Although President Joe Biden has yet to officially announce whether he will run for re-election in 2024, last night’s State of the Union signaled what issues will dominate Democratic politics over the next 18 months: higher taxes, economic protectionism and a bold stance on “resort fees.” “
Unfortunately, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders’ response speech suggested that the Republican countermeasure would be light on policy and heavy on complaints.
The state’s union response is a thankless task. After the president delivers a wide-ranging address to Congress from the House chamber, a rival politician must try to match the competition in a fraction of the time in a more rigorous context. But it could also provide an opportunity to draw direct contrasts with the president’s agenda.
Sanders’ 15-minute rebuttal brass weren’t interested in the tax, as evidenced by the line, “I’m the first woman to lead my state and [Biden is] The first man to surrender his presidency to an awakened mob that can’t tell you what a woman is.”
Sanders could have used the speech to challenge the Biden administration’s ambitious spending proposals, despite serious problems with inflation and the national debt. Instead, he said his first acts as governor would include banning the term “Latinos” from official government use and prohibiting schools from teaching critical race theory. This conservative fixation may or may not be of any consequence to most voters.
Sanders briefly addressed the COVID-19 policy by saying that he has “rescinded the mandate of COVID and said ‘never again’ to authoritarian orders and shutdowns.” But much of his speech was a missed opportunity. When Sanders referred to Democrats’ “trillions in reckless spending and a mountain of debt,” it was denounced as the “fentanyl” of failing to stop this spending. [from] Pouring across our southern border.”
As CBS News anchor John Dickerson Note that, the last time a Democratic president led a new Republican House majority occurred in 2011, when Rep. Paul Ryan (R–Wisc.), chairman of the House Budget Committee, delivered President Obama’s State of the Union response. Ryan spent most of the speech talking about the economy, the deficit and the national debt. He also noted that Republicans and Democrats have framed a choice between limited government or a government whose “growth remains unchecked and unchallenged.”
Sanders, on the other hand, presented the choice of Republicans and Democrats as a contrast between “freedom and peace” and a “Wick fantasy” in which “Big Government meets Big Tech to take away the most American thing: your freedom of speech.”
Sanders is unlikely to be a force in national politics in 2024, but the speech signals what Republicans will focus on in the next 18 months. As Josh Barrow wrote last week, Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush each offered optimistic versions of Republican governance, offering national prosperity and “compassionate conservatism,” respectively. But today’s Republican Party is characterized by “mostly bad, bitter feelings;” Corporations and the military are now “woke” and everyone should be brought to heel; Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is widely popular in his state and a likely 2024 presidential candidate, has turned the policy into a series of punitive actions against disgruntled groups and companies, if necessary by legislative force.
To the extent that last night was a preview of the next 18 months, it bodes ill for the 2024 presidential race.