, April 22, 2024

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I Beg to Disagree: Biden's SOTU Did Not Help Their Cause


  •   4 min reads
I Beg to Disagree: Biden's SOTU Did Not Help Their Cause
By Vincent R. Pozon

While President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. successfully dispelled the image of being a doddering, decrepit old man, as painted by Republicans and some Democrats, his recent State of the Union address failed to secure a single vote from the opposition. Instead, the 81-year-old politician found the strength to alternately bash, taunt, and demonize their choice of candidate. He stood on center stage, with the entire world watching, and accentuated the partisan schism, painting a stark picture of Red vs. Blue. It was a feisty speech that "bore little resemblance to his States of the Union past," remarked Kevin Liptak of CNN. "The president leaned into politics, and at times, shouted and amped up Democrats with some fiery rhetoric... and derided Trump," wrote Deirdre Walsh of GBH.

By attacking the opposition, he may have pleased his supporters but likely alienated potential swing voters. Half the house stood and applauded, and he preached to that choir. When you attack the opposition, you regale your tribe but lose all hope of winning the other side. And the other side is multiplying. As an MSNBC host aptly noted, "he’s developing a whole new generation of young Trumpers."

"Nate Silver, research guru, argues that Biden needs to adopt a persuasion strategy to persuade voters who supported Biden in 2020 but now support Trump," rather than solely rallying the base, as reported in The New York Times.

"The notion of genuine swing voters seems to grow more remote. We live in an era of intense partisanship," wrote Katie Glueck, National Politics Reporter of Politics. "Most people have made up their minds about President Biden and former President Donald Trump years ago. When I asked Patrick Murray, the director of the polling institute at Monmouth University, about who the persuadable voters of 2024 might be, he quipped: 'You want me to name them individually? Because I probably could at this point.'"

Biden has undecideds to win over, for instance, Democrats who feel that his support and funding of the genocide on the Palestinian people is a line crossed.

My disagreement goes beyond stance and tenor

Speechwriters will agree with me: Biden did not leave the audience with one idea, one memorable rallying cry, a creative expression people cannot unhear. He had an arsenal of taunts, jibes, facts, and figures, but nobody pays heed to hard sell, especially not the crowd indoctrinated to believe that mainstream media is politically biased and "working for the deep state, and against them". Critically, I argue that Biden's speech lacked a central idea or compelling message that would resonate beyond the immediate moment. For instance, affirming America's greatness near the end of his SOTU, Obama repeated, "We do big things." Trump spoke of a “great American comeback” in his third State of the Union address.

Rationalization — the force that cements partisan loyalty

When the mind settles on a position, say, a choice of candidate, expect rabid defense, expect condonation of all faults, past and future. This explains why, despite the cases and indictments, the two impeachments, despite being caught by his own words, Trump is embraced, beloved even, myth, line, and sinker.

The conservative Republican congressman who said that rocks falling into the sea cause the rise in sea levels, and not climate change, is sincere in his rationalization. Facts do not matter after a point.

If they are many and you need them to be able to win, you do not argue, you woo. Persuasion supersedes argumentation. However, one cannot woo whom they publicly shame.

Surveys say...

Going back to Biden's State of the Union Address, the question is whether the strategy of aggression and anger worked. Alex Gangitano of The Hill provides us with the judgment of day-after surveys.

"President Biden didn’t see a bump in polling after his State of the Union address last week, with new polls showing no improvement for the incumbent.

"Ahead of the State of the Union, Biden’s approval rating was 40 percent in a Yahoo News/YouGov poll. In a new survey, released Tuesday by the same duo, the president’s approval rating had fallen to 39 percent.

"Also ahead of the State of the Union, former President Trump and Biden were statistically tied in a head-to-head 2024 match-up with 45 percent and 44 percent, respectively. In Tuesday’s poll, they are statistically tied with Trump at 46 percent and Biden at 44 percent.

Other polls also show the president failed to move the needle following his address to Congress. FiveThirtyEight’s calculation of Biden’s approval rating showed him with just more than 37 percent Tuesday. On March 6, the day before the State of the Union, he had just under a 38 percent approval rating from the ABC News pollster."

I could be wrong. All the pollsters and pundits could be wrong. That, or we may have another lesson for future campaigns.


Vincent R. Pozon

After a year of college, Koyang entered advertising, and there he stayed for more than half a century, in various agencies, multinational and local. He is known for aberrant strategic successes (e.g., Clusivol’s ‘Bawal Magkasakit’, Promil’s ‘The Gifted Child’, RiteMED’s ‘May RiteMED ba nito?', VP Binay's 'Ganito Kami sa Makati', JV Ejercito's 'The Good One'). He is chairman of Estima, an ad agency dedicated to helping local industrialists, causes and candidates. He is co-founder and counselor for advertising, public relations, and crisis management of Caucus, Inc., a multi-discipline consultancy firm. He can be reached through vpozon@me.com.


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