Biden’s Third State of the Union Address

America has never been more divided; the disgruntled House Floor rings symbolic.
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address on March 7th, 2024. 
Credit: Getty Images
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address on March 7th, 2024. Credit: Getty Images

Division and Tension on the House Floor

Last night, amid one of America’s most divisive times in modern history, President Biden delivered his third State of the Union Address. The House Floor displayed a clear dividing line of red ties versus blue as Biden arrived late to the podium, flanked by Vice President (and Senate President) Kamala Harris and new Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-LA). Biden addressed the controversial topics being debated nationwide, such as reproductive rights, economic troubles, the Israel/Palestine conflict, the Russia/Ukraine conflict, the border crisis, his own age, and more.

The tension in the House was palpable, with scenes such as that of Republican Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) confronting President Biden while decked out in Trump gear, and vehement chanting from democratic politicians of “four more years.” No one seemed to be a happy camper in the room, with many individuals from the crowd yelling out at Biden, and him being forced to come up with on-the-spot responses in return. 

Vice President Harris’s eager standing ovations for each of Biden’s points contrasted starkly with Speaker Mike Johnson’s skeptical, irritated expressions and spared claps. While the room was constantly booming with applause throughout Biden’s 68-minute address, cameras panned to the many angry faces that littered the room.

It was quite the scene, emphasizing American politics’ likeness to that of a theatrical production. Former Representative George Santos (R-NY), who was expelled from the House of Representatives following his numerous scandals, was in attendance, much to the dismay of his former colleagues. He, and other controversial characters in politics made the room feel melodramatic. Throughout the speech, the theatrics of chanting and heckling from both sides dropped many jaws at home about how polarized the country has become.

Additionally, many attendees sported pins and outfits emphasizing the issues most important to them, or areas in which they feel President Biden’s administration has failed. Pins with the number 153 were seen on the lapels of many democratic figures, calling attention to the 153 days that hostages have been held in custody in Gaza.  Many democratic women wore white to bring attention to women’s rights in light of recent rulings and legislation regarding reproductive services. Republican figures wore pins and items that called attention to the border crisis and their dissatisfaction with Biden’s approach to mending it, such as MTG’s shirt that honored Laken Riley, a 22-year-old woman killed by an illegal immigrant.

Marjorie Taylor Greene and other members of Congress repping their respective beliefs.
Credit: Getty Images

The Speech

There’s no doubt that America was concerned about how Biden would perform for one of his most important yearly appearances. Biden’s age and sharpness has been a common point of debate for the American people, largely emphasized by the right, and his late arrival raised some worry. Nonetheless, Biden arrived on the House Floor and made his rounds, greeting the many attendees before approaching the podium and beginning his State of the Union Address.

“If I were smart, I’d go home now,” was one of his first remarks as he began, addressing the opposition from many in the room. He began by briefly chronicling America’s history in an attempt to emphasize the significance of the present moment. He emphasized that democracy has been under attack both at home, and overseas.

The Economy

Biden touched on a slew of major and minor issues, fitting in more statements and statistics than anyone could possibly recall. He placed a large emphasis on the current state of the economy, where he sees it going, and why. He discussed his administration’s accolades, such as the creation of 15 million jobs in the past year, unemployment being at a 50-year low, inflation decreasing continually, and a record 16 million Americans having started small businesses.

He talked at length about the creation of jobs in America, and doing this by bringing the means of production back home to domestic manufacturers. He accused Former President Donald Trump (whom he unwaveringly referred to as his “predecessor” and nothing more) of failing to “buy America” and produce domestically, highlighting Biden’s own promise to produce on and buy from our own land.

Biden made many economic demands, such as for big corporations and the wealthy to pay their fair share of taxes, for the federal minimum wage to be raised, for the deficit to continue to be reduced, and to get rid of all hidden fees. Biden criticized Trump’s approaches to all of these issues, making apparent how he would achieve these goals if elected for another term.

Foreign Conflicts

The president made a point to address Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, and heartily stated, “Ukraine can stop Putin if we stand with them.” Biden outlined how America will provide Ukraine with weapons and means of defense against Russian forces, but will not be putting American soldiers in the middle of this conflict. This got applause from both political parties, as the involvement of our soldiers in foreign conflicts is a sacrifice that hits close to home for many. Biden made the point that we need to stop Putin, as he believes he will not stop at invading just Ukraine.

