Heather Cox Richardson

February 2, 2023 (Thursday)

Today the Republican-controlled House of Representatives voted along party lines to remove Representative Ilhan Omar (D-MN) from her seat on the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. The Republicans voting to remove her justified their action by pointing to language she used that they say was antisemitic. She has apologized for that language.

Earlier, House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) used his own discretion to remove Democratic California representatives Adam Schiff and Eric Swalwell from the House Select Committee on Intelligence.

While these removals are often portrayed simply as a quest for revenge after Democrats removed Representatives Paul Gosar (R-AZ) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) from committees when they were in charge, there is a crucial difference between the cases. The Democrats removed Gosar and Greene—both members of the far-right group—after they threatened violence against their Democratic colleagues. Republicans removed Schiff and Swalwell over make-believe dangers and now have removed Omar allegedly over policy differences. At the same time, McCarthy reinstated Gosar and Greene to prime committee assignments.

The Republicans have accepted violence among Congress members.

Today’s vote is a window into a larger story. It appears the Republican Party has split, and the far-right wing is making a play to become what amounts to a third party. Its members demanded the removal of Schiff and Swalwell from the intelligence committee and Omar from foreign affairs: Schiff and Swalwell apparently because they have gone after former president Donald Trump, and Omar because she is Muslim and a woman of color.

Removing Schiff and Swalwell was relatively easy, since the speaker can determine the make-up of select committees himself. Removing Omar was dicier, since it required a vote of the House. Today, McCarthy gave the far right what they wanted, getting rid of Omar.

In order to justify it on grounds other than racism, though, he had to pretend the issue was antisemitic words. It’s a hard sell to convince people that the Republican Party cares much about antisemitism when it has embraced the openly antisemitic Ye, also known as Kanye West, and when Trump recently warned Jews that they must “get their act together…before it is too late.” Kevin McCarthy himself in November 2022 indulged in antisemitic tropes when he tweeted: “We cannot allow Soros, Steyer, and Bloomberg to BUY this election! Get out and vote Republican….”

McCarthy catered to far-right members in order to get the votes to become speaker; now he is giving those members what they want in order to keep them from ousting him and to get them on board for imperative legislation like a bill to raise the debt ceiling.

The power the far-right representatives are getting is making them a force distinct from the rest of the Republican Party. They demanded, and got, extraordinary representation on committees apart from the normal party apparatus, power over the Speaker and the introduction of bills, and now have normalized violent rhetoric within the party.

Their rise is a logical outcome of the history of the Republican Party. Back in the 1980s, those Republicans determined to get rid of government regulation of business and social programs did two things.

First, they insisted that any government regulation of business or provision of a basic social safety net was “socialism” because, they claimed, the tax dollars that such government action cost would come from those with money—who they implied would be white people—and thus would redistribute wealth from hardworking white men to those who benefited from such programs. This idea has nothing to do with the modern definition of socialism, which means government ownership of the means of production. Instead, it is a holdover from the Reconstruction years in the United States, when white supremacists insisted that Black voting would mean a redistribution of wealth as formerly enslaved people voted for lawmakers who promised to fix roads, and build schools and hospitals.

Second, Republicans in the 1980s made a deliberate decision to court voters with religion, racism, and sexism in order to hold onto power. Antitax crusader Grover Norquist brought business leaders, evangelicals, and social conservatives into a coalition to win elections in 1985. “Traditional Republican business groups can provide the resources,” he said, “but these groups can provide the votes.” Over the decades their focus on religion, race, and sex ramped up until it took on a power of its own, stronger than the pro-business ideology of those who fed it.

Now, a generation later, that rhetoric has led to its logical conclusion: the Republicans have created a group of voters and their representatives who are openly white supremacists and who believe that any attempt to use the government to hold the economic playing field level is socialism. They are overwhelmingly evangelicals. They back former president Trump or someone like him and are eager to break the power of the current government even if it means defaulting on our debt. They threaten violence.

