Joe Biden Keeps Surprising People- His State of the Union Message Was Another Surprise

Joe Biden has been underestimated by the press, by commentators, by Republicans and even by many Democrats.  He comes across as a regular guy. A nice guy. And he is. He has a stutter which makes him sound uncertain at times and like he’s flubbed his words sometimes. But one thing is certain- he’s not full of himself. He is not trying to get attention for himself. Maybe that’s part of the problem. Biden routinely undersells himself.  That’s the opposite of Trump and of the many Trumpian House members these days showboating in the current 118th Congress. Americans elected wannabe celebrity politicians like Marjorie Taylor Greene who was booing and hissing along with others in the GOP’s MAGA wing. They were yelling at Biden from the bleachers while Biden delivered the State of the Union.

But Biden has a super power. He has a 6th sense for what Americans want and need and as president he truly believes his job is to help all Americans get what they need to make their lives better.

When Biden talked about the threat to democracy before the 2022 midterms he was chastised by the press for being off base. When he said American women would rise up and vote against Republicans for taking away their right to an abortion he was thought to be wrong. But he was right. Again. It was the press that was off base. Biden often hits home runs when he voices the concerns of the American people. That’s because he understands, feels the pain and gets the deep concerns of Americans.

Exit polling after the midterms confirmed that Biden was right about Americans when it came to the issues of democracy and abortion. The results told the story.  Election deniers supported by Trump lost their elections even in mostly red states where Republican voters rejected the election deniers but still voted for other Republicans. That extensive split voting was not predicted because it did not reflect the political tribalism we are seeing in our divided nation. But perhaps it should have been predicted after women voters in Kansas, a very red state, rose up to reaffirm their right to an abortion in their state constitution.

Biden also understands and empathizes with politicians and their giant egos. He started his State of the Union message with accolades all around to Republicans and Democrats alike.  Kevin McCarthy will soon be blocking all of Biden’s attempted legislation. But Biden reached out to McCarthy before he started talking with smiles and congratulations, recognizing McCarthy’s dogged effort to win the speakership. Biden understood how much that hard fought victory meant to McCarthy.

The Power of Empathy

How is it that Biden understands the needs of American voters, politicians and people in general? He has empathy. This is the opposite of Donald Trump who cannot put himself in the shoes of another person. Biden can and does. Empathy is something many politicians pretend to have but often do not have in their basket of skills.  For politicians to win elections they need certainty, the ability to be convincing, communicate well and at least sound truthful. These skills are all recognized as important ones for politicians. Empathy, on the other hand, is something you expect in your therapist, your nurse and your social worker. But when a politician has the ability to imagine what another person’s world is like and walk a mile in their shoes, he or she has a special talent that can be political gold these days. Biden has that talent. It helps to create trust in a world where trust is hard to come by.

In the SOTU Biden even empathized with the frustration Americans feel these days when they are nickel and dimed to death by hidden charges like resort fees. Resort fees! That sure sounds like a First World problem.  You might say that is relatively unimportant thing to talk about in a SOTU address, but it speaks to the zeitgeist of many fretful, crabby Americans these days; Americans who don’t give Biden high marks even after all he has accomplished to help them (Only 31% of Americans think Biden is competent and effective as president according to the most recent NBC poll). Of course many Americans don’t read newspapers anymore or listen to unbiased news sources. In rural America they listen to conservative media and have a daily diet of Sinclair local news which is also a platform for right wing influence. Most conservative media consciously and consistently does NOT tell Americans the good news about Biden and what he has done for them.

A lot of Americans are a cynical bunch of aggrieved folks these days, convinced that they are being had by everyone, especially the elites and the people on the “other side”. Trust is hard to come by in the Divided States of America.

By empathizing with a seemingly small frustration, I think Biden helped to align himself with those blue collar Americans who go on vacation only to feel had by rotten hidden resort fees. These are the people the Dems lost to Donald Trump and the GOP.  Biden also talked about creating jobs for people who did not go to college. He is right. The lack of a college degree should not be a barrier to a job that requires specific skills if you have those skills. That was another way he tried to reach out to Americans who had strayed from the Democratic Party and gone over to the GOP. He did a good job of reaching out.

What History Will Say About Joe Biden

In the future our country will realize Biden was one of the greatest presidents we ever had. We are lucky to have him guiding us through tumultuous times.  He was and still is the right man for the divisive moment we were and still are in. As president he has faced an almost impossible situation where fearful white Americans worried they and their culture are being replaced by a diverse group of Americans they don’t trust. Millions of Americans have bought into the premise of Christian nationalism that wants the United States to be a haven for Christians instead of a country that is a melting pot. These mostly older White voters are also being played and pumped up to be outraged by a greedy and cynical cabal of ultra right wing self-serving political groups that are trying to paint Biden as the devil. Unfortunately for them Biden just doesn’t fit the part. His true nature comes through. He does not talk or look or act like the devil incarnate. He’s amiable. He is conciliatory. His speech impediment actually helps him to seem more like a regular guy who just happened to become president.

Biden steadfastly continues to believe in the potential of the American people. He is optimistic. He is working to open up that economic potential for Americans through legislation that he (and Pelosi and Schumer) wrangled past a gridlocked Congress. He believes in Social Security and Medicare for older Americans. He believes in unions for blue collar workers.

Biden’s Lightly Mocking Humor

As President Biden delivered his speech on Tuesday evening, he issued a challenge to Republicans who have threatened to repeal the Inflation Reduction Act: “That’s OK,” he said. “As my football coach used to say: ‘Lots of luck in your senior year.’”

Democrats laughed. Republicans did not. 

The White House did not respond to requests about what the line actually means, but a review of Mr. Biden’s public statements over the decades — and a cursory dip into the world of high school and collegiate football — suggests that the phrase has been used by seasoned veterans to signal to the inexperienced that they’re running out of time to learn the ropes.

I think Biden was using the phrase as a way to lightly mock these MAGA Republican know-it-alls. He was pointing out that seniors in high school might think they know it all too but just wait until they get into the real world. They will be in for a big surprise. The House Republicans might think they will be able to get rid of the Inflation Reduction Act but they are in for a big surprise too. The American people want what is in that bill and just like abortion and their democracy, they ain’t gonna give it up. And Republicans might also think they can make comments behind closed doors about getting rid of Social Security and Medicare (Rick Scott wrote that in his plan for Republicans ) or tell donors that they are going to fight to get rid of Social Security and Medicare (Sen Mike Lee on tape). But as Biden would say, good luck with that too. These days everything is videotaped and cell phones are the opposition’s best friend.

To drive the point home that Biden was on top of his game, he used the jeers from the bleacher section to deftly lock in the Republicans on Social Security and Medicare.

His second State of the Union address was punctuated by outbursts, jeers and peals of mocking laughter, but Mr. Biden turned the tables on his Republican opponents and argued in real time with the insurgents. It appeared to be the start of his re-election campaign.

When the Republicans shouted back that no, they were not threatening Social Security, Mr. Biden smiled, appearing to relish the scrimmage, and ad-libbed that he was pleased they all agreed.

“I’m glad to see — no, I tell you, I enjoy conversion,” Mr. Biden said. (New York Times)

If there was any doubt about whether Biden is going to run again it went out the window with this slam dunk SOTU. Biden may be old. But being old has its advantages. He is wise. He really understands politics and he really gets what the majority of the American people want from their government. He is the guy we need because he understands how to make dysfunctional Washington work for us.