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Biden SOTU Lays Out Dems’ 2024 Strategy

Posted on Friday, February 10, 2023
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by Daniel Berman
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AMAC Exclusive – By Daniel Berman

Biden

Joe Biden’s 2023 State of the Union address was a blueprint for how the Democrats intend to approach the 2024 election, and the two years leading up to it. Republicans may take exception to specific lines or proposals, or Biden’s attempts to claim credit for successes he had little role in, but that is to fall into a wider trap.

Biden, in a scattered speech, sought to portray the chaotic first two years of his presidency as representing a clear agenda for government. In contrast, by eschewing large themes in favor of a laundry list of proposals, he sought to frame Republican opposition to those proposals as reactionary, implying that the GOP lacked any viable alternative.

The purpose of this was to allow Biden to argue that the choice moving forward is between the Democrats, with a clear agenda for government with which some might disagree, and a GOP whose only plan is to disrupt this agenda. This approach, which Biden and Democrats believe served them well in 2022, is clearly their plan for 2024. Their argument will be that there is only one possible agenda – Joe Biden’s – and that the choice is between those who will implement it and those who will not.

By the standards of history, Joe Biden’s State of the Union was far from great rhetoric. It was long, 74 minutes. While no doubt intended as a call to action, it lacked energy and evocative phrases, and did not even attempt to be inspirational in the style of Barack Obama. It was a series of power-point slides in verbal form.

For a speech designed to troll its audience with forced applause lines, and to elicit heckling, it lacked the humor or drama of Donald Trump’s State of the Union addresses. Almost entirely eschewing foreign policy, with scarcely two minutes on China and less on Ukraine, with half of the latter section dedicated to Joe Biden refraining from attempting a pronunciation of the Ambassador’s name, it seemed far more the speech of a governor than an American president at times.

That said, it was also a highly strategic speech, from the structure and content to the length. Everything was designed to ensure coverage would be driven by transcripts rather than Biden’s delivery,  laser-focused on a political strategy. In the room, this mitigated Biden’s weaknesses, allowing him to move rapidly from topic to topic if one failed to elicit the correct response. The approach also helped ensure a rowdy room, as the speech was packed full of “applause lines” designed to torture the audience with the need to stand and applaud.

At the core of the speech lay a millennia-old cynicism dating from the first days of democracy. Ever since Athens and Rome, politicians have found that the easiest way of winning applause and votes is with the promise to spend other people’s money. It is not only popular, but it places the opposition in a quandary. Those who wish to spend money only need to decide whom to prioritize helping and with how much. Their foes must decide whom to hurt, and how much, which leaves them vulnerable to charges of cold-hearted indifference when they seek to share the pain, and hypocrisy when they seek to prioritize.

That challenge was as true of Roman senators who advocated prioritizing the legions protecting the Rhine border over the grain dole at home as it is when it comes to contemporary debates over whether to cut the defense budget, or to protect Social Security and Medicare. Biden and his advisors know that they can play on these divisions to ensure that no programs are actually cut, while being able to cast the GOP as being in favor of cutting all of them, as at least some Republicans favor cuts to most individual programs.

Biden’s goal, then, was not only to merely provide something for every demographic on every issue (the epitome of “micro-targeting”) but also to put forward a macro narrative that, rather than holding a principled and justifiable position that the U.S. cannot sustain this level of spending and must prioritize, the GOP is purely reactionary. In this telling, the GOP does not have a coherent opposition to spending in general, but because a Democratic president proposed it, and when it comes to programs, booed them merely because Biden suggested them.

That was one reason why it was effective when Biden threw in references to the fentanyl crisis or to policies such as capping insulin prices (undertaken under Donald Trump) or penalty fees for ticket sales. It was also why Biden eschewed foreign policy. Even if the arguments in favor of aid to Ukraine prevail over those against, there are indeed arguments for both sides, and the key to Biden’s approach was to suggest that his opponents had no arguments against anything he said or did, only objections.

