Biden injects Trumpism into SOTU to save Democrats’ midterm chances
Take off the masks! Fund the police! Make our cities safe again! Bring back American manufacturing! At many points, President Biden’s State of the Union address sounded like a Donald Trump rally. And yet, all these calls to action represent the opposite of the radical left-wing policies that Biden and his party have embraced during recent years — policies that have caused the dismal current state of the union.
Polls show Biden in trouble with just about every constituency besides his far left-wing base. Currently the president’s approval rating is an abysmal 37 percent. Minorities, blue-collar workers, and independents are all abandoning Biden in droves. These voters feel increasingly alienated by today’s Democratic Party. Oppressive COVID mandates, the demonization of law enforcement, a growing tolerance for violent crime, and consistently reckless government spending have created a branding disaster for Democrats.
Biden’s team understands that the party must fix its image — and fast. The State of the Union address offered a chance to attempt to reset the party’s identity before November’s midterm elections, and to convince voters that there’s still a place under the blue tent for working-class families.
Democrats hoped that Biden’s one-hour speech would woo Americans into forgetting about the administration’s actions and the rhetoric it embraced over the past year. But the president’s track record during his first 12 months in the White House will do far more to cement his party’s increasing radical identity than a single speech.
The most significant mismatch between Biden’s speech and his party’s track record was regarding COVID. No single issue has defined the Democratic Party over the past year more than its embrace of cautious mitigation measures. The most loyal liberal voters signal that they “believe in the science” by dutifully wearing surgical masks and boasting publicly of their second or third or fourth booster shots.
As recently as a few weeks ago, anyone who dared to suggest that mask mandates should be scrapped, or that forced vaccination for millions of American workers is unnecessary, was immediately considered “dangerous.” Parents were called “terrorists” for opposing mask mandates in their kids’ schools, even though children are at less risk from the virus than they are from the common flu. Republican governors such as Ron DeSantis of Florida were savaged for throwing away human lives by ending mandates, even though Florida’s COVID numbers have been almost identical to California’s with its strict regimen.
But suddenly, just in time for Biden’s speech, the “science” regarding COVID changed drastically. What science, exactly? The political science. Just as polls showed American voters outside of the left-wing base have serious COVID fatigue, Congress dropped its mask mandate a day before the State of the Union (perfect timing!). And just a few days earlier, with the wave of a hand, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conveniently changed the benchmarks for COVID danger. During his speech, Biden might as well have been DeSantis. In sharp contrast to what the Democrats have preached for two years, the president said it’s time to take off the masks and get American lives back to normal.
The president’s distortion of reality was not limited to COVID. Another glaring about-face occurred when he declared, “We need to fund the police!” Americans realize that “defund the police” is a slogan coined and embraced by the left. “Defund the police means defund the police,” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) once bragged. “Yes, we literally mean abolish the police. Because reform won’t happen,” the New York Times insisted in June 2020. Those who dared to “back the blue” were smeared as defenders of white supremacy. At the same time, Democrats installed soft-on-crime policies throughout America’s cities that have resulted in unprecedented spikes in violent crime and homelessness. Biden’s pro-cop comments represent a 180-degree turn from the left’s narrative on law enforcement and crime during his first term.
Finally, the president made a call strangely like that of former President Trump to bring back American manufacturing. Biden’s claim to have created the most jobs in history is not even clever enough to be a sleight of hand. The closing of the American economy because of COVID created the sharpest increase in unemployment since the Great Depression. Becoming president as the Trump-funded vaccine came to public distribution is no accomplishment. Biden’s restrictions on domestic energy production are among the chief restraints on the growth of manufacturing. Want good-paying blue-collar jobs? The Keystone XL pipeline not only would have done this, but also provided cheaper American and Canadian energy for industrial use — all while harming the pocketbook of Russian President Vladimir Putin. It was yet another sign that Biden’s rhetoric did not match reality.
The Democrats misinterpreted the 2020 election result. They believed the election of Joe Biden was a mandate to implement a left-wing agenda, when in truth it was a rejection of Donald Trump’s personality. After a year of policy failures and sinking approval ratings, President Biden’s speech represented both an acknowledgement of and a break from reality. Some of Trump’s most important platform planks — which until recently would lead to political ostracization — are suddenly being embraced by the president. But voters will care more about what the Democrats have done with their political power than empty rhetoric during a speech. After all, precious little rhetoric in the State of the Union address will solve inherent issues surrounding the economy, rising crime, or the decline in American manufacturing.
Chances are that voters will bet that Republicans have solutions.
Kristin Tate is a libertarian writer whose latest book is “How Do I Tax Thee? A Field Guide to the Great American Rip-Off.” Follow her on Twitter @KristinBTate.