OPINION | State of the Union and the disappointing nature of US politics


Courtesy of Creative Commons

President Biden delivered his State of The Union speech on Feb. 7, 2023.

On Feb. 7, 2023, President Biden gave his second State of the Union (SOTU) address. The SOTU is an annual message from the president to Congress detailing the current socioeconomic conditions of the US and his plans for the next year.

He delivered hollow platitudes of American exceptionalism that have become typical for Democratic presidents, and was met with an endless amount of clapping from Democrats and booing from Republicans. 

Biden’s second SOTU encapsulated the current affairs of U.S. politics: the lukewarm achievements of the Democratic Party, the disdain for the working class and the imbalanced polarization between the two major parties. 

Biden outlined the accomplishments during the past year during a united Congress, before Republicans took back the House of Representatives. He cited the legislative efforts of the CHIPS and Science Act, the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act

These are good pieces of legislation largely achieved by Biden’s advocacy. However, it is difficult not to see them as merely consolation prizes aimed to soften the blow of the failed Build Back Better Act, Biden’s massive plan that would’ve addressed widespread economic and infrastructural issues, as well as climate change and medical care. 

Despite being generally popular among voters, Build Back Better in its totality failed to pass Congress thanks to a mix of Republican propaganda, misconstruing how the plan would be paid for and its potential economic impact, as well as depicting the plan as “Biden’s socialist wish list.” Additionally, there was some Democratic sabotage from Senator Joe Manchin, Senator Krysten Sinema and other like-minded moderates. 

While Biden touted the achievements of the 117th Congress, it was difficult to ignore its failures. The worst of these failures was the Democratic Party’s feigned appreciation for workers. 

Biden urged Congress to pass the Protect the Right to Organize Act of 2021, which would provide significant labor protections, including the right to form a union. The act would prove meaningful for workers, as unionization efforts have been jeopardized by illegal tactics from large corporations such as Starbucks

Biden’s advocacy for pro-worker legislation rings hollow following his aggressive anti-worker actions. In December, he signed legislation that blocked a likely railroad worker strike that had been brewing for the past few months. The legislation forced railroad workers to accept an unfriendly deal that failed to include seven days of paid sick leave.

The Democratic Party, fearful of an economic meltdown that would’ve resulted from the strike, bowed to the corporate interests of the railroad owners and completely abandoned the workers they claim to represent. Biden, the “most pro-union president,”  turned his back on workers in their greatest time of need. 

The final theme consistent throughout the night was the polarized climate plaguing Democrats and Republicans. Biden repeatedly extended praise and gratitude to Congressional Republicans for their so-called “bipartisanship.” 

“But time and again, Democrats and Republicans came together…And to my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there’s no reason we can’t work together and find consensus on important things in this Congress as well,” Biden said. 

Meanwhile, Republicans jeered and mocked nearly every statement Biden made. They repeatedly called him a liar and blamed him for fentanyl overdose deaths in America.  

I understand Biden’s attempt to court Republicans, especially given his aspirations for re-election. However, by coddling them, he sacrifices the truth, which should be more important for the president. 

Biden specifically cited the Respect for Marriage Act, the Violence Against Women Act and the Election Reform Act as examples of the major parties coming together to pass meaningful legislation. However, each of these bills received significant Republican opposition during their time on the House floor. 

Texas Senator John Cornyn called the Respect for Marriage Act “completely unnecessary” and “part of [his] Democratic colleagues’ attack against the Supreme Court.” Despite Biden’s portrayal, there is no love lost for Democrats from Republicans. His constant attempts to appease the Republican Party are meaningless, futile and endlessly frustrating. 

The SOTU made one thing clear for Americans: our political system is permanently stuck in reverse. The Democratic Party heralded mediocre legislation as though they were genuine accomplishments while they swept their failures under the rug. In the process, Biden attempted to court an indignant political party, to no avail.

Biden said that he wants to “further reunite all of America.” If that is the case, then the SOTU showed that any potential for progress towards that goal will be bogged down by Biden’s lack of concern for the working class. Until this changes, the country will never make the shift forward it desperately needs.