by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Joe Biden’s ”State of the Union” address clearly marked an attempt by his White House to make their culture war seem like an afterthought. It’s not, of course, as evidenced by the president’s description of abortion as “health care” and his demand that Congress pass the radical Equality Act. But the bulk of Biden’s speech focused on “meat and potatoes,” as Chris Hayes repeatedly claimed during MSNBC’s coverage.
It’s true, Biden dedicated much of his address to Ukraine, infrastructure, the economy, health care, and Covid-19. He earned a robust round of applause with a line that said, “We should all agree the answer is not to defund the police. It is to fund the police.” He touched on guns, immigration, and the environment, but they were hardly his focus. Notably, Joy Reid lamented the absence of Jan. 6 from Biden’s address, arguing it was characteristically devoid of “red meat.”
Reid was right to find that balance remarkable. Rather than signaling a shift away from Democrats’ scorched-earth culture war, Biden’s speech signaled a shift away from the party’s strategy of obsessing over identity politics. This comes with an enormous caveat: Democrats cannot and will not meaningfully make any such pivot beyond rhetoric.
Until they’re willing to drop truly radical policies like the Equality Act, it’s all smoke and mirrors meant to distract voters from what they’re actually doing to the culture. Democrats cannot simply pretend the summer of 2020 and the lockdowns never happened, no matter how much the media might help them try, because the party has now spent years committing to inflated definitions of bigotry that would condemn any moderation from their positions.
Sure, voters have short memories and the media is complicit. But these definitions are now baked into our institutions.