Biden’s speech, Scott’s rebuttal showed clear differences between political parties

  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
·3 min read
In this article:
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.
  • Oops!
    Something went wrong.
    Please try again later.

Joe Biden’s address to a truncated joint session of the Congress this week may well go down as one of the most important reports any president has ever given to that body, either in writing or in person. Indeed it best compared to some of the written annual reports that Abraham Lincoln made to the Congress during his time of unprecedented crisis and division. Unlike Lincoln’s reports, Biden’s political opposition got to offer a formal rebuttal to his remarks. As it happened, seldom has the country seen such a stark contrast in the visions that Joe Biden and Sen. Tim Scott offered about the state of the country and the role that government has in changing it for the better.

The president framed his remarks around the two topics of crisis and opportunity. “The worst pandemic in a century. The worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. The worst attack on our democracy since the Civil War.” Later he made clear there was also a racial crisis, exacerbated by the disproportionate number of persons of color among COVID’s victims, as well as by the spate of police killings of unarmed black men during the past year. Looming above all these challenges was the climate crisis.

He then reviewed what his government had done in its first 100 days to address these crises: the 220 million vaccinations, the $1,400 relief checks sent to 85% of American households, the 800,000 additional persons getting health care, the cutting in half of child poverty, the creation of 1,300,000 new jobs. All this was putting the economy on track to grow by 6% in 2021, the best mark in more than forty years. For the future he offered plans to transform infrastructure to include transportation, water supply, power grid, child and elder-care, and education.

To grow the economy and to meet the climate challenge, he proposed quantum increases in investment in renewable energy, electric vehicles and batteries, and research to further the development of technology to provide the means for further progress. In tandem with these proposals the president called for a $15 minimum wage, an equal pay law, as well as one protecting labor’s right to organize,

Then the kicker, which left all the Republicans motionless: Biden proposed to pay for his transformative proposals by tax reform that would have the wealthy and corporations paying their fair share and would restore the IRS’s capability of discovering and prosecuting tax fraud and evasion.

America, Joe Biden announced, was once more committed to being a leader in the international order to meet the challenges of the 21st century. No more libertarian approach, ala Donald Trump, that regarded international relations as either transactional or zero-sum competition. Biden was also committed to rooting out the historically-rooted systemic racism in our society. All this in defense of a democracy which a Trump-inspired mob had nearly overturned just this past January. In defense of a government, which, as Biden reminded us, is not some alien force, but us – “we the people.” How can we use our own power to improve our lives as a people? Biden was showing the way.

And then along came Tim Scott, the Republicans’ dream: a Black, religious libertarian who uses his life story to preach that earthly salvation lies in having a mamma who prays and works hard enough for you. Government only wastes your hard-earned money through its overreach. No real crisis here at all, folks. God and rugged individualism conquer all. Better yet, Scott is perfectly willing to assure us that “America is not a racist country,” that the restrictive voting legislation flooding Republican legislatures is not racist-based, and that Biden, through his policies, is dividing the country. History, common sense, and polling put the lie to all such egregious gaslighting.

This was the pathetic Republican “rebuttal” to a masterful presidential presentation. The evening could not have more clearly driven home the comparative state of America’s two major parties.

Robert Emmett Curran is a Professor of History Emeritus at Georgetown University.

Our goal is to create a safe and engaging place for users to connect over interests and passions. In order to improve our community experience, we are temporarily suspending article commenting