By any fair measure, the official response to a State of the Union address is nearly impossible. Once a year, someone is tasked, not only with speaking to the nation on behalf of his or her political party, but also with delivering a pre-written response to a speech he or she hasn’t heard.
It was against this backdrop that Republicans turned to Arkansas’ new governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, despite her troubled credibility. After the public heard President Joe Biden speak about a great American comeback, Sanders seemed eager to argue that the United States resembles a dystopian hellscape.
“[T]he Biden administration seems more interested in woke fantasies than the hard reality Americans face every day,” she said. “Most Americans simply want to live their lives in freedom and peace, but we are under attack in a left-wing culture war we didn’t start and never wanted to fight.”
Her use of the word “fantasies” was, if nothing else, ironic: It was, of course, the right that initiated the so-called culture war decades ago. The idea that conservatives “never wanted to fight” this conflict is at odds with everything we know about national disputes over cultural issues.
“Every day, we are told that we must partake in their rituals, salute their flags and worship their false idols ... all while big government colludes with Big Tech to strip away the most American thing there is — your freedom of speech,” Sanders added, referencing scary problems that exist only in far-right imaginations.
But as my MSNBC colleague Ja’han Jones noted last night, there was one line in the GOP governor’s remarks that stood out as especially memorable.
“The dividing line in America is no longer between right or left. The choice is between normal or crazy.”
Sanders may not fully appreciate on which side of that line she and her party fall. Indeed, the Republican’s warning to the public about steering clear of political “craziness” came shortly after Americans saw Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, among other GOP radicals, heckle Biden in ugly ways for telling the truth during the State of the Union address.
It also came against a backdrop in which Republican leaders are threatening to crash the U.S. economy on purpose unless their unspecified demands are met.
Put it this way: In terms of policy positions and weird cultural grievances, there was very little in Sanders’ speech that Democrats could agree with. That said, it’s likely that many Democratic leaders would be quick to endorse the idea that the dividing line in America is no longer between right or left; the choice is between normal or crazy.