Earlier this week, President Joe Biden led the United States in an annual ritual: the State of the Union address (SOTU). The State of the Union is a sacred rite in our precious democracy and it has a few rules. Key players from all branches of the U.S. federal government gather in the Capitol. The president delivers a televised address for approximately one hour, with the vice president sitting behind his right shoulder and the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives sitting behind him on the left.
If the Speaker is on the same team as the president, which was the case this year, both people in the background actively cheer the speech on by clapping and nodding. People on the president’s team in the live audience also support the speech by performing standing ovations on cue, while the people on the opposing team pointedly remain sitting. There is a “kosher bipartisanship” exception to this rule: some things said by the president require standing ovations from everyone (things like “our shared values” or “standing with Ukraine”). Additionally, Justices from the Supreme Court play it cool and remain respectfully seated the entire time regardless of party. We are supposed to pretend that the Supreme Court is above politics.
The president draws attention to people he invited in order to underscore certain points, and as the speech progresses, the crews managing the cameras show certain key figures in the audience for dramatic effect. For example, when President Biden started speaking about vaccines, the cameras panned to Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene.
In the speech, the president comments on current events, brags about recent “achievements”, indicates intentions for future “achievements”, and makes requests of Congress. He must also make magnanimous gestures to other party and pay homage to the sanctity of our democracy throughout. The State of the Union ceremony took place this past Tuesday and it checked all of the required boxes.
In the days and weeks following the State of the Union, various news outlets pour over some of the words of the speech and give reactions to them. The Hyphen-Report is no exception of course.
State of the Union Summary
In the very first line of the speech, President Biden effectively declared victory over COVID-19.
“Last year, COVID-19 kept us apart; this year we’re finally together again.”
He didn’t dwell on the topic initially, but it was a subject he would return to later. The first major topic of the speech was the Russia-Ukraine crisis.
Russia & Ukraine
“Six days ago, Russia’s Vladimir Putin sought to shake the very foundations of the free world, thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways. But he badly miscalculated. He thought he could roll into Ukraine and the world would roll over. Instead he met with a wall of strength he never anticipated or imagined – he met the Ukrainian people.”
Biden spoke positively of the Ukrainian step of massively arming its civilian population. For a perspective on why this is a ghoulish practice, see Coach Red Pill’s recent appearance with Keith Woods and Joel Davis.
Biden then had everyone literally stand for Ukraine. Many people of both parties were wearing yellow and blue accessories.
“Throughout our history we’ve learned this lesson: when dictators do not pay a price for their aggression, they cause more chaos. They keep moving. That’s why the NATO alliance was created: to secure peace and stability in Europe after World War II.”
This is a reference to the retarded appeasement theory that dominates foreign policy discussions today. I will talk about this a little bit more in a section further below.
“Putin’s attack on Ukraine was premeditated and totally unprovoked. He rejected repeated efforts at diplomacy.”
This is not true. The Ukraine/Russia crisis didn’t start just this past week. It also didn’t start with the provocative 2021 NATO activity in Ukraine. Even “leaked” US military intelligence documents (which presumes Putin’s goals to be highly aggressive) admit that Russia’s military buildup was a direct response to NATO expansion.
Biden proceeded to talk about the “countless hours” he’s been putting in to
cajole bring together other “freedom loving” nations into a coalition to isolate Putin. He promised to go after the crimes of the Russian oligarchs and seize their luxury apartments, private jets, and yachts (“ill-begotten gains”) and also did some ghoulish rejoicing about damage that has been happening to the Russian economy.
He wrapped up the discussion of the Ukraine crisis with a promise to defend NATO territory and a promise that there would be no “boots on the ground” in Ukraine.
Economic Investment and Inflation
Biden took some time to brag about his economic efforts over the past year and made the first partisan swipe (“the $2 trillion tax cut of the previous administration”). He said his policies and some spending bills from the past year have led to economic improvements.
“America used to have the best roads, bridges, and airports on Earth, and now our infrastructure is ranked 13th in the world.”
