-equipped to win. The big question is “what must be done to change this situation?” as it is damaging to the heart and soul of our country.
3 thoughts on “The State Of The Union”
Excellent analysis. Right on. As to the final question, I think it’s going to take a new leadership — and maybe a new Obama-like leader — to reunite the Democratic Party. That requires both charisma and gravitas, an increasingly rare combination, along with conviction that incrementalism is preferable to defeat. I don’t see that person or that leadership on the horizon right now, but it’s also true that the Republicans may simply self-destruct in their own special way by moving beyond the realm of the politically credible.
Anyway, thanks for another thought-provoking and insightful piece.
Your commentary is right on.So proud of you.
Thanks Dan, well-written and insightful, as always. I’ll admit I didn’t watch the SOTU in part because I’m trying to avoid unecessary increases in my blood pressure but also because I was darn sure I would get a thoughtful blog post from you on the topic! Thanks for delivering and improving my health.