Viewpoint: Stark contrast between Biden, Democrats and Republicans

Viewpoint: Stark contrast between Biden, Democrats and Republicans

The contrast could not be more clear or more dramatically drawn – President Joe Biden and the Republicans at the State of the Union.

Biden, ever dignified, civil, respectful and honorable, began by congratulating Republican Kevin McCarthy on becoming speaker of the House and  GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, and in his speech repeatedly praised bipartisanship in his first two years.

“Time and again, Democrats and Republicans came together. Came together to defend a stronger and safer Europe. Came together to pass a once-in-a-generation infrastructure law, building bridges to connect our nation and people. Came together to pass one of the most significant laws ever, helping veterans exposed to toxic burn pits. In fact, I signed over 300 bipartisan laws since becoming president. From reauthorizing the Violence Against Women Act, to the Electoral Count Reform Act, to the Respect for Marriage Act that protects the right to marry the person you love.”

But he basically laid out a challenge to Republicans, now that they have a slim majority in the House – albeit, one in which the most radical extremists are in control.

“To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress. The people sent us a clear message. Fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict, gets us nowhere. And that’s always been my vision for our country. To restore the soul of the nation. To rebuild the backbone of America, the middle class. To unite the country. We’ve been sent here to finish the job.”

Who could argue with that? The WhiteChristoFascist MAGA Republicans who have taken over and are literally holding Congress —and America – hostage.

Biden actually had to trick the Republicans to stand up for seniors – after a humorous back-and-forth (when does that ever happen in a SOTU?) in which he exposed  Republicans’ plan to extort cuts to Medicare and Social Security – even sunset these vital programs – in exchange for raising the debt ceiling and destroying the economy. GOP Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene shrieked like a banshee “Liar!” while Congressman Mike Lee (R-UT) and McCarthy shook their heads. But Biden said he would provide the proof: Sen. Rick Scott’s (R-FL) published pamphlet in which he calls for every federal law to sunset every five years; Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) requiring all laws sunset every year; and Lee on tape pledging to pull out Social Security and Medicare “by the roots.”

When he mourned the 70,000 a year who die of drug overdose – affecting every community in the country – and spoke of stepped-up efforts that interdicted drug trafficking and  saved thousands of lives, one shouted “You’re fault” – even as Biden was laying out a forceful plan to go after fentanyl traffickers and expand medical services to reduce deaths.

But that requires Congress to act, he said.

Will the Republicans? Not likely. Because Republicans don’t care and have no plan to improve lives – they want people to suffer, be angry, frustrated and desperate, because they think that’s how they win elections.

Biden can pretty much coast on the extraordinary successes won during his first two years – the most consequential presidency since FDR – most of which will only first bear fruit in 2023, when Republicans who voted no will nonetheless steal credit. As Biden said, “I promised I’d be a President for all Americans.  We’ll fund these projects.  And I’ll see you at the groundbreaking.”

But there are still big, important initiatives he needs congressional action to accomplish:

  • Most urgently: Raise the debt ceiling to avoid catastrophic collapse of the economy and full faith and credit of the US
  • Renew funding for the Cancer Moonshot, improve public health and mental health; lower the cost of prescription drug and health care
  • Protect reproductive rights and abortion access
  • Address the gun violence epidemic; ban assault weapons
  • Police reform and public safety
  • Comprehensive immigration reform
  • Raise the minimum wage; protect workers’ right to unionize; secure parental leave and access to affordable child care and housing; restore the Child Tax Credit (that cut child poverty in half); give students debt relief; expand access to higher education; raise teacher salaries; ban non-compete clauses in work agreements.
  • End junk fees on everything from concert tickets to credit cards to telecom contracts, airline tickets and hotel stays (that would save consumers billions of dollars)
  • Implement a fair tax code so that no billionaire pays a lower tax rate than teachers and firefighters

“And, by the way, when we do all of these things, we increase productivity, we increase economic growth,” he said.

In all of these, Republicans sat disdainfully or booed.

Republicans could not even applaud the 800,000 manufacturing jobs created by Biden’s economic policy or Biden’s policy that all federal infrastructure projects utilize materials and products “Made in America.”

They booed when he said, “The climate crisis doesn’t care if you’re in a red or a blue state.  It’s an existential threat…I’m proud of how America, at last, is stepping up to the challenge.  We’re still going to need oil and gas for a while — no, we do — but there’s so much more to do.  We’ve got to finish the job.”

Republicans were quiet when he reaffirmed support for Ukraine’s fight for its democracy and sovereignty and spoke of how the United States has reclaimed its role as a global superpower.

And Republicans were silent when Biden gave a vigorous call to “protect democracy” and condemned the rise in political violence. “With democracy, everything is possible. Without it, nothing is…There is no place for political violence in America. We have to protect the right to vote, not suppress that fundamental right. Honor the results of our elections, not subvert the will of the people.  We have to uphold the rule of the law and restore trust in our institutions of democracy.”

“We’re not bystanders of history,” Biden declared. “We’re not powerless before the forces that confront us. It’s within our power of We the People. We’re facing the test of our time.  We have to be the nation we’ve always been at our best: optimistic, hopeful, forward-looking. A nation that embraces light over dark, hope over fear, unity over division, stability over chaos.”

And then Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who was Trump’s press secretary, gave the Republican response – a rehash of Trump’s “American carnage” inaugural speech, attacking “liberal wokeness” and with Orwellian craftiness, casting banning books, words and women’s reproductive rights as “freedom.”

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