The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

Biden presented a path of cooperation — Republicans should follow it

To understand the consequences of President Biden’s State of the Union address last night, it’s worth turning back the clock to a similar political moment, when President Obama addressed a new Republican majority in 2011.

It was two months after the new Tea Party Congress was elected. Democrats had lost 63 seats in the House but maintained a Senate majority. Obama’s job approval on Election Day was 47 percent. When he stepped onto the House floor for the State of the Union on Jan. 25, 2011, there was skepticism that he had a clear path to reelection.

Sound familiar?

That night, Obama recognized the new political realities in Washington. Referring to the American electorate, he said, “With their votes, they’ve determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all — for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.”

Less than two years later, he was comfortably re-elected, winning eight out of nine swing states identified by The Washington Post. In fact, he was the first two-term president since Ronald Reagan to win both his presidential bids with a majority of the nationwide popular vote.

The Republicans should have heeded his words in 2011. They certainly should heed President Biden’s words last night.

Two factors led to the Barack come back after the 2010 shellacking.

One was a strengthening economy. By 2012, the positive effects of measures passed by Democrats in Congress were sinking in. The economy was healthier, jobs were growing, wages were recovering. It’s too early to forecast where the economy will be in 2024, but the most recent jobs report shows promise: an increase of 517,000 in January and unemployment at a 53-year low.

The second was the firebrand partisanship of the Tea-Party Republicans. (For a good refresher on the period, read Robert Draper’s “When The Tea Party Came to Town”.) Sure, they riled up the Republican base, but they effectively lost moderate and independent voters who wanted more from the majority than frothing and fulminating.

Past is prologue, we are told. Which brings us to last night’s address.

Similar to Obama in 2012, President Biden provided an essential roadmap that laid out how Democrats and the new Republican majority in the House can govern together to tackle our country’s most pressing issues. The question is: Will reasonable Republicans be willing to work with the president and his party with 2024 on the horizon?

When Biden took office, he inherited a country plagued by a pandemic that killed more than 1 million Americans. He inherited a country still reeling from the murder of George Floyd and the civil unrest that ensued. He inherited a country fighting with itself, leading to the insurrection at the Capitol. Despite these challenges, he has delivered on key legislation for Americans in just two years, and, in many cases, with bipartisan support.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act was a long overdue investment crucial for our country’s long-term economic growth and competitiveness. Bipartisan support for Ukraine by Congress has been crucial in demonstrating American resolve in the world. Last spring, the Senate made history with the swift confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first Black woman to serve on the highest court in the land, with three Republicans voting to confirm.

Practical Republicans have a choice to make. They can cede their legislative authority and join the Freedom Caucus and far-right members in acting as a roadblock and saying no to just about every piece of legislation proposed by Biden and Democrats. Alternatively, Republicans can look for legislative wins that benefit their districts and the American people. They can work with their colleagues on the other side of the aisle in good faith to find common ground when possible and to, at least, act with civility and good intentions.

This is precisely the blueprint President Biden provided in his State of the Union address. He didn’t ask Republicans to abandon their values. But he extended an olive branch to respect democratic norms and get things done. If enough Republicans are willing to work within the president’s roadmap, the country will be better off because of it.

If not, the Republican Party will, well, party like it’s 2011. Which didn’t go very well for them at all.

Steve Israel represented New York in the U.S. House of Representatives over eight terms and was chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee from 2011 to 2015. He is now director of the Cornell Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy Institute of Politics and Global Affairs. Follow him on Twitter @RepSteveIsrael

Tags Barack Obama Biden Biden administration Joe Biden Obama SOTU State of the Union State of the Union address State of the Union address Steve Israel Tea Party

Copyright 2023 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

More Opinion News

See All
See all Hill.TV See all Video

Most Popular

Load more


See all Video