What Biden didn’t say in his State of the Union address
Saul Loeb/Pool via AP

Perhaps the most surprising thing about Biden’s State of the Union address the other night is that nary a word was said about the storming of the Capitol. How could that be? A scant few weeks after the coup’s first anniversary and no mention? What manner of political calculus led Washington’s top Democratic strategists to conclude that it was either impolitic or impolite to mention one of the most important events in this country’s recent history? Was it a focus group, a poll, a gut-felt hunch, plain old stupidity, or what?

Communist Party leader Gus Hall used to say that the essence of being president was in offending the least number of people, but after January 6th, this is ridiculous!

The answer might lie in the content of a speech pitched smack dab in the middle of center field. After almost 20 minutes of casting fire and brimstone at Putin for invading Ukraine, Mr. Biden called for increased police funding and securing the U.S.’s southern border, calls that received standing ovations from both sides of the aisle.

So how are you going to win the midterms by appealing mainly to independents and soccer moms? Hmm.

Four “noncontroversial” unity proposals were premiered at the joint session of Congress: combating opioid addiction, outlawing ads targeted at children, providing aid to veterans, and renewing the war on cancer. Could these, along with repackaged parts of Build Back Better, be the main planks in this year’s Democratic legislative agenda?

Hey, Mr. Biden, better call Manchin and Sinema and be ready with some big bucks. You can forget about Mitch McConnell supporting anything you do now or, if you don’t change course, in what appears to be your exceedingly short-lived political future.

Now, don’t get me wrong: there were some good things in the speech. The president did stress that today, the country’s in a better place. But hell, this was true the second after Trump left office. Unemployment is lower, COVID is receding, and infrastructure legislation has passed.

And the speech did bring attention to voting rights, the PRO-ACT, and trans rights, even though there’s zero chance of passage of House-approved legislation on these or any other front in the near term.

In addition, there were strong appeals in the State of the Union to working-class issues like tax fairness, women’s equality, and child care. With respect to tax fairness Biden said, “Just last year, 55 Fortune 500 corporations earned $40 billion in profits and paid zero dollars in federal income tax.” He called for a 15% tax on global corporations in response. Good.

But, while working-class issues were mentioned, they seemed rather muted. By way of comparison, Rep. Rashida Tlaib gave a reply to Biden on behalf of the Working Families Party that called for electing a working-class majority to Congress around issues like canceling student debt, raising the minimum wage, recalculating the poverty index, and turning the Rust Belt into a Green Belt. She also took aim at the military budget.

Now that’s an agenda one can relate to instead of the other day’s repositioning. Come on guys! Average is not going to win the midterms! Enough with projecting Biden’s sometimes understated, sometimes overstated  “I’m-the-normal-guy” image and “It’s either me or the President of Krazyland.”

Indeed, Biden on Tuesday night chose to largely stay away from the sharper issues that have divided the country. This stood in sharp contrast to the GOP reply given by Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds. Reynolds centered her remarks on inflation, mandates, children’s education (read critical race theory), immigration, and government “overreach.” The Republicans have no fear of feeding red meat to their base.

Thus, the state of the union remains uncertain and unstable, despite the beginnings of a return to normal. But with inflation and now war in Europe, normal may not be enough. People are fearful and nervous, and one has a very strong feeling that the election is going to turn on the price of gas.

Yes, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine looms large: it was wrong and in violation of international law. In the words of the CPUSA’s National Board, “War between states is never an acceptable solution and must be rejected in the strongest terms.”

The working class of both countries deserves support and solidarity, as does the growing peace movements there. One million signed a petition for peace in Russia recently. That’s huge!

But look: Let’s get our priorities straight: The main task has to be to work to develop a peace movement and to change the Biden administration’s policy. That’s the best way and only way to support the workers of Russia and Ukraine.

The context set by U.S. imperialism’s role over the past months cannot be ignored, including Cold War rhetoric, saber rattling, and what might be called the de facto NATO-ization of Ukraine. By NATO-ization is meant the arming of the country beginning with Trump and continued by Biden, and the building of infrastructure with potential military uses along with provocative Western military exercises by U.S. and U.K. armed forces.

In this regard, the building of the peace movement must be considered within the context of fighting the fascist danger. In other words, it’s imperative that a broad movement be built around the key issues today: a cease fire, withdrawal of troops and setting a date for such, ending sanctions, bringing in the UN. These actions could set the stage for additional future steps for peaceful coexistence, arranging regional security, including ending the supply of arms. Here we should be careful not to substitute anti-imperialist positions for what the broader forces in the peace movement may be ready to endorse.

The main task has to be to work to develop a peace movement and to change the Biden administration’s policy.

Strong stances will have to be taken and unity among broad forces fought for. “All-peoples unity” is necessary. As for an election strategy that soft peddles the January 6th insurrection suggested by its absence from mention in the state of the union, as truckers used to say, “The only thing in the middle of the road are white lines and dead jack rabbits.”

Wake up y’all before it’s too late: What’s going to win this election is a mass movement organized around the issues—the movement has to adapt to and meet the political moment. The point here is that the issues can’t be determined by elites; they have to be constructed and fought for from the ground up by the broad masses of our class and people.

This article is based on remarks given by Joe Sims at a meeting of the Communist Party USA’s National Board on March 2, 2022.


Joe Sims
Joe Sims

Joe Sims is co-chair of the Communist Party USA. He is also a senior editor of People's World and loves biking.