The president thanked those Republicans who supported his infrastructure bill for helping begin to turn that trend around.
“[The infrastructure bill] is going to put us on a path to win the economic competition of the 21st century.”
A significant component of the economic portion of the State of the Union was the issue of increasing inflation. Biden made the dubious claim that he “understands” the plight of working families who make economic gains only to have them wiped out by inflation.
“One way to fight inflation is to drive down wages and make Americans poorer. I think I have a better idea to fight inflation: lower your costs not your wages. … Instead of relying on foreign supply chains, let’s make it in America. Economists call this ‘increasing the productive capacity of our economy’ – I call it ‘building a better America’ [GHASTLY COUGH].”
Just about every time that he proposed measures that might seem remotely populist, Biden also assured the super wealthy that they would still do “very, very well”. It was so brazen that it almost seemed as if benefiting large corporations and the wealthy was the only reason to do anything that might make life easier for commoners. He may have been worried that the donor class might actually take his mildly populist rhetoric seriously and wanted to assure them otherwise. It was a very un-optical tick on his part, and he did it several times.
He doubled down on this by highlighting that he was the Senator from Delaware for a long time, and openly acknowledged the significance of this.
“I come from the land of corporate America. There are more corporations incorporated there [in Delaware] than in any other state combined. I still won 36 years in a row.”
He was trying to make the point that this should be surprising because even though he thinks the rich should “pay their fair share” he still got elected to represent the domestic tax haven known as Delaware. Personally, I don’t find this all that surprising.
Throughout the economic discussion, Biden asked Congress to pass his technology investment legislation, which has stalled in Congress. He also asked for support for various bills regarding funding HBCUs, the child care tax credit, a higher minimum wage, and other things.
Biden doubled down on his declaration of victory over COVID-19.
“Thanks to the progress we’ve made, COVID no longer needs to control our lives.”
Due to the victory over COVID, schools and businesses can be open and “people working from home can feel safe and begin to return to their offices.” Biden also suggested that under new guidelines most people could stop wearing masks (I had a flight home a few days after the State of the Union and everyone still had to wear a mask).
“I know parents with kids under the age of 5 are eager to see vaccines authorized for their children. Scientists are working hard to get that done.”
I know parents with young children who are eager to see this not happen, but we’ll see what science comes up with.
Biden ended the segment on COVID with a call for Americans to stop seeing each other as enemies over COVID policies (no acknowledgement of his part in making this happen in the first place).
After spending over half the time on Ukraine, the economy, and COVID, Biden covered smaller topics in quick succession, sometimes only saying one or two sentences about a subject before moving on.
- Defunding the police is the wrong idea; police departments need more funding and better training (Democrats clapped).
- It’s outrageous that people on the terrorist watch list don’t have their right to buy guns stripped away from them without due process.
- Ketanji Jackson Brown, who is being nominated to replace Justice Breyer, is “one of our nation’s top legal minds.”
- We need a stronger border.
- We need a pathway for citizenship for “dreamers”.
- Republicans are attacking abortion.
- We need to do more to protect trannies and their families.
The Unity Agenda
The last major section of the State of the Union address was Biden’s suggested “Unity Agenda”, four areas where he sees a real chance for bipartisan cooperation.
- Address the opioid epidemic with increased prevention programs, more restrictions on prescriptions, and law enforcement actions to target drug trafficking.
- Increase special programs to address the needs of people with mental health issues, particularly children. Biden also wants to make social media companies liable for “the social experiment they’re conducting on our children.” He specifically mentioned a ban on advertising targeted at children. He also praised the fake Facebook whistleblower Frances Haugen, one of his audience plants.
- Increase support for veterans programs, including medical problems associated with environmental hazards.
- End cancer. This lofty goal mostly translates to more funding for research programs.
Biden concluded by highlighting the importance of the Capitol, the “citadel of democracy”. That was as close as he got to mentioning January 6th. One of the last lines of the State of the Union was something ridiculous on can only laugh:
“I’m more optimistic about America today than I’ve been my whole life.”