With the Republican Party just barely in control of the House, that group now wields enough power that it divides the House into three groups: the Democrats, the Republicans who want to cut taxes and gut regulation, and the Republicans who want to destroy the “socialist” government, want to keep white people in charge, support Trump or someone similar, are fervently Christian, and openly court violence.

Today, the House voted to condemn socialism—another attempt to appease that far right—while Republicans then chided those Democrats who refused to vote in favor of that condemnation because they said they thought it was a setup to cut Social Security and Medicare as socialism. (They are not socialism.)

Also today, former president Trump “retruthed” the words of a person who warned that he and “80,000,000” were willing to fight for Trump and were “Locked and LOADED.” In the House, some of the far-right group are wearing AR-15 pins, but when Emine Yücel of Talking Points Memo asked Representative Anna Paulina Luna (R-FL) why she was wearing one, her office answered that it was “about sponsoring a gun bill and has nothing to do with whatever blueanon conspiracy theories are being floated on Capitol Hill,” a reference to the idea that Democrats-- rather than the Republicans like Greene who were QAnon adherents-- are embracing conspiracy theories. The members wearing the pins have not, so far, introduced any gun bills.

This is alarming, but it is not the first time an extremist minority in Congress has organized, determined to control the country. In 1879, for example, before the parties switched into their current arrangement, Democratic former Confederates banded together, demanded the leadership of key committees—which the exceedingly weak speaker gave them—and set out to make the Republican president, Rutherford B. Hayes, get rid of key Republican policies by refusing to fund the government until he caved.

With the support of House minority leader James A. Garfield, Hayes stood firm, recognizing that allowing a minority of the opposition party to dictate to the elected government by holding it hostage would undermine the system set up in the Constitution. The parties fought it out for months until, in the end, the American people turned against the Democrats, who backed down. In the next presidential election, which had been supposed to be a romp for the Democrats, voters put Garfield, the Republican who had stood against the former Confederates, into the White House.


February 3, 2023 (Friday)

Last night, former vice president Mike Pence came out and said it: “I think the day could come when we could replace the New Deal with a better deal.”

Pence was talking about Social Security—a centerpiece of the New Deal—saying: “Literally give younger Americans the ability to take a portion of their Social Security withholdings and put that into a private savings account.”

Privatizing Social Security is his plan to address the growing national debt by cutting expenditures, at least in domestic spending. “It’s absolutely essential that we generate leadership in this country that will be straight with the American people, that will take us off this trajectory of massive debt that we’re piling on the backs of those grandchildren,” Pence said at the National Association of Wholesaler-Distributors summit in Washington, D.C.

Another way to reduce the debt would be to raise taxes on corporations and the very wealthy, even to where they were before the massive tax cuts Republicans passed in 2017, but current-day Republicans oppose taxes, claiming they redistribute wealth from hardworking people to those who want a handout. They believe that cutting taxes to enable those at the top to accumulate wealth will enable them to invest their money in businesses, creating more jobs. Wealth will trickle down, and everyone will do better.

Republicans like Pence believe the federal government should stay out of economic affairs, letting individuals make their own decisions in free markets (although the concept of a “free market” has always been more theoretical than real). Any federal attempts to regulate business or provide a social safety net are “socialism,” they claim, although they have largely forgotten how that argument was established in the United States.

This argument is what gives us the story Kayode Crown reported yesterday for the Mississippi Free Press: thirty-eight of Mississippi’s rural hospitals, more than half of them, are in danger of collapsing because Governor Tate Reeves refuses to allow the state to accept an expansion of Medicaid. The hospitals are required to treat all patients who need care, but since many patients are uninsured, without the expansion of Medicaid the hospitals don’t get paid.

On Monday, Reeves warned Republican lawmakers not to “cave under the pressure of Democrats and their allies in the media who are pushing for the expansion of Obamacare, welfare, and socialized medicine.” “Instead, seek innovative free-market solutions that disrupt traditional health-care delivery models, increase competition, and lead to better health outcomes for Mississippians.” Last month, in a poll from Mississippi Today/Siena College, about 80% of Mississippi voters wanted Medicaid expansion.

