Shouting People Down Sets Bad Precedent | Opinion

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

I think we should be able to vocalize when we disagree with something, something that we consider egregious. Now what the president said was absolutely factual, so I don't really get the Republican outrage. I know you can say that's just one person's proposal to end Social Security, but it's also the second most powerful Republican in the Senate, Rick Scott who made the proposal. Also, Senator Mike Lee is on record saying that he wants to get rid of the Social Security and Medicare. So, I think what President Biden said was factual. I think one of the things that we have to do as a country on some level is to get back to our traditions, and our tradition is that we are gentlemanly during the State of the Union. You disagree by not applauding, and you stay seated while the other side gets up and they applaud in agreement. The shouting each other down, is something that happens in other countries. In the United States we always saw ourselves as above that, and I think it's dragging us down in that way that really makes us look bad.

Marjorie Taylor Greene at Biden's SOTU address
US Republican Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) yells as US President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address at the US Capitol in Washington, DC, February 7, 2023. Greene hit back at panellists on The View after they mocked her fur lined coat. JIM WATSON/AFP/GETTY

It excuses a lot of tradition that I think was positive with our politicians, the fact that they had some sort of collegial respect for one another, but it mimics what's going on outside. We're a divided nation, unfortunately, and that's the kind of behavior you're going to get. I'm kind of in the middle with it. I think every now and again groaning or something like that is fine, but shouting people down and calling them liars, which seems to happen from Republicans pretty much, I think it's a bad precedent. Congress has gone from actually thinking about issues, debating them, discussing them vigorously, to trying to get cable news hits by going viral for something rather than actually doing the work and bidding of the American people. The problem with the news industry is that it's not so much about informing, it is about entertainment, and I think now that's seeped into government where we want to entertain. We want to get our base to pat us on the back and look like we're fighters rather than actually getting things done and working together and recognizing we have differences, but as President Biden said, we're all Americans.

Dr. Jason Nichols is an award winning senior lecturer in the African American Studies Department at the University of Maryland College Park and was the longtime editor-in-chief of Words Beats & Life: The