Analysis of the State of the Union Address
According to the typical standards by which these events are often judged, the 2022 State of the Union was a fairly solid one. The duration was good (just about 1 hour). Biden pushed key talking points, but wasn’t inflammatory. He made several bipartisan appeals and did his best to strike a conciliatory and optimistic tone. People watching live had mostly positive feelings about it.
On the other hand, it’s unlikely that anything about the speech is going to be remembered for long (unless the Ukraine conflict expands into a massive war, in which case the beginning of the speech might be historically important).
The way Biden appealed to appeasement theory when talking about the Ukraine situation underscores the extent to which we are still operating in the shadow of World War II. The theory refers to the 1938 international recognition of a peaceful annexation of land by Germany, and because England and France later caused a world war by unnecessarily involving themselves in a German-Polish conflict we are supposed to take away the lesson that not escalating to a war with “dictators” sooner is dangerous because otherwise there might be a war later. The theory really is as stupid as it sounds, and if we escalated every time it’s been invoked we’d likely be involved in simultaneous wars against China, Russia, Iran, North Korea, Myanmar, Venezuela, and God knows where else.
That Biden’s mild populist appeals were openly tempered with deep concern for the continued fortune of the wealthy also shows how little influence serious progressives have within the Democratic party.
Response to the State of the Union
Reminder: Please note that all opinions expressed on the Hyphen-Report are the opinions of the individual poster, and are not the opinions of the Hyphen-Report project as whole.
It is not possible to give a robust response or alternative to the State of the Union when the legitimacy and sustainability of the union itself is questionable. That said, there are a few things to note in response to Biden’s speech.
Firstly, President Biden and the US government are not being honest about their own role in the Ukraine crisis. As is often the case with many issues, the system is actively concealing basic facts from most Americans. Someone who doesn’t seek out information on foreign policy and who listened to the State of the Union address would likely have no knowledge of the existence of Russian separatist republics eastern Ukraine, the long history of NATO expansion and Russia’s reaction, or even of the 2014 Ukrainian coup. The entire situation is reduced to a juvenile narrative about freedom-loving people standing up against mindlessly aggressive evil.
There’s a reason why U.S. authorities don’t give proper context relating to this and nearly all other issues: the party line that the people are expected to take couldn’t survive in the mind of someone taking the totality of circumstances into account. This is true not only of Ukraine, but of a wide variety of issues from the Middle East and the impact of foreign policy to the threat of domestic terror.
In 2017, the company Cloudflare abruptly terminated its service of the Daily Stormer in wake of Charlottesville (another event about which the media conspired to conceal the basic facts). Five years ago that seemed like a remarkable escalation. In the time since, we’ve seen increasingly coordinated and comprehensive censorship schemes, egged on by hysterical concerns about “misinformation.” As I write this, it appears that Russia Today was just banned from Telegram as one part of a massive silencing of all things Russian. In five years they went from canceling an assclown like Andrew Anglin to canceling a great power.
There’s no legitimate reason for this aggressive censorship regime. The greatest purveyor of misinformation on the planet is the U.S. government, the only explanation for this degree of censorship is that those in power fear any collision their narratives might have with the truth.
A nation’s foreign policy ought to be based in furthering the legitimate interests of its people while respecting as much as possible the legitimate interests of others. One of the many truths being concealed here is that our foreign policy is malicious and cruel to other peoples while providing no benefit to our own. If our foreign policy decisions were legitimate, our leadership would be able to explain them in light of the claims of opposing powers.
Another point of concern in the State of the Union was the constant deference to the wealthy. President Biden made very clear that he would not threaten the interests of large corporations. It was particularly insulting that, given Biden’s earlier statements about wanting to go after the “ill-gotten gains” of Russian oligarchs, he was assuring American oligarchs that their gains were safe.
Overall, the State of the Union given by President Biden was the typical thing most Americans are used to. Hawkish talk combined with pseudo-populist rhetoric about the economy. While it checked all the ceremonial boxes, it rang hollow coming from a regime that can only maintain its face of legitimacy by working overtime to protect its narratives from any competition.