This theory also says that the government should also stay out of the business of protecting civil rights, because state governments are the centerpiece of American democracy. That’s the idea behind yesterday’s decision by a panel of three judges of the right-wing Fifth Circuit. They ruled that a federal law prohibiting people who are under a domestic restraining order from owning a gun is unconstitutional.

In the 2022 New York State Rifle & Pistol Association v. Bruen decision, the Supreme Court said that the government must prove that any gun regulation is “consistent with this Nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation,” and because the Constitution’s Framers didn’t stop domestic abusers from possessing guns, we can’t either. As Ian Millhiser points out in Vox, it was not until 1871 that a state court determined that “a husband has no right” to beat his wife.

Slate’s legal reporter Mark Joseph Stern notes, “There is no real doubt that the 5th Circuit’s decision is going to lead to more abusers murdering their wives and girlfriends. It will also increase mass shootings. Domestic abuse[rs] are vastly more likely to commit heinous acts of gun violence.” Millhiser says it is very likely the Supreme Court will take up the case.

Under the Republicans’ theory, the country has seen wealth move upward dramatically, hollowing out the middle class and leaving it vulnerable to leaders who have attracted voters by telling them that minorities and women who want “socialism” are to blame for their loss of power.

Today an audio file from November 5, 2020, just after the presidential election, was leaked that shows members of Trump’s campaign staff in Wisconsin acknowledging Trump’s defeat before Andrew Iverson, who led the Wisconsin team, said, “Here’s the deal: Comms is going to continue to fan the flame and get the word out about Democrats trying to steal this election. We’ll do whatever they need. Just be on standby if there’s any stunts we need to pull.”

Iverson now runs operations in the Midwest region for the Republican National Committee.

In contrast to the Republican theory, President Joe Biden and the Democrats have revived the theory embraced by members of both parties between 1933 and 1981. That theory says that the federal government has a role to play in the economy, regulating business, providing a basic social safety net, investing in infrastructure, and protecting civil rights. Rather than freeing capital for those at the top, Democrats want to invest in ordinary Americans who will, they believe, spend their paychecks, thus building the economy as they move money directly into the hands of their neighbors.

Today at a Democratic National Committee finance event in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, Biden explained that “when we build from the bottom up and the middle out, poor folks get a shot, the middle class does well, and the wealthy still do very well.” We have to invest in ourselves again, he said. “How…can you be the most successful, powerful nation in the world and have third-rate infrastructure?.. How can you attract business and commerce and keep things moving?”

“[W]e used to invest 2 percent of our G[ross] D[omestic] P[roduct] in research and development…. But about 25 years ago we stopped.” Investment dropped to 0.7 percent of GDP, he said, but now the CHIPS and Science Act will jump-start that research and development again. The administration is also bringing supply chains home and rebuilding foreign alliances. And Biden told the wealthiest people in the room today that they were paying an average of 3% in taxes and needed to pay their fair share. “I don’t want you to pay 90% again”—the top marginal income bracket in the Eisenhower years—but at least 15%, he said.

From the White House, Biden noted that the “strikingly good” new jobs report issued by the Bureau of Labor Statistics this morning proved that his vision of society works. It showed an astonishing 517,000 new jobs added in January, the twenty-fifth straight month of job growth. Unemployment fell slightly to 3.4%, a low last seen in May 1969 (not a typo).

Between 1933 and 1981, Americans of both parties shared the idea of using the federal government to level the social, economic, and political playing fields. The current Republicans are rejecting that vision, reclaiming that of the business-oriented Republicans in the 1920s. Under Biden, the Democrats are trying to rebuild that shared vision, returning the parties to fights over the kinds and limits of government policies, rather than fights over whether they should exist at all.

