Republicans Respond to Biden: We’re Not Weird

Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivers the Republican response to the State of the Union address by President Joe Biden on February 7, 2023 in Little Rock, Arkansas.


(Photo by Al Drago-Pool/Getty Images)

The reactionary movement that controls the Republican Party is much more radical than its voters. Most GOP voters don’t want to cut spending on various federal budget items; they also support same-sex marriage, unlike their members of Congress. So why do tens of millions of people who disagree with Republican elites continue to vote for them? Because Republican voters have been trained to think that Democrats are weird.

Normally, Republican politicians try to avoid blatantly calling attention to their fundamental communications strategy, outsourcing the task to Fox and other right-wing media outlets so that the politicos can at least pretend to be more normal. In her Tuesday night response to the State of the Union Address, however, Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders (R-AR) made a rare exception in a bizarre speech that was filled with far-right buzzwords that were likely incomprehensible to most Americans who had bothered to watch.

“He’s the first man to surrender his presidency to a woke mob that can’t even tell you what a woman is,” Sanders said in a speech that was filled with both nasty personal insults and hazy personal stories. She didn’t even bother to define “woke” and she didn’t specify that the only mob of people trying to get Washington politicians to surrender were the violent rioters that disgraced former president Donald Trump had ordered to march to Congress on Jan. 6, 2021.

In the world of reactionary activism and media, however, “woke mob” is a perfect shorthand, one used by Fox host Sean Hannity multiple times every night. It’s a small world, however, one inhabited by about 2.5 million people a night, many of them zoned out in a rest home and unable to change the channel.

“Upon taking office just a few weeks ago I signed Executive Orders to ban CRT,” Sanders boasted, not even bothering to explain that CRT is an acronym for critical race theory, an academic framework used to examine racism in society. The Republican governor also boasted that she had instituted a speech ban against Arkansas state employees using the word “Latinx,” a term which most Hispanic people have never even heard of.

“The dividing line in America is no longer between right or left, the choice is between normal or crazy,” Sanders said.

It was an incongruous message for the night, not just because of Sanders’s inability to use normal words in her speech, but also because House Republicans couldn’t restrain themselves from screaming out in anger against Pres. Joe Biden as he correctly noted that some Republicans have called for Social Security and Medicare to end.

The spectacle of Biden calling out the Republican hecklers as they drew attention to their own party’s long history of calling for cuts to social programs was not one that Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) wanted to see and he tried in vain to hush Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), who was one of the most triggered.

“Most Americans simply want to live their lives in freedom and peace, but we are under attack in a left-wing culture war we didn’t start and never wanted to fight,” Sanders claimed, ignoring that when Republicans deliberately refuse to run on their unpopular issue positions.

The speech had a surreal quality to it, as if Sanders were running on a message from the 2022 election still, the one Republicans had just lost after using all these same failed and obscure messages.

Biden’s message of the night was much clearer. Instead of using slang terms favored by Democrats or progressives, he focused on broader messages against airline service fees and high cost of insulin and in favor of American manufacturing and technology.

It was hard to argue with the conclusion reached by Matt Stoller, a progressive anti-monopoly activist who quipped on Twitter that “Biden’s superpower is that he doesn’t use Twitter.”

After decades of Democratic centrists telling the party to win by being conservative, Biden is finding out that Democrats delivering on progressive promises not only win elections, they make Republicans crazy.