Opinion: Biden Hurt His Own Cause with a Frustrated, Partisan State of the Union

State of the Union addresses have traditionally been lackluster, routine events. They are filled with enthusiastic applause that gives the impression of unity despite underlying divisions. Disagreements on policy are glossed over in favor of emphasizing shared values. The leader solemnly recites clichés about accomplishments and hopes, which are often unrealistic. The state of the union is always declared as “strong,” and the promise of better days ahead is always made.

President Joe Biden’s third State of the Union address marked a departure from the usual staid and dignified statesmanship. Democrats believe that this address was necessary to bolster Biden’s reelection prospects, which have been increasingly uncertain. Despite months of intense preparation, Biden’s 67-minute speech was filled with bitterness and anger. He delivered his lines in a loud and cranky tone, resembling a frustrated family patriarch who lacks respect, fails to inspire enthusiasm, and worries that his legacy will be ridiculed. This address deviated from the traditional presidential demeanor, appearing hysterical, vulgar, desperate, and cheap.

The days of unity that marked the early days of Biden’s presidency, when he looked out from a fortified Washington, D.C. and vowed to bridge divides and reduce the toxic partisanship of the Trump era, are now a distant memory.

Biden is now a highly partisan figure, placing blame on the Republicans for various issues such as Ukraine, border control, and tax policy. He deviated from the usual practice of refraining from engaging with the Supreme Court during his speech, criticizing them for overturning Roe v. Wade. However, this decision has actually resulted in a surge of pro-choice sentiment in state abortion referendums and the election of Democrats in significant races. Despite the Republican House majority’s lack of action on entitlements during his presidency, Biden claimed that Republicans would cut entitlements to finance a tax cut for the wealthy. In response, he proposed implementing even more punitive taxes on affluent Americans.

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Throughout his presidency, Biden has chosen to refrain from mentioning Trump, a decision that may be considered wise. Trump currently surpasses him in opinion polls on various issues, as well as in overall competence, physical and mental capabilities. Furthermore, according to recent surveys, Trump also holds an advantage in the popular vote for the highly likely rematch in November.

As Biden becomes more cautious and undoubtedly concerned about his uncertain chances of being reelected, he cannot simply disregard Trump. In his speech, while not mentioning his name (unlike Laken—or, as Biden mistakenly pronounced it, “Lincoln”—Riley, a nursing student who was murdered by an illegal immigrant during Biden’s tenure), Biden made reference to his “predecessor” or “the former Republican president” 13 times. It is clear that as November draws closer, the competition will become increasingly fierce, personal, and negative—a set of characteristics that, Democratic strategists may want to take note of, greatly favored Trump in 2016.

Drawing a comparison between himself and Franklin D. Roosevelt, a trope that his admirers frequently employ, highlights another aspect of Biden. With a group of Washington insiders and a Democratic Party in Congress that is either genuinely convinced or willing to play along with the perception of his competence and significance, the likelihood of him being replaced as the Democratic candidate, as some have speculated, is now lower than ever. Considering his irritable demeanor, this is probably welcome news for the Trump campaign. Regardless, Thursday’s State of the Union address failed to sway the 82 percent of Americans who believe Biden is simply too old for the presidency, leaving their opinions unchanged.

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