It Wasn't Republicans Who Pushed the Breakdown of Traditional Etiquette | Opinion

The following is a lightly edited transcript of remarks made by Ben Weingarten during a Newsweek debate about President Biden's 2023 State of the Union speech. You can listen to the podcast here:

I'd love it if we were a polite society that did not engage in the kind of rancor that we've seen repeatedly in Washington DC. I find it funny that this is coming from Democrats though. It wasn't Republicans who have pushed for the breakdown of traditional etiquette in these sorts of situations. You had Nancy Pelosi infamously rip up Donald Trump's speech. You had Democrats throughout the Trump presidency, during State of the Union addresses howling, not participating, and walking out in some instances. This is symptomatic of where we are as a society. I wish we weren't there, but I think it's entirely to be expected that this is where we are and that the traditional rules, the kind of morality that governed how we acted in these public situations is lost. If you really want to go back in history, we had representatives caning other representatives on the floor of the house, so it's not like there hasn't been rancor and discord before. It's obviously regrettable, but I think it's completely understandable.

Joe Biden at his SOTU address
US President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address in the House Chamber of the US Capitol in Washington, DC, on February 7, 2023. Biden's odds on winning the 2024 presidential election improved after the speech, according to bookmaker Betfair. JACQUELYN MARTIN/POOL/AFP/GETTY

The State of the Union should be in address to all Americans. A president at his best can even make his foes concede that I disagree with his points, but they're grounded in reason. There's merit to them. Even if I disagree with those reasons, and it upsets me greatly, I can understand where they're coming from. This speech just rung hollow, not only in contrast to his past rhetoric in any number of scenarios, but then also the policies themselves. Joe Biden, in contrast to his rhetoric and record in basically 50 years in Washington, has probably been the most radically leftist president that we have ever had. I'm not saying it's as transformative as an LBJ, or Barack Obama, or an FDR, but I would say that the policies put forth have clearly broken from the kind of democrat establishment standard, and the own standard that he has set. How are you going to unite people when you take a slew of policies that are so antithetical to the views of Americans? And then he calls tens of millions of Americans naziesque bigots and racists. If you conflate and equate the conservative worldview with a bigoted worldview, and then claim that want to bring everyone together, it just rings us totally hollow to me.

Ben Weingarten is deputy editor for RealClearInvestigations. He also contributes to The Federalist, the New York Post, The Epoch Times, and other publications. Subscribe to his newsletter at, and follow him on Twitter: @bhweingarten.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.