Joe Biden delivers “feisty” State of the Union address

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Joe Biden delivers “feisty” State of the Union address

March 8, 2024 -

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Thursday March 7, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Thursday March 7, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol, Thursday March 7, 2024, in Washington. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

President Biden delivered his State of the Union address Thursday night, speaking for sixty-eight minutes and repeatedly interacting with the gathered members of Congress in a way that’s been described as somewhere between “fiery” and “feisty.” Given the repeated mentions—and examples—of the president’s cognitive decline over the course of his time in office, I was left both impressed and a bit surprised by the consistency with which he delivered the speech.

In the moments leading up to the address, journalists repeatedly noted that Biden’s delivery was going to be just as important as what he said. But the content still matters. To that end, the president addressed:

  • Threats to freedom and democracy, both internationally and at home
  • Access to IVF and abortion, with the promise to restore Roe v. Wade as the law of the land if the American people send him a Congress that will pass the legislation
  • Working to put a ceiling on drug prices and medical care
  • Economic issues like the housing market, inflation, and tax hikes on big corporations and the wealthy
  • Education-related topics like universal preschool and raises for public school teachers
  • Issues at the border, with much of the blame pointed at Republicans who failed to pass the legislation put forth earlier this year
  • The war in Israel, which included a clear message of the evils perpetrated by Hamas and the responsibility they bear for the war’s continuation, as well as a call for Israel to do more to protect civilians in Gaza

Overall, it was a lengthy speech in which Biden covered a number of issues—though to varying degrees of truthfulness—that will continue to play a pivotal role in the buildup to this November’s election. And while he rarely mentioned former president and presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump by name, typically referring to him as “my predecessor,” it was clear that Biden’s primary goal was to draw a clear distinction between his policies and those of the Republicans.

To that end, his speech was quite successful, which is good because—as is the case with most State of the Union addresses—many of the promises he made and goals he outlined are not within his power to keep.

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Why no president can keep every promise

In the leadup to this year’s address, Politico looked back on Biden’s 2023 speech to gauge how well he kept many of the promises he made last February. Each pledge was graded using the following scale: success, in progress, needs improvement, and fail.

While he received marks from all four categories, “in progress” was the runaway winner. And, in most cases, Politico’s reasoning was that the promises were simply not in Biden’s power to deliver on his own. He needed congressional help, and that has been increasingly hard to find.

As a result, his scores vary little from those of previous years because all politicians tend to make promises they do not have the authority to fulfill.

And that’s a good thing.

You see, the inability of one branch of government to enact sweeping changes without the help of the other branches is a feature of the American system, not a bug. Unfortunately, many on both sides of the political aisle don’t see it that way anymore.

Why democracy is still best

Our founding fathers had a healthy respect for the dangers and limitations of human depravity. As a result, they set out to create a system of government that was best equipped to protect its people from their leaders.

C. S. Lewis articulated that line of reasoning well when he wrote that he believes in democracy more than the other forms of government “because I believe that no man or group of men is good enough to be trusted with uncontrolled power over others.”

And while this form of government may make it more difficult to accomplish sweeping changes or address some of the very real problems that require government assistance, the alternative is far worse. Yet, for the system to work, people have to take a degree of responsibility for their own lives instead of asking their political leaders to fix everything for them.

As Sarah Isgur described, “No constitution for self-government can save a people from voluntarily ending their own reign. ‘A republic, if you can keep it’ wasn’t just a foreboding turn of phrase—it was a statement of historical literacy.”

So how can we go about avoiding that fate?

The most consequential election ever?

The first step is to stop treating the government like God.

There is only one being that is meant to have absolute authority in our lives and only one being on whom we should ultimately depend to meet our needs and guide our lives: God. Anyone else, whether it’s a family member or friend, all the way to whomever occupies the Oval Office, will fall short of what we need because God designed us to need him.

And that leads to the second step: Don’t forget that God is still on his throne.

The next eight months are going to be filled with rhetoric from both sides describing this November’s election as the most consequential in history, with the fate of our democracy—if not our world—depending on who wins. And it’s just not true.

As Jonah Goldberg put it, “Presidents don’t matter as much as they would like you to think . . . Five years from now, America will be okay. You’ll probably be okay. And if you are not okay, it will in all likelihood have nothing to do with who was elected president in 2024.”

So don’t buy in to the rhetoric, and any time you’re tempted to worry about what your life will look like in the wake of the elections this fall, take those fears to God and ask him to help you remember that who is sitting in the Oval Office pales in importance to who is sitting on the throne of heaven.

And his term will never end.

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