Rep. Bill Pascrell Jr. (D-N.J.) with a Ukrainian draped flag around his shoulders while holding up four fingers for “four more years.”
Credit: Gabriella Demczuk, The Washington Post

Biden mentioned Trump telling Putin “do whatever the hell you want,” much to the opposition of Republican figures in the room. Biden emphasized that he strongly disagrees with this mentality, and that we must stand up to Putin, stating that if the U.S. walks away, all of Europe is at risk. 

“We will not walk away. We will not bow down. I will not bow down,” he commanded.

Addressing the elephant in the room, Biden made clear his stance on the Israel/Palestine conflict. He first expressed sympathies for the countless Israeli and Palestinian casualties, and then made his respective comments on both sides of the issue. 

He outlined the horror of the 1,200 innocent Jewish people slaughtered by the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas, and how October 7th was the deadliest day for Jewish people since the Holocaust. Biden also touched on the hostages taken, stating that he will not rest until American Jewish citizens’ loved ones are brought home.

He stated that Hamas could end the conflict by surrendering, but that additionally, Israel has a fundamental responsibility to protect the innocent civilians of Gaza throughout their questionable defense efforts. Biden reminded Americans of how 30,000 innocent Palestinians have been killed in the conflict, while over 2 million more have been displaced with their cities in ruin, and a lack of food, water, and medicine. 

Biden claims that the American government has been working nonstop to establish a ceasefire and to get American hostages home. He shared that American supplies will be brought to help civilians in Gaza, and hammered home that Israel must do its part to allow aid into Gaza, and to ensure civilians and humanitarian workers aren’t caught in the crossfire.

“The only solution is a two-state solution,” Biden remarked. The floor erupted into applause as the President denounced the nations’ violent refusals to coexist. He insisted that no other path guarantees peace.

Reproductive Rights

In light of the recent Alabama Supreme Court ruling on IVF, Biden addressed the threat to reproductive rights posed by justices and legislators across the nation. He promised to guarantee the right to use IVF nationwide and called out the SCOTUS justices (sitting front row with their standard stoic expressions) on their overturning of Roe v. Wade, stating that it led to the threats to women’s health happening across the country.

Biden also mentioned that Trump was determined to see Roe v. Wade overturned and implied that he would not protect reproductive rights if reelected as president. He had some guests in the audience present who had various experiences relating to the issue, such as Kate Cox of Texas. Cox had a fetus of fatal condition, and her own future fertility, and life, were at risk. Texas had banned abortion at that time, so she had to leave the state to get one. Biden highlighted how traveling to have an abortion was not a luxury that many are afforded, and that America should not be criminalizing doctors for providing care to their patients.

Kate Cox of Dallas, Texas (middle) standing before President Joe Biden while he delivers the State of the Union address.
Credit: Andrew Harnik, ASSOCIATED PRESS

“Send me a Congress that respects the right to choose, and Roe will be the law of the land again,” declared Biden, after assuring his supporters that his administration would win the upcoming election to protect women’s rights.

Border Crisis

Biden also touched on the crisis occurring at our southern border, expressing distaste for the fentanyl and other drugs being smuggled into our country, as well as for the number of migrants being held at the border.

He was met with a cacophony of objections from Republicans, who blame Biden for the chaos at our border with Mexico. Biden called attention to the border bill (that would prevent the separation of families) being “derailed’ by Congress, much to Marjorie Taylor Greene’s audible dismay. In response, he picked up a button with Laken Riley’s name on it, showing MTG and America his solidarity with those who’ve been impacted by the border crisis. 

Despite empathizing with those killed by illegal immigrants who have surpassed our unsecured border, Biden stated “I will not demonize immigrants. I will not separate families.” He also remarked that he would not place travel bans on certain countries like Trump did, claiming that this was discrimination against the Islamic faith. Ultimately, he called on legislators to secure the border and provide a pathway for immigrants to go through the citizenship process.

The State of the Union and Biden’s Conclusion

For the grand statement that all watching were waiting for, Biden stated “The state of our union is strong and getting stronger,” with Speaker Mike Johnson scoffing behind him. That moment illustrated the ongoing discourse about the direction that America is going in; the state of our nation has become subjective and polarized.

In closing, Biden remarked “I know it may not look like it, but I’ve been around awhile,” subtly refuting the nationwide concerns about his age and how it will impact his cognitive abilities. He went on to explain that his age has granted him wisdom and that it has become clear to him that we need to move into the future, leaving ancient ideas behind. Biden concluded that he was optimistic, and that he would strive to serve all Americans. 

Many were dismayed at Biden frequently tripping over his words and seeming lethargic, but the discourse regarding his claims still ensues. It’s unclear whether this speech secured his win for the 2024 presidential election or sabotaged his shot, but time will tell, come this November.

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