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Biden just launched his 2024 campaign

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President Biden just delivered the first speech of the 2024 president campaign. His vigor and clarity very likely put to rest doubts about his age and sharpness.

His State of the Union speech offered a pointed contrast to Republicans who want to run by rallying voters to fight the culture wars. Biden’s speech was mostly a call for unity at a time when partisanship may be veering toward violence. By my count, he used the terms “bipartisan” and “bipartisanship” at least ten times.

Like when he thanked “my Republican friends” who voted for the infrastructure law. Biden added, generously, “To my Republican friends who voted against it but still ask to fund projects in their districts, don’t worry … We’ll fund your projects. And I’ll see you at the ground-breaking.” Imagine Donald Trump saying that.

Biden offered what he called a “Unity Agenda.” He noted that “together, we passed a law making it easier for doctors to prescribe effective treatments for opioid addiction” as well as “a gun safety law.” He even praised the leadership of President George W. Bush in the fight against AIDS.

Republicans like Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis are more likely to run by rallying the conservative base to fight Democrats in the culture wars. After all, they are likely to be competing for Republican primary voters.

Meanwhile, Biden, who may not face serious opposition for the Democratic nomination, is free to treat culture war issues as secondary.

Biden did not ignore them entirely. In his speech, the president called for police reform (“When police officers or departments violate the public’s trust, we must hold them accountable”). He endorsed a new assault weapons ban and congressional action to restore “every woman’s constitutional right to choose.”

But his principal theme was economic populism, not social populism. As when he declared, “No billionaire should pay a lower tax rate than a schoolteacher or a firefighter.” He promised that he would “pay for the ideas I’ve talked about tonight by making the wealthy and big corporations begin to pay their fair share.”

Biden called for a “Junk Fee Prevention Act” that would limit surprise “resort fees” at hotels, airline fees allowing families to sit together on planes and “service fees on tickets to concerts and sporting events.” Now those are things that ordinary voters understand.

Biden made an oblique reference to the looming controversy over raising the federal debt limit: “Let us commit here tonight that the full faith and credit of the United States of America will never, ever be questioned.” Which happens to be required by the Constitution (14th Amendment, Section 4): “The validity of the public debt of the United States, authorized by law … shall not be questioned.”

Biden’s speech was a call for unity at a time of ugly division. It was an aspirational platform.  

Not a bad way to run for reelection.

Bill Schneider is an emeritus professor at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University and author of “Standoff: How America Became Ungovernable” (Simon & Schuster).

Tags 2023 State of the Union Biden biden 2024 Biden agenda Biden campaign Biden infrastructure plan biden reelection biden state of the union bipartisan bipartisan infrastructure bill Bipartisan legislation Bipartisanship Culture Wars Donald Trump economic populism Joe Biden political polarization Populism Presidency of Joe Biden reelection Ron DeSantis State of the Union State of the Union address Unity

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