McCarthy Can’t Shush the GOP’s Real Problem

On Feb. 7, 2023, President Joe Biden delivered his State of the Union Address to Congress and the American public. In the address, he emphasized his economic prowess, as well as his victory in guiding the U.S. through the dual trials of COVID-19 and post-insurrection instability.

However, disagreements about Biden’s achievements did not go unnoticed. According to the live coverage and analysis of the speech by The Washington Post, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) broke his stone-faced composure to shush members of his party who repeatedly interrupted and heckled Biden. The behavior of Republicans during the President’s speech is indicative of a larger conservative crisis: the Democratic Party is stronger and more effective than ever, while the GOP is falling apart.

The Democratic members of Congress have united behind Biden following what was overwhelmingly viewed as a successful speech. Politico reported that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) praised the President’s “deft” use of the platform to forcefully secure Republican support for the protection of Medicare and Social Security in debt ceiling negotiations. Schumer also emphasized the energy Biden’s speech brought to the Democratic Party and Democrat congressional members. Representative Delia Ramirez (D-IL) gave the Working Families Party Response to the State of the Union, reiterating Biden’s accomplishments while also calling for more action. 

Whether Biden is the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) best candidate for the party nomination in the 2024 Presidential Election is an entirely separate issue from his State of the Union speech. Biden has certainly proven himself capable of addressing major issues, including passing historic legislation to ensure marriage equality and taking action toward student debt relief. He also has well-established electability and a broad base of support, as well as a clear willingness to work across the aisle. Regardless, there are serious concerns about Biden’s continued fitness to hold office, especially in the later years of a potential second term. Health aside, Biden is widely viewed as overly centrist, including his notable refusal to explicitly (or implicitly) support abortion-on-demand in his address. 

Although Time reports no Democrats have announced intentions to run in 2024 against Biden, the possibility remains open. Who would be the top contenders? Vice President Harris for one, though she reiterated her support for Biden’s bipartisan leadership ability after the State of the Union address and recently stated her support for his next campaign to NBC, according to The Guardian. There is also every candidate who lost to Biden in the 2020 primary, and countless others.

Despite all the valid criticisms of Biden as a candidate, he is unparalleled in his commitment to compromise and working with all members of Congress. His demeanor and composure during the State of the Union and his recurrent theme of bipartisan collaboration are polar opposites of everything we’ve seen from Republican presidents and politicians in the past decade (every single one of Trump’s speeches comes to mind). Yes, perhaps Biden should take a lesson from former Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and retire before he throws the party into crisis, but that would require the politician to prioritize something that isn’t his career. Unless Biden indicates that he is not running (which appears unlikely at this time), Democrats should circle the wagon and support him in spite of his drawbacks, especially given that the Republican primaries are headed for disaster.

Regardless of who wins the DNC ticket, the pool of highly-qualified potential Democratic candidates stands in stark contrast to the floundering and broken post-Trump GOP. The party of disunity is splintering over how far they’ll go to embrace right-wing extremist conspiracies (Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), anyone?). Political opinions aside, the failure of the GOP to whip their base around candidates is almost as serious a threat to any chance Republicans have in taking back the presidency as Democrats’ success is.

Former President Trump and Former South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley have both announced their candidacy, despite Haley formerly claiming she would not oppose Trump in the 2024 election. In addition, notable anti-Trump Republican and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis appears poised to announce his presidential run soon, reports The Guardian. Brace yourselves for another 2016, with more name-calling, fear-mongering and discrimination than actual policy plans.

President Biden’s 2023 State of the Union underlined the Democratic Party’s identity as the best party to lead the country. Opposite Republican’s behavior, Biden brought honor and excitement to the base, creating a strong opening to the next major election season.