State of the Union speech marks new era of raucous politics

Liam Frith, Staff Writer

As President Biden’s second year in office comes to an end, a new phase of the presidency has begun. To close off the previous two years, Biden recently made his third State of the Union address. In wrapping up the progress, policy and problems the last two years had in store, Biden was met with what many have called a uniquely divided and polarized room of Congress. But what made this year’s State of the Union so different from previous ones? 

To find out, The Wolf interviewed  Tualatin High School history teacher Christopher Duke to see his perspective on the event, asking, what was normal and what was unique about this year’s speech? 

“Something that was normal was the fact that State of the Union speeches have become mostly inconsequential. They’re largely just the president laying out his agenda for what he wants to accomplish in the next year, which at this point is not going to be very much given the fact Republicans have taken the House. So, in that sense, it was not out of the ordinary. It’s more just a messaging speech, and I think a lot of people saw it mostly as Biden sending out a message for what will be the platform for his re-election campaign.” 

Duke then explained what was notable about the speech.

“The way in which it was maybe historic was perhaps in the very visible and evident clash between President Biden and the House Republicans, who were standing up and at one point calling him a liar, and sort of denouncing him in a very public way,” Duke said. “That level of a lack of decorum is pretty historic. If you go back in time to one of President Obama’s State of the Union speeches, there was a guy from the House who stood up and said, ‘You lie,’ and he was immediately denounced by all the other House Republicans, and he had to issue an apology. This go-around there is not that same pushback, and I think that probably speaks to the moment in history we are currently in, where things seem a lot more divisive and there appears to be more vitriol that has reached into our politics; that I would say is definitely historic.” 

Duke’s analysis of the speech echoes that of many others who saw it as different from previous years. Much attention has been directed to the far-right caucus, with people such as representatives Matt Gaetz, Marjorie Taylor Greene and Lauren Boebert appearing to make the most noise. This was especially seen when President Biden pointed out that some Republicans have proposed cutting key social safety nets, such as Medicare and Social Security. Upon this remark, Republicans in the room collectively erupted in protestations and booing. Notably, Republican Senator Mike Lee, who had previously made cutting these programs a key point of his campaign to get elected, was one of the loudest to protest Biden’s observation, openly yelling at him.

The tumultuous divided nature of this year’s State of the Union has led many to hope for a decrease in the political temperature and a return to previous politics. Whether or not this wish is realized, we will see.