Biden told his audience that “once every three, four, or five generations, there’s a fundamental shift in world politics and national politics” and that we are in such a shift now.

“What will happen [in] the next three or four years [is] going to determine what this country looks like for the next four or five decades…. We’re laying down a foundation, because the world is changing—dramatically changing. And we have a choice.”


I hope the follow-up question was, “What do you mean by a portion?” I’d push them to explain exactly how they will return 100% of past contributions with interest, as well as how the loss of the program won’t cost the government and taxpayers more money. If they can’t show the public anything more than empty promises and blank pieces of paper, the press should be calling out their dangerous bs for exactly what it is.


Easy! They’re just going to let the free market do it as Jesus intended! After all, didn’t they do wonderful things with mortgages around 2008? /s

Uh Huh Reaction GIF by Originals


February 4, 2023 (Saturday)

Today, about 6 miles off the South Carolina coast, a pilot flying a U.S. Air Force F-22 fighter jet fired a missile to shoot down what appears to have been a Chinese spy balloon that has flown above the U.S. for the last four days. Such intelligence balloons are not unusual—there were at least three during the Trump administration and one before in the Biden administration, but they were not visible to the public—and U.S. defense officials are accustomed to dealing with them. They “took immediate steps to protect against the balloon’s collection of sensitive information, mitigating its intelligence value.”

Biden proposed shooting it down on Wednesday, but the equipment on it weighed more than 1,000 pounds and was the size of three buses, and bringing it down over the continent risked dropping debris on the people below the balloon’s path. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said, “After careful analysis, U.S. military commanders had determined downing the balloon while over land posed an undue risk to people across a wide area, due to the size and altitude of the balloon and its surveillance payload.”

Defense officials believe the U.S. Navy can recover the equipment from the shallow waters—the depth is only about 47 feet—where it fell.

It seems logical that assessing what information the balloon was trying to gather would tell our intelligence services a great deal about what the Chinese feel unable to gather in less visible ways. This afternoon, senior defense officials seemed to confirm that observation. CNN national security reporter Natasha Bertrand wrote that such officials told reporters: “The surveillance balloon’s overflight of US territory was of intelligence value to us… we were able to study and scrutinize the balloon and its equipment, which has been valuable.”

Republicans have used the balloon fiasco to score political points, flooding media with statements about Chinese spying on the U.S. and complaints that no one would have tried such a thing under former president Trump. On Thursday, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) said, “Biden should shoot down the Chinese spy balloon immediately…. President Trump would have never tolerated this. President Trump would have never tolerated many things happening to America.” (In fact, Trump tolerated at least three similar events, and as a member of the Homeland Security Committee, Greene should know this.) Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) complained that “[t]he administration failed to protect our border and now has failed to protect our skies.”

It’s Saturday night, so I will be a bit snarky: they need to get a grip. A key aspect of any country’s national security is spying, and of course China and the U.S. are spying on each other. Shooting the balloon down as soon as it was spotted would have endangered Americans and made learning anything from it more difficult.

That being said, it’s not at all clear to me what this balloon was designed to accomplish politically. Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled his planned visit to Beijing over it, giving the U.S. a reason to back out of a visit that certainly seemed likely to bolster President Xi Jinping’s government. Scholar of international relations Daniel Drezner notes in his Drezner’s World it appears to have been a screw-up at a level below that of President Xi. China has been trying to cool tensions with America, not heat them up.

That being said, the visible spy balloon predictably sparked Republican attacks on President Biden, so the incident has the potential to weaken the administration’s strong steps to counter the growing power of China.

Biden and Blinken have worked to build Indo-Pacific cooperation that balances the power of China in the region, reinforced U.S. support for Taiwan, established export controls on technology that have hamstrung the Chinese semiconductor industry, and enhanced security cooperation with South Korea and Japan. But the media attention to the balloon has offered Biden’s opponents an opportunity to say he is not countering China strongly enough.


