Biden’s SOTU Address: We’re All MAGA Now - The American Spectator | USA News and Politics
Biden’s SOTU Address: We’re All MAGA Now
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address on Feb. 7, 2023 (MSNBC/YouTube)

If you can’t beat Donald Trump, become him.

The president’s State of the Union address signaled Joe Biden’s reelection strategy of out-Trumping Trump. He delivered a populist speech that seemed less about the state of the union in 2023 than enhancing the state of securing a second term in 2024.

“My economic plan is about investing in places and people that have been forgotten,” he proclaimed. “Amid the economic upheaval of the past four decades, too many people have been left behind or treated like they’re invisible.”

Translation? Take off your red hat and vote blue.

Yes, he name-dropped transgenders, pledged to protect abortion rights, called for a ban on assault weapons, and spoke about a climate crisis. But he included all that in a perfunctory way. He led with economic populism and economic populism dominated the entirety of his address.

“Buy American,” he pledged. “Tonight,” he explained, “I’m also announcing new standards to require all construction materials used in federal infrastructure projects to be made in America.”

His popular populist measures included a proposed minimum tax for billionaires and a ban on surprise add-ons unadvertised in the listed price, including surprise resort fees, mysterious service fees for concert and sporting events, and exorbitant airline fees for families merely hoping to sit together on a plane. These fees, dishonest in their outside-the-pricetag materialization and ubiquitous despite their nonexistence 40 years ago, appear unpopular not merely in Red America or Blue America but in Red, White, and Blue America.

Did he deftly secure unanimity on Social Security and Medicare or did he foolishly fall into a Republican trap by eventually acknowledging, after prolonged laughter from the entire Republican caucus and heckling from backbenchers at his red-herring charges, unanimity on these popular entitlement programs? Time tells. But the unscripted moment showcased a president, lampooned as senile and stupid, able to think on his feet.

In other cases, Republicans committed unforced errors by shouting “It’s your fault” when the president mentioned the number of fentanyl deaths and generally normalizing Joe Wilson’s “You lie!” shout by periodically interrupting in Tourette’s-like fashion. The opposition party’s rebuttal, traditionally, followed the president’s speech. In recent, untraditional times, rebuttals occurred during the speech. The new speaker of the House, at least, did not rip up the transcript of the president’s address.

The speech listed accomplishments, real and imagined, of his administration. It called out heroes sitting in the gallery, including Brandon Tsay, who wrestled a weapon away from a mass murderer last month. It outlined a legislative wish list. In these ways, it resembled a garden-variety State of the Union address.

But it stood in stark contrast to Joe Biden’s standard speech, which veered so far from the presidential standard in 2022, exemplified in the extreme in a shockingly partisan speech at Independence Hall in September. Last night’s address more closely resembled an olive branch than a brickbat.

But for those listening closely enough, they heard not a State of the Union address but a campaign speech. Feeling his own left flank shored up, Biden instead targeted those 2016 Trump voters of the industrial Midwest who may have voted for Barack Obama in 2012 and 2008.

The genuine article steamrolled Me-Too Republicans during the 1930s and ’40s. The political danger of presenting himself as Me-Too MAGA comes in voters possibly preferring stronger stuff to the watered-down version poured last night. In suddenly campaigning on issues that he largely ignored for the first two years of his presidency, Biden creates a new vulnerability — along with possibly a new opportunity.

“For decades, the middle class was hollowed out,” Biden declared. “Too many good-paying manufacturing jobs moved overseas, factories at home closed down, once-thriving cities and towns became shadows of what they used to be.”

He did not say “yuge” or wear fur, Viking horns, and face paint. But Tuesday night, Joe Biden, in paraphrasing Richard Nixon’s line about John Maynard Keynes, essentially declared: “We’re all MAGA now.”

Daniel J. Flynn
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Daniel J. Flynn, a senior editor of The American Spectator, is the author of Cult City: Harvey Milk, Jim Jones, and 10 Days That Shook San Francisco (ISI Books, 2018), The War on Football (Regnery, 2013), Blue Collar Intellectuals (ISI Books, 2011), A Conservative History of the American Left (Crown Forum, 2008), Intellectual Morons (Crown Forum, 2004), and Why the Left Hates America (Prima Forum, 2002). His articles have appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Chicago Tribune, Boston Globe, New York Post, City Journal, National Review, and his own website,   
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