The UnRepublican Response (State of the Union Part 2)



Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders, R-Ark., waits to deliver the Republican response to President Biden’s State of the Union address, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2023, in Little Rock, Ark. (Al Drago/Bloomberg, Pool)

The Republican Response was supposed to be a time for Republicans to address the nation after the State of the Union. It was the party’s chance to get their message and platform across, and for this deliverance, they chose the newly elected governor of Arkansas, Sarah Huckabee Sanders. The former Press Secretary is the youngest governor in the country, but instead of looking towards the future, she continued to spout the current Republican Party platform of extremism and far-right politics. 


While this speech should be about unity, specifically uniting the country around Republican policies in contrast to the Biden Administration, she started off her speech by attacking Biden himself multiple times. Sanders repeatedly accused the president of telling falsehoods including untrue anecdotes during his speech, and criticized his age. These personal attacks left viewers wondering: why is this necessary? Why attack someone aimlessly, wasting valuable time, instead of discussing why your policies are right for the nation? Furthermore, Sanders accused Democrats as a whole of wanting to rule with government control, impose tyranny, and take away peoples’ money: simply preposterous claims.  


Sarah Sanders continued to attack the Biden Administration and Democrats as she argued that they destroyed what she deemed a fast economic recovery and secure border during the previous administration (which, conveniently, lacks evidentiary backing). She also attacked Democrats for the country’s drug problem and foreign policy weaknesses; all very typical of the Republican Party and failing to represent any new argument that has not been mentioned hundreds of times previously. This very same rhetoric while attacking the Democratic Party has already been espoused by the likes of Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity. Sarah Sanders should have been innovative, and spent her time pressing the Democrats on the issue that Americans tend to care about most: the economy. Instead, she focused on the culture war and making personal digs at Biden, wasting a golden opportunity to lift up her party. 


The only broad policy proposal she made during her speech was an education proposal. Sanders discussed her desire to give parents more power in their childrens’ education and increase teachers’ salaries. This plan by Sarah Sanders has essentially copied what Republican governors have been doing throughout the country by giving parents more control over their children’s education, banning Critical Race Theory, and initiating school choice in the state. 


Finally, to end her speech, Sanders recounted her experience visiting deployed troops with the former president in Iraq during Christmas. She mentioned how the soldiers were shocked and overjoyed to see the President, and all united in chants of “USA! USA! USA!” regardless of their race, gender, political party, sexuality, etc. This was an extremely powerful way to end the speech, as she transitioned into how the Republican Party will fight for the same freedom that these soldiers fight for, inspiring patriotism and a hopeful outlook for this great nation, changing tone from the fear she invoked earlier in the address. 


The State of the Union and Republican Response were juxtapositions of each other, as one was about optimism, the other fear. One was about unity, the other was about division. While the Republican Response had some good, inspiring, and important moments, especially in the later half as Sanders discussed her education proposal and her time with the troops, the speech was also filled with insults and unnecessary attacks that detracted from its ultimate goal: unity, patriotism, and a support of Republican policies. This speech was reminiscent of Sarah Sanders’s time at the White House as the Press Secretary, as both then and now, her speeches were filled with unwarranted attacks and blatant lies. While both speeches were filled with energy, to me, the State of the Union felt like a speech of optimism for the future and bipartisanship, while Sarah Sanders’s address was targeted mainly towards the Republican base, with little of its content actually doing anything to further the Republican Party or the country.