February 5, 2023 (Sunday)

A deadly 7.8 magnitude earthquake in Turkey late tonight has caused damage in Syria, and was felt in Lebanon, and Israel, as well. It has collapsed buildings, sparked fires in ruptured gas lines, and prompted Italian authorities to warn of potential tsunami waves. Aftershocks, including one of 6.7 magnitude and another of 5.6, have continued to hit in the wake of the first quake.

Millions of refugees from Syria’s civil war and internally displaced persons live in the region of the epicenter, in tents and other temporary housing.

It is winter there.

National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan issued a statement saying, “The United States is profoundly concerned by the reports of today’s destructive earthquake in Türkiye and Syria. We stand ready to provide any and all needed assistance. President Biden has directed USAID [the U.S. Agency for International Development, responsible for administering civilian foreign aid] and other federal government partners to assess U.S. response options to help those most affected. We will continue to closely monitor the situation in coordination with the Government of Türkiye.”


February 6, 2023 (Monday)

The Chinese spy balloon shot down off South Carolina on Saturday after spending four days in U.S. airspace will almost certainly make the history books but not because, by itself, it is a hugely significant factor in the changing relationship between the U.S. and China under President Joe Biden. The reason the balloon will be remembered in the future is that the Republican response to it has been so completely unrelated to reality, and has been so magnified by the media, that it has provided a window into the dysfunction of modern politics.

The facts are these: On Saturday, January 28, a Chinese airship entered U.S. airspace north of the Aleutian Islands, then crossed Alaska. It left U.S. airspace, then reentered over northern Idaho on Tuesday, January 31. On February 1 it was over Montana. On February 3 it was near St. Louis, Missouri. On Saturday, February 4, the pilot of an Air Force F-22 shot the airship down in shallow water off the coast of South Carolina, where the wreckage could be recovered.

The Trump administration had an inconsistent relationship with China. Trump attacked China in a trade war early in his presidency, placing tariffs on a range of products (which induced China to retaliate, prompting Trump to pump $28 billion into the U.S. farming sector to compensate for lost revenue). But by 2019, according to Trump’s national security advisor John Bolton, Trump “pleaded” with Chinese leader Xi Jinping to help him get reelected in 2020, and inked a deal for China to buy significant amounts of the farm products it had turned to other countries to provide after the tariffs (that was why Trump downplayed China’s role in hiding Covid in the early months of 2020). According to former representative Adam Kinzinger (R-IL), Trump also asked congressional leaders to “lay off” Xi, because Trump didn’t want to disappoint Xi.

In contrast, Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken have worked to counter China by building Indo-Pacific cooperation, reinforced U.S. support for Taiwan, established export controls on technology that have hamstrung the Chinese semiconductor industry, worked to counter Chinese investment in Africa, and enhanced security cooperation with South Korea and Japan.

But the balloon sparked a frenzy from Republicans insisting that Biden had been weak on China or even was working for China: right-wing talk show host Mark Levin said Biden is “bought and paid for by the Communist Chinese government,” and former president Trump said that Biden “has surrendered American airspace to Communist China.” Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said China was showing “that the United States is once-great superpower that’s hollowed out, it’s in decline.” South Carolina Republican representative Joe Wilson—the man who shouted “You lie” at President Obama—said that Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris should resign from office because of the balloon.

In fact, U.S. standing in the world has strengthened considerably since Biden took office, and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which Trump tried to scuttle, is strong enough that Sweden and Finland want to join.

It also turns out that at least three similar balloons crossed into U.S. airspace while Trump was president. Today, General Glen D. VanHerck, who oversees the North American Aerospace Defense Command, or NORAD, told reporters today that this weekend’s balloon was at least the fifth that had come into U.S. airspace, including at least three during Trump’s presidency, but that NORAD didn’t know about that until the intelligence community—under Biden—notified them.

