I was telling Swamp Rabbit that Joe Biden spent as much time dodging key issues as addressing them in his State of the Union speech. He sounded properly indignant about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but he didn’t seriously acknowledge the concerns that are alienating many of the voters Democrats will need to avoid disaster in the midterms. I read out loud an example from the text regarding his “top priority”:
With all the bright spots in our economy, record job growth, higher wages, too many families are struggling to keep up with the bills. Inflation is robbing them of the gains they might otherwise feel.
“And that was it,” I said. “Nothing about how he’s planning to stop inflation from robbing Americans. Or about the fact that big corporations, the actual robbers, are using inflation as an excuse to raise prices well beyond what inflation alone is causing.”
Swamp Rabbit scowled. “It’s the American way. If there’s money to be made, gouge ’em. Stop talkin’ like one of them progressives, Odd Man.”
I reminded him that Biden had mentioned how much more livable this country would be if we had a progressive agenda — a $15-an-hour minimum wage, cheaper prescription drugs, cleaner energy and so on. But he failed to dwell on how and when such goals could be reached.
Bottom line, the president seems to think that merely mentioning the need for reforms rather than fighting to install them will motivate disaffected groups — young people, Blacks, working-class whites — to vote Democratic.
“Don’t be a dope,” Swamp Rabbit said. “That speech was for the corporate media gang, not for voters. If he said anything daring, or even interesting, them middle-of-the-road mugwumps who write the od-eds wouldn’t give his speech a thumbs-up.”
He’s right, of course. Biden’s speech was politely applauded by the usual suspects. A classic example: Ruth Marcus at Washington Post approvingly noted that he seemed to be “shifting” — no, “retrenching.” Moving away “from placating his party’s liberal base to recognizing the sober reality that his legislative options are already limited.”
Therein lies the absurdity of the State of the Union ritual. The country hasn’t been this dis-united since the Civil War. The protofascist Republican officeholders are protecting the wealthy, priority one, and still refusing to denounce the would-be dictator Trump. The establishment Democrats hate Trump but, like the Republicans, would rather pander to wealthy donors than address the needs of the non-wealthy.
And mainstream media insiders like Marcus, weighing in on the ritual, continue to pretend Democrats should find “common ground” with the party that would have been happy to let Trump overturn the legitimate results of a presidential election. A party that has done as little as possible to fight Covid-19, hoping the pandemic will kill Biden’s re-election hopes.
“Wise up,” Swamp Rabbit said. “Nobody cares about the State of the Union no more. It’s a phony event staged by phony leaders who would rather line their pockets than preserve government for the peeps.”
My mangy friend was exaggerating, as usual, but not by much.
Footnote: I referenced the Latin mass because Biden is a practicing Catholic, although his allegiance to the big banks in Delaware seems to have been a lot stronger over the years than his religious faith.