Democrats appear to have interpreted their relative success in 2022 as justification to frame the next general election not as a choice between two visions of governance or sets of policy, but between Democrats who are serious about government and Republicans who are not. Democrats might get things wrong and go too far, as with COVID-19, or indulge fringe idealogues too much, or bungle things like Afghanistan, but they mean well. By contrast the Republican Party was portrayed as not being serious about solving any of the issues – energy security, education, infrastructure, spending, China – even where the public agreed with their criticisms of Biden and the Democrats.

The fragmented nature of Biden’s address also created a unique challenge for the response by the newly-elected Governor of Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. If she did not engage with what Biden had said, she would be attacked in the media for conceding he was correct. The only way she could respond given the limited time, and 74-minutes of material, was to seemingly respond to something else entirely.

Sanders faced a nearly impossible task which she handled well. But GOP leaders in Congress in 2023, as well as the Republican 2024 candidate, will need to do more if they wish to neutralize this Democratic approach in the future. A strategy of simply responding to whatever Biden or the Democrats do allows Biden to choose his ground. To carry the day, Republicans need to define their own positions and vision for the country, not just oppose the one Biden laid out this week.

When it comes to Ukraine and China, Republicans need to stop complaining about what Biden is doing, and whether he is spending too little or too much. Instead, they need to define what they want to spend, on what, and why. As opportunistic as it was for Biden to cast Republicans as favoring cuts to Social Security and Medicare, it is the height of political malpractice that Republicans have not even formulated an alternative budget going into negotiations over the debt limit. How can they justify fighting over the fiscal health of the country when they have yet to decide what they are fighting for? Most importantly, they need to focus on issues where they can actually do things, and what they will be.

Biden’s proposals were not serious. They were bribery. But they might be effective because he is bribing voters with policies that he is serious about spending money on. The GOP is not serious yet about what it will cut, or what it will do, and without that, the 2023 State of the Union is a preview of how 2024 will go.

Daniel Berman is a frequent commentator and lecturer on foreign policy and political affairs, both nationally and internationally. He holds a Ph.D. in International Relations from the London School of Economics. He also writes as Daniel Roman.

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PaulE
PaulE
1 year ago

The SOTU has been discussed to death at this point. It was what most people capable of rational, intelligent thought expected it to be: A string of lies and distortions designed to appeal to the ignorant Democrat voter base that continues to think voting Democrat will make their lives better in spite of the ongoing disasters created by Democrat policies.

Mike S
Mike S
1 year ago

Any Biden legislative agenda is dead on arrival. Frankly, I hope he announces his 2024 presidential aspirations. The Democrats and Biden will go down like Carter did and give rise to a great Republican like Ronald Reagan who was a breath of fresh air.

Steven
Steven
1 year ago

Nailed it

Dennis K Flynn
Dennis K Flynn
1 year ago

I have been a member of AMAC for many years and enjoy the contribution of the daily and weekly robust articles. The article by Daniel Berman is RIGHT ON! He identifies the issues that have plagued the Republican Party for years. They cannot – for whatever reason – to articulate a vision and identify who and what they stand for. Consequently, we- they – continue to loose ground in many national elections that are so important. When was the last time have we seen a clear vision on how to fix the mess with Social Security from the Republican Party. The Democrats know this and can simply say the Republicans are going to take our Social Security away with no fix either in their message. Every election cycle for the last many years, the Democrats drag out page 10 verse 3 – and tell the country the same message and the Republicans are than on the defensive. In the last election – October I believe – Obama was out campaigning and out of his mouth was the old age – The Republicans are going to take your Social Security away. I agree with Mr. Berman – until the Republicans can articulate the message and VOTE as a one force – no exceptions against every democrat legislation – we will continue to see the same results. Governor Sanders was a breath of fresh air – but we need a bushel basket full of these type of strong leader individuals with the same message. God Bless

Michael J
Michael J
1 year ago

The truth is what Joe says it is, but in reality, he’s in charge, he’ll continue and we’ll be witnessed to it. Politicians and bureaucrats spin lies all the time, it’s what they do. The irony is that we sometimes we see what’s behind the curtain before the lies confirm our suspicion, by then it’s too late.