As for the fact that Biden waited to shoot the thing down until it flew over the water, the administration says it did not want to take the risk of downing it over the American people. VanHerck estimated it weighed about 2,000 pounds, carried equipment the size of a regional jet, and was about 200 feet tall. As terrorism expert Malcolm Nance wrote on Twitter: “WHY let spy balloon in our space? 1) It was 18.5 miles up, almost in space. 2) it sends data link to PRC. We can intercept that & learn what China knows. We can jam it so they see nothing new. 3) The collection system is ours & can reconstruct it. They lose asset & we win spy game[.]” Indeed, U.S. officials say they blocked the instruments from gathering intelligence, and turned the tables to gather intelligence from the equipment itself.

You would think this balloon marks terrible U.S. weakness and is the most important thing to happen in years. But, in fact, the U.S. is stronger internationally than it has been in a while, and the balloon is just one more piece of a larger story about the changing relationship between China and the United States.

The breathless attention paid to the balloon starved a story that mattered far more in the long term: the economy under Biden has shown extraordinary job growth—another 517,000 jobs added in January—and the unemployment rate is at a low that has not been seen since 1969 (not a typo). Inflation is dropping. Today, Carly Wanna at Bloomberg noted that since the Inflation Reduction Act became law, more than 100,000 clean energy jobs have been created in the U.S. After months of reports that we are on the brink of a recession, today Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said the chances of a recession are low. “You don’t have a recession when you have 500,000 jobs and the lowest unemployment rate in 50 years,” she said.

This economic news is not a blip; it is proof that Biden’s revival of the traditional understanding of how the economy works, shared by both parties before the 1980 election of Ronald Reagan, works.

Biden has rejected the trickle-down economics of the Republicans, which is based in the idea that moving capital upward will prompt investment in the economy and help everyone. In its place he has revived the older idea that investing in ordinary Americans and infrastructure creates widespread prosperity. His plan is a reversal of 40 years of economic policy, and we need to pay attention to it.

Biden has been crystal clear about the meaning behind his policies and has challenged House speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to lay out for the American people his own policies in a proposed annual budget. Instead, McCarthy is obfuscating, mixing together the debt ceiling, on which Biden refuses to negotiate because it is about funding obligations already incurred—in large part under Trump—and the budget, on which Biden has said he’s quite happy to negotiate.

McCarthy can’t produce a budget because his conference cannot agree on the cuts they insist are imperative. Instead, Republicans are threatening to refuse to lift the debt ceiling, although they lifted it three times under Trump. That refusal would tank the economy just before the 2024 election.

A poll conducted by the Washington Post and ABC News, written up today in the Washington Post, shows that 62% of Americans think Biden has not accomplished much in his two years in office. In fact, his administration ranks as one of the most consequential since the New Deal in the 1930s. Whether you love what he’s done or hate it, to think nothing has happened suggests a terrible disconnect between image and reality. Today at a press briefing, reporters peppered White House Director of the National Economic Council Brian Deese with questions about why that disconnect exists. Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin later tweeted, “Ummm. Heal thyself!”

Two other stories that are in the news today will likely also be remembered. Neo-Nazi leader Brandon Russell, 27, and Sarah Clendaniel, 34, were charged with plotting to bring down the electric power grid in Maryland, hoping to “destroy” Baltimore. In September, Ilana Krill and Bennett Clifford of the Program on Extremism at George Washington University warned that violent extremist white supremacists were focusing on attacking critical infrastructure “in the hopes that it will trigger a cataclysmic confrontation in American society and collapse the country from within.” And attacks on power stations have, indeed, been rising.

Finally, thousands are dead from the 7.8 magnitude earthquake and its strong aftershocks in Turkey and Syria last night. Biden has spoken to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of Turkey and pledged to support our NATO ally. U.S. teams will help search and rescue teams, as well as coordinate other assistance.


Somebody needs to stencil that on Jerome Powell’s forehead. The Fed has to stop raising interest rates or they will create a recession where none exists.


mr burns GIF


But… but… INFLATION!!! /s


Look JPow… you said recession, no backsies, and now congress quaren is going to talk to your manager and get the biggest hugest most perfect recession this country ever saw!


