While everyone celebrates Joe Biden’s State of the Union address, we must pay attention to the subtle mentions of leading the United States to a more authoritarian society. There are many good aspects to the president’s speech — as noted by the almost insurmountable praise he’s receiving from the political left and some on the political right.
But how much different was it than Trump’s speech in 2018? Not much.
What Biden’s speech proved is just how normalized coded language has become in the U.S. It became very clear early on that the president was more focused on courting white voters and not listening to the Black, Latino, or immigrant community. The speech was eerily similar to Trump’s speech — which many celebrated as well. Media pundits went so far as declaring Trump’s speech as the day he became the president of all people.
Trump made comments throughout his presidency making declarations such as, “I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump — I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough — until they go to a certain point and then it would be very bad, very bad,” but Biden appears to be trying to court those same voters.
The president is trying to capitalize on a moment that brings the left and the right together like no other: war. It may appear that he has bipartisan support on Capitol Hill but the reality is, the extremism embraced by the political right will prove that support is confined. Biden may have been more subtle than Trump, but his domestic agenda isn’t much different than what preceded him.
Even Barack Obama understood the need to reimagine policing by attempting to demilitarize the police. Biden is taking the opposite approach by blindly handing more money to an institution that costs the country $100 billion on policing and $80 billion on incarceration. Adding in the costs of police misconduct, the expense for taxpayers explodes to outlandish amounts of money.
Many cities in America spend more than 20% of their budgets on policing alone. Some of those same cities struggle to provide more basic needs such as education and social services to uplift people out of poverty. Instead of addressing the many issues with the culture of policing, Biden instead discussed his policy of increasing more funding for police without any accountability measures.
To him, it seems, the solution is to throw money at the problem.
When Joe Biden conflated securing the border with immigration reform — two separate issues — he did what many before him have done: combining crime and immigration. Donald Trump did it in 2018 saying, “Tonight, I am calling on the Congress to finally close the deadly loopholes that have allowed MS-13, and other criminals, to break into our country. We have proposed new legislation that will fix our immigration laws, and support our ICE and Border Patrol Agents, so that this cannot ever happen again.”
While Biden didn’t get as specific, extremists think along the same lines. Combining securing the border with immigration is something that has been an issue since the Patriot Act made the Southern Border a national security issue along with criminalizing asylum seekers and migrant families. Truth is, most migrants aren’t criminals at all.
As of February 13, 2022, there are nearly 20,000 asylum seekers in detention centers across the country. As many as 10,000 children are also in custody. Approximately 70% of adults in detention have no prior criminal records. While this may be a drop from the daily average of 42,000 migrants in custody in 2018, there are countless asylum seekers living on the streets in Mexico because of Trump’s Remain in Mexico policy which Biden is upholding.
It’s an issue I routinely discuss when addressing misinformation on social media, right-wing media outlets, and AM radio across the country. The reality is, language that suggests migrants are responsible for crime is dangerous and irresponsible. Biden knows that. But his prejudice routinely gets in the way as we witnessed in the primaries leading up to the 2020 election. It was apparent to many of us when he was questioned by Black people and Latinos on the campaign trail.
Biden may have been trying to appeal to the other side of the political aisle, but we’ve seen him try this since the primaries in 2019 and it’s clear conservatives have no interest in backing him. They continue to argue he will defund the police despite his assertions discussing more funding for cops — just like they claim he’s responsible for an open border. Again, Republicans claim immigration is responsible for the rise in crime in cities across the country.
Whether intentional or not, Biden helped fortify that lie in his State of the Union address.