President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address seems to have gone over like a MAGA hat at a Black Lives Matter rally. The speech garnered criticism from Republicans and even some on the left. But the response from the far-left progressive wing of the Democratic Party was particularly noteworthy.
During his speech, President Biden repudiated the “Defund the Police” movement, which many have claimed was at least partially responsible for the Democrats’ failure to gain seats in the House in 2020. He affirmed that law enforcement is necessary for safeguarding American lives and keeping the peace.
“Proven strategies like community violence interruption, trusted messengers working the cycle of violence and trauma and giving young people hope,” Biden said. “We should all agree: The answer is not to defund the police. The answer is to FUND the police with the resources and training they need to protect our communities.”
The president’s attempt to distance the party from the radical anti-police stance that became prominent after the murder of George Floyd was not received well by members of “The Squad.” Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Cori Bush (D-MO) remained in their seats as Biden made these comments while most of their Democratic colleagues stood and applauded.
AOC, Ilhan Omar, Cori Bush and some others do not stand for line about $350B to fund police in American Rescue Plan. Cori Bush also does not stand for line about “the answer is not to defund the police.” shouts something and points to her shirt…. https://t.co/fCLisFHeqn
— Emily Brooks (@emilybrooksnews) March 2, 2022
After Biden gave his speech, Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI) gave a public response that focused primarily on climate change. She called on the president to ban federal fossil fuel leasing and to instruct federal agencies to deny permits for new projects. During his speech, the president gave little mention of climate change.
Tlaib also seemed to take issue with Biden’s comments on policing. “We can’t police away homelessness, poverty or our mental health crisis in our country,” she said. “Care, not more criminalization, is how we ensure lasting safety for all.”
Rep. Ocasio-Cortez also had critical words for Biden’s speech. Like Tlaib, she lambasted him for not giving the climate change issue enough attention, calling it a “lost opportunity.” She said: “I think there’s some themes that are left a little bit to be desired for key constituencies in the Democratic base, but the president’s goal was very clear on really projecting a theme of unity and I think he’s still stuck to that.”
The lawmaker argued that the president should have spoken more on getting America off fossil fuels and castigated him for expanding domestic oil supply from the Strategic Petroleum Reserve to address skyrocketing gas prices. This issue is being exacerbated by the Ukraine/Russia conflict.
“Russia is very, very much reliant on the rest of the world buying its oil. We are releasing oil reserves right now in order to ease that, but we shouldn’t be relying on fossil fuels to begin with and that would really solve a lot of these issues,” AOC insisted.
The lawmaker wasn’t too fond of Biden’s stance on immigration. Apparently, he does not embrace the open borders agenda as fully as he should. “The piece on immigration was really just glossed over and we have over 10 — you know, anywhere between 10 to 13 million immigrants in this country that feel desperate for a path to citizenship,” she said during an interview on MSNBC.
She continued: “We heard, you know, some speaking to DREAMers, but DREAMers want their families to be able to stay. They don’t want to be separated from their parents either.”
President Joe Biden has been forced to play a precarious game since taking office in 2021. He has been walking a tightrope between the far-left progressive wing of the party and the establishment moderates. In several instances, he has winked at the far-left crowd while still trying to maintain his moderate bona fides.
But if Biden’s State of the Union speech is any indication, he might finally be realizing which side of the bread the butter is on. The progressive faction of the party does not have the level of influence as it might seem. The fate of the Build Back Better bill demonstrates how little power the far-left has – the majority of the radical provisions included in the proposed legislation were stripped when it became apparent it could not pass.
Perhaps this means President Biden plans to be less accommodating to the progressive faction. It has become clear that the far-left has not done any favors for the party; indeed, AOC’s ilk has been more of a hindrance than benefit. However, it still would not be wise to count them out. The progressive wing of the party will not give up easily, and they are already looking for ways to expand their influence. They might be on the outs right now, but nothing remains static in politics, right?