It seems like his metric is to drive unemployment up and wages down. Recession be damned, his goal is to improve corporate profit margins.


Can we get Robert Reich back, please?


Assuming he’s the same guy writing articles on the guardian occasionally, he’s recently suggested jacking up the tax on the top earners above 50%, and racheting up the taxes on capital gains… so, very much yes.


He is one and the same. His background is economics and labor, and he also has a law degree.


He was Secretary of Labor under Clinton.


yes! and, not only for the budget, but because no group of people should be so wealthy. it distorts the economy and generates a ton of perverse incentives


February 7, 2023 (Tuesday)

And then there was President Joe Biden’s 2023 State of the Union address.

This is the annual event in our politics that gets the most viewers. Last year, 38.2 million people watched it on television and streaming services.

What viewers saw tonight was a president repeatedly offering to work across the aisle as he outlined a moderate plan for the nation with a wide range of popular programs. He sounded calm, reasonable, and upbeat, while Republicans refused to clap for his successes—800,000 new manufacturing jobs, 20,000 new infrastructure projects, lower drug prices—or his call to strengthen the middle class.

And then, when he began to talk about future areas of potential cooperation, Republicans went feral. They heckled, catcalled, and booed, ignoring House speaker Kevin McCarthy’s (R-CA) attempts to shush them. At the State of the Union, in the U.S. Capitol, our lawmakers repeatedly interrupted the president with insults, yelling “liar” and “bullsh*t.” And cameras caught it all.

Extremist Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA), her hands cupping her wide open mouth to scream at the president, became the face of the Republican Party.

Biden began with gracious remarks toward a number of Republicans as well as Democrats, then emphasized how Republicans and Democrats came together over the past two years to pass consequential legislation. Speaker McCarthy had asked him to take this tone, and he urged Republicans to continue to work along bipartisan lines, noting that the American people have made it clear they disapprove of “fighting for the sake of fighting, power for the sake of power, conflict for the sake of conflict.”

For the next hour the president laid out a promise to continue to rebuild the middle class, hollowed out by 40 years of policies based on the idea that cutting taxes and concentrating wealth among the “job creators” would feed the economy and create widespread prosperity. He listed the accomplishments of his administration so far: unemployment at a 50-year low, 800,000 good manufacturing jobs, lower inflation, 10 million new small businesses, the return of the chip industry to the United States, more than $300 billion in private investment in manufacturing, more than 20,000 new infrastructure projects, lower health care costs, Medicare negotiations over drug prices, investment in new technologies to combat climate change. He promised to continue to invest in the places and people who have been forgotten.

Biden described a national vision that includes everyone. It is a modernized version of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal, and he very clearly invited non-MAGA Republicans to embrace it. He thanked those Republicans who voted for the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, then tweaked those who had voted against it but claimed credit for funding. He told them not to worry: “I promised to be the president for all Americans. We’ll fund your projects. And I’ll see you at the ground-breaking.”

But then he hit the key point for Republicans: taxes. To pay for this investment in the future, Biden called for higher taxes on corporations and the wealthy. He noted that “in 2020, 55 of the biggest companies in America made $40 billion in profits and paid zero in federal income taxes.” “That’s simply not fair,” he said. He signed into law the requirement that billion-dollar companies have to pay a minimum of 15%—less than a nurse pays, he pointed out—and he called for a billionaire minimum tax. While he reiterated his promise that no one making less than $400,000 a year would pay additional taxes, he said “no billionaire should pay a lower tax rate than a school teacher or a firefighter.” He also called for quadrupling the tax on corporate stock buybacks.

Republicans consider these proposals nonstarters because their whole vision is based on the idea of cutting taxes to free up capital. By committing to higher taxes on the wealthy, Biden was laying out a vision that is very much like that from the time before Reagan. It is a rejection of his policies and instead a full-throated defense of the idea that the government should work for ordinary Americans, rather than the rich.