CoNMTX
CoNMTX
1 year ago

Biden’s speech was typical Biden. All lies and smoke screens. Anybody with any sense knows what his and the globalist’s real agenda and goal is. To destroy America and build back socialist under the one-world government of the Anti-christ. They don’t even attempt to hide what they are doing any more.

Lawrence Greenberg
Lawrence Greenberg
1 year ago

The Dems’ strategy for 2024 is going to be the same strategy they have used so successfully for decades: CHEAT. Cheat by any and all means and steal as many elections as they can. Why change now when it has worked so well for so long?

Golfhoncho
Golfhoncho
1 year ago

The GOP needs to immediately develop and implement a counter to the D’s empty charge that the R’s want to cut or eliminate Social Security (and Medicare). The reality is that only the D’s have messed with Social Security (SSA). Under LBJ and a D Congress, SSA funds were transferred from a separate, secure, dedicated account and placed into the General Fund; from which those SSA funds have been spent and continue to be spent. As a direct result, all that remains are IOU’s (promises to pay) in the US Treasury. SSA benefits were not to be subject to Income Taxes. But, under Clinton, with VP Algore as the tie-breaking vote, SSA payouts became subject to IRS Income Taxes. So, who’s actually cutting and jeopardizing SSA?

Ann S
Ann S
1 year ago

Excellent article. Republicans are you listening? That is why Brandon and the gang are still in power.

Rik
Rik
1 year ago

At this time the Progressively Communist wannabe Democrats aren’t worried about upcoming elections! . . . They “stole” the last Presidential Election and I don’t see where Republican Leadership took steps to to make sure it doesn’t happen again!

johnh
johnh
1 year ago

It is time for Republicans to quit being on defense on Social Security & clearly explain what they plan to do with it. And I hope that it is not along Donald Trump lines of rolling SS fund into General Fund , unless they have a good explanation of how this will be good for SS fund & retirees. I challenge the Republican party to unite & present a solid plan for future of Social Security.

johnh
johnh
1 year ago

SOTO & Biden was very negative on Capitalism & includes too many give-a-way programs. Biden will not admit that he is personally responsible for the huge increase in energy costs this year & on other hand bashes oil companies for making big profits. Why would oil companies put money into developing fossil fuels when Biden has publicly said he will get rid of fossil fuels. And his slam of big Pharma was uncalled for, as he did not thank them for the swift & costly work they accomplished in warp-speed to develop Covid vaccines.

RBart
RBart
1 year ago

Lead by RINOs in the Senate and a stubbornly divided House, the Republicans have yet to decide what they are FOR. If they cannot develop enough unity to decide before 2024, we will have four more years of the senile, puppet of the left and the end of democracy.

Del
Del
1 year ago

Biden repeatedly lied and also plagiarized during the speech. He can claim no credit for anything but his staff & MSM keep lauding how much he has done. THE BIG LIE. Repeat it over and over enough and people will begin to believe it. THAT is the Dems’ game now.

Westhus
Westhus
1 year ago

Agreed that the GOP must develop and present plans and strategies. In addition, they cannot simply step into budget or spending negotiations with a plan, but they must also NOT allow the Communists to include all of their pet ideological spending to be included. The recent Omnibus vote was a perfect example of GOP blundering. Although the defense funding was sorely needed, to allow the Communists to include their plans just to achieve longer term defense spending was a poor and weak strategy. When the Communists started including their ideological funding priorities, the GOP should have stopped negotiating and then looked to pass another CR. With the GOP set to assume control of the House within a few weeks, the GOP would have put the time crunch on the Communists. Instead, McConnell and the GOP turtled.

Nick
Nick
1 year ago

The Republicans need to be the adults in the room. Every time the Democrats come up with a stupid idea the Republicans modify it and come up with an idea that’s just as stupid. Republicans need to look at the Democrats and say no way. That is stupid. Republicans need to come up with policies and plans that put America first not just follow around and redo what the Democrats are proposing. Democrats are predictably wrong constantly, and go around dealing with unintended consequences. Then they spend the rest of their time blaming somebody else

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