The Constitution of the United States only establishes that the president of the country must give Congress “from time to time & rdquor; a state of the union address and suggest legislation. The presidents could not do it every year or, if they wanted, they would have the option of sending that analysis in writing. The ritual, however, has become an essential political event in the US, one of the occasions that most guarantees the attention of millions of citizens and Joe Biden he will follow this tuesday at nine o’clock (three in the morning in mainland Spain).
It does so with several goals on the agenda, including making the case, if only tacitly, for supporting a presidential re-election campaign in 2024 that the octogenarian Democrat is expected to officially announce in spring. Within his party, the voices that question the opportunity of this candidacy have been mitigated, especially after the more favorable results than expected in the legislative elections. However among citizens, including many Democratic voters, doubts persist, according to polls.
Biden, who in recent weeks has been plagued by the crisis of having an open investigation by the Department of Justice for his irregular handling of classified papers, has prepared a message reviewing successes of his first two years in office and of optimism, even acknowledging the pessimism among citizens who collect multiple polls. He arrives, according to advisers and White House staff, willing to list legislative achievements such as the approval with bipartisan support of the infrastructure law, the impulses given to the semiconductor industry in the US or the approval (it is only supported by Democrats) of the so-called inflation reduction law, which promoted investments for the green transition (viewed with suspicion in Europe due to its protectionism), fiscal changes and measures to contain citizen spending in health.
It also arrives supported by good economic data that show the inflation brakehe drop in unemployment to levels not seen for more than five decades, or the fall in the prices of gasoline. And he must walk the fine line between celebrating them and recognizing the citizen’s feeling, in which these advances are not reflected.
According to a recent Pew Center survey only 21% of Americans believe that economic conditions are positiveanother from ABC and the newspaper ‘The Washington Post’ says that only 34% of citizens see progress in the labor market and in another, 62% thought that the president has not achieved much. And in general Biden continues to have a disapproval rate higher than approval: 52% vs. 43% according to the FiveThirtyEight.com survey aggregate.
unity and division
Biden is also going to include in his speech, as has been anticipated, the traditional call to unity. But those words will come before a joint session of a Congress where, when the Republicans regained control of the Lower House, power has been divided, and where the radicalization of the conservatives now threatens turbulent times, especially and imminently due to a complex negotiation to raise the debt ceiling.
It will be difficult, for example, for them to win applause among Republicans proposals that are anticipated in Biden’s speech such as that of raise taxes for the richest (which Biden already launched in his speech last year but which he did not achieve even with the two Houses in Democratic power) or quadrupling the appraisal for the repurchase of shares. Nor is he expected to have the support of the opposition when he talks about raise social benefits for those who need it most. And when you show your frontal opposition to any cuts to Social Security or Medicarethe public health system for the elderly, its message will have an air of warning about the threat that conservatives represent for those programs with their obsessive fixation on cutting public spending.
Ukraine, China and other topics
Even in foreign policy Biden arrives at a more complicated time than last year. Then Congress was united in backing Ukraine before the war that Russia had just launched, but now in the republican ranks a current is flowing that calls for limiting assistance to kyiv. And the gap between Biden and the Republicans has been exacerbated by the recent incident of the Chinese spy balloon over US territory, which conservatives have taken advantage of to criticize Biden for alleged weakness for taking a few days to approve its demolition, even though the Democratic president has maintained a hard line policy with China.
The complex relationship with Beijing has earned with this last case a guaranteed space in Biden’s speech, but the list of guests invited by the president to attend the speech also allows us to glimpse other topics that he will touch on in his speech. Together with the Ukrainian ambassador, invited for the second consecutive year, and together with Bono, invited for his fight against AIDS, will be among others the parents of Tire Nichols, the young black man brutally murdered by the Memphis police. There will also be Paul Pelosi, the husband of former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi who was attacked with a hammer in an act of political violence.
There will also be survivors of cancer and of the Holocaust and you will see the man who stopped the author of one of the last massacres with firearms in California. Biden has also invited a woman who needed to terminate her pregnancy but ran into restrictive Texas law implemented after the Supreme Court struck down constitutional protections for abortion. And she has also extended invitations to the father of a fentanyl overdose victim and to people who will give her a chance to talk about immigrationstudent debt forgiveness, support for veteranshe gay marriage wave working class.