It is said that the State of the Union response slot is cursed, that whoever gets the “lucky” draw to deliver the response may thereafter come into some bad political luck. Sarah Huckabee Sanders’s speech may push the idea further; her unfocused and culture war–inspired remarks on Tuesday, ringing impressively discordant compared to President Biden’s largely positive speech, may not only leave a mark on her own career but actually further hamper her already-flailing party.
Biden spent over an hour sticking to a message about policy accomplishments (highlighting bipartisan efforts, perhaps too generously, wherever he could) and the “possibility” of what more Congress can do: everything from taking on junk fees and revitalizing ever-popular child tax credits to paying teachers better and capping insulin prices for all.
Afterward, Sanders filled much of her nearly 15-minute slot talking about “critical race theory,” left-wing “rituals” and “woke fantasies,” and herself.
After the former Trump press secretary opened by calling Biden a liar, she discussed her and her mother’s past cancer diagnosis and how thankful she was to doctors and the grace of God that neither disease stopped her family from charging “boldly ahead.”
She spent precious minutes on this story, all to not even mention how important it might be for everyone to have access to health care that could cure their ailments too. Instead, she transitioned into contrasting herself with Biden. “I’m the first woman to lead my state. 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, opening up her remarks toward the Republicans’ latest crutch: hating transgender people.
“His administration has been completely hijacked by the radical left,” Sanders opined, after Biden had spent an hour talking about policies most Americans agree with and another hour shaking the hands of practically every member of Congress and guest at the State of the Union address.
“The dividing line in America is no longer between right or left. The choice is between normal or crazy,” Sanders continued. She then boasted about signing executive orders to ban critical race theory and “indoctrination” in schools and repealing Covid safety standards.
“The Biden administration seems more interested in woke fantasies than the hard reality Americans face every day,” Sanders warned. “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,” she continued, as if conservatives are not the ones ratcheting up the culture war with their ever-oscillating sights on gas stoves, or M&Ms, or weirdly encouraging people to smoke tobacco. Sanders was right to suggest that “most Americans simply want to live their lives in freedom.” Unfortunately, book bans and the criminalization of abortions, notable infringements on people’s “freedom,” are hallmarks of the Republican agenda.
“Make no mistake: Republicans will not surrender this fight,” Sanders assured. “We will lead with courage and do what’s right, not what’s politically correct or convenient.” Sanders’s speech resembled the same sort of hollow and out-of-touch messaging that helped Republicans lose in 2020 and fall drastically short of expectations in 2022. It was visionless, with seldom any actual talk of policies that would uplift people in this country.
So, in a sense, Sanders is correct in saying that if Republicans do indeed continue this fight, they will absolutely find the strategy to be politically inconvenient and strategically incorrect.