Columns, Minority Report, Opinion

Make the State of the Union boring again

By the time this is published, President Joe Biden will have given his State of the Union address. I have zero interest in his speechand neither should you. 

I’m sure he’ll trot out sympathetic individuals who have suffered a recent tragedy with heroes who are likely to receive a round of bipartisan applause.

He’ll talk about the recent jobs report and record-low unemployment, and then assuage America’s inflation anxieties with promises of progress on that front. Finally, he’ll detail his legislative achievements — of which there are many — and say something about leadership, patriotism or something like that. 

He’s going to talk much and say little, just like every other State of the Union address.

I still believe Biden should send a message to Congress because the Constitution states, “[the president] shall from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.”

But I’d like the message to be a tedious, detailed administrative report filled with facts and figures about the executive branch. This change would not be an innovation, but rather a return to the 19th century. 

During that period, the “annual message,” as it was then called, was “both a lengthy administrative report on the various departments of the executive branch and a budget and economic message,” according to the House of Representatives.

Perfect. The only thing that could improve that structure would be if a civil servant with a monotone voice read it into the Congressional Record. 

 I want to know how staffing is going in each executive department. I want to know how much the defense department spent on coffee grounds last year and how that compares to the prior year’s spending on the same. I want the address to be so dull that it’s only broadcast on C-SPAN. 

My solution would not be a panacea to America’s politics of spectacle but would ameliorate the blight on American politics that is the State of the Union Address.

Biden became president in a turbulent time and has calmed America down after four years of exhausting turmoil. His legislative achievements have already surpassed Obama’s, and he has governed as the most progressive president since Lyndon Johnson. He should wear his mundane success as a badge of honor. 

Businesses kept alive by his stimulus bill, and the American factories getting back to work on chip manufacturing should say: “Thanks, Joe Biden.” His mentioning of those accomplishments in a speech would not actualize them. The bills he signed speak for themselves.

I’m convinced the address only exists so newspaper columnists, cable news hosts, political pundits, social commentators and rabid partisans have something to talk about. 

I’m even more convinced the commentariat has produced a mountain of content about why Biden should not run in 2024 because that would mean four more years of writing about something other than what the president just tweeted. 

The same is true for the cynical politicians who spend more time tweeting than passing laws — these people would rather take and give offense all day than serve their constituents. Eliminating the State of the Union Address would give that rabble one less thing to bark about and fundraise off of.

Unburdening Americans by not giving a showy televised address would be another gift to the country. 

The New York Times and Wall Street Journal’s thoughtful readers would not be troubled with who burped or yawned during Biden’s big speech. CNN and Fox News would not be given wall-to-wall coverage of who clapped at the wrong time. Politics would take another step toward becoming boringwhich is what it’s supposed to be.

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One Comment

  1. Great read Lincoln!!!