by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The State of the Union address is a civic tradition and, at times, fascinating political theater, although its TV ratings have been in decline for some years. For the opposition party, the address is typically an unpleasant ritual: Even a president who is failing and unpopular gets center stage to spin out his best rhetoric, stock the gallery with citizen-props who promote his favored causes, and bask in standing ovations from his own side. There are those who argue for reverting to the pre-Woodrow Wilson practice of the president submitting a written report instead. But custom demands attendance.
This year, however, Democrats are restricting attendance so severely that Republicans should consider whether it is even worth attending — or, if they do, just sending Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy as token representatives:
“Each party may be allowed to invite just 25 House members to attend President Biden’s State of the Union Address in person, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy told colleagues on Tuesday. . . . The president is slated to deliver his first State of the Union address on March 1; attendance for his address to a Joint Session of Congress last April also was capped.” …
… Undoubtedly, some of the more confrontational back-benchers would prefer to show up maskless and get dragged out of the chamber while yelling at the confused old man at the podium, but the nation doesn’t need that, and neither does the party. Republicans are only there, at this point, to be polite and honor tradition. If the Democrats are going to insist on preposterous Covid theater that keeps most of the Republican caucus out of the chamber anyway, why should anyone dignify the charade by attending?