And then he got into the specifics of legislation going forward, and Republicans lost it. The minority party has occasionally been vocal about its dislike of the State of the Union since Representative Joe Wilson (R-SC) shouted “You lie!” at President Obama in 2009 (Obama was telling the truth); a Democrat yelled “That’s not true” at Trump in 2018 as he, in fact, lied about immigration policy. But tonight was a whole new kind of performance.

Biden noted that he has cut the deficit by more than $1.7 trillion (in part because pandemic programs are expiring) and that Trump increased the deficit every year of his presidency, even before the pandemic hit. And yet, Congress responded to the rising debt under Trump by raising the debt limit, cleanly, three times.

Biden asked Congress to “commit here tonight that the full faith and credit of the United States of America will never, ever be questioned.” This, of course, is an issue that has bitterly divided Republicans, many of whom want to hold the country hostage until they get what they want. But they can’t agree on what they want, so they are now trying to insist that Biden is refusing to negotiate the budget when, in fact, he has simply said he will not negotiate over the debt ceiling. Budget negotiations are a normal part of legislating, and he has said he welcomes such talks. Tonight, once again, he asked the Republicans to tell the American people what, exactly, they propose.

And then Biden did something astonishing. He tricked the Republicans into a public declaration of support for protecting Social Security and Medicare. He noted that a number of Republicans have called for cutting, or even getting rid of, Social Security and Medicare. This is simply a fact—it is in Senator Rick Scott’s (R-FL) pre-election plan; the Republican Study Committee’s budget; statements by Senators Mike Lee (R-UT), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), and Ron Johnson (R-WI); and so on—but Republicans booed Biden and called him a liar for suggesting they would make those cuts, and they did so in public.

Seeming to enjoy himself, Biden jumped on their assertion, forcing them to agree that there would be no cuts to Social Security or Medicare. It was budget negotiation in real time, and it left Biden holding all the cards.

From then on, Republican heckling got worse, especially as Biden talked about banning assault weapons. Biden led the fight to get them banned in 1994, but when Republicans refused to reauthorize that law, it expired and mass shootings tripled. Gun safety is popular in the U.S., and Republicans, many of whom have been wearing AR-15 pins on their lapels, booed him. When he talked about more work to stop fentanyl production, one of the Republican lawmakers yelled, “It’s your fault.”

In the midst of the heckling, Biden praised Republican president George W. Bush’s bipartisan $100 billion investment in HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment.

And then, in this atmosphere, Biden talked about protecting democracy. “For the last few years our democracy has been threatened, attacked, and put at risk,” he said. “Put to the test here, in this very room, on January 6th.”

With lawmakers demonstrating the dangerous behavior he was warning against, he said: “We must all speak out. There is no place for political violence in America. In America, we must protect the right to vote, not suppress that fundamental right. We honor the results of our elections, not subvert the will of the people. We must uphold the rule of the law and restore trust in our institutions of democracy. And we must give hate and extremism in any form no safe harbor.”

“Democracy must not be a partisan issue. It must be an American issue.”

With Republicans scoffing at him, he ended with a vision of the nation as one of possibility, hope, and goodness. “We must be the nation we have always been at our best. Optimistic. Hopeful. Forward-looking. A nation that embraces light over darkness, hope over fear, unity over division. Stability over chaos.”

“We must see each other not as enemies, but as fellow Americans. We are a good people.”

Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders gave the Republican rebuttal. Full of references to the culture wars and scathing of Biden, she reinforced the Republican stance during the speech. “The dividing line in America is no longer between right or left,” she said. "The choice is between normal or crazy.”

She is probably not the only one who is thinking along those lines after tonight’s events, but many are likely drawing a different conclusion than she intended.


im not sure that’s their vision per se. more like the rotting sheep carcass around their wolf of a white ethnostate.


How Bout Both GIF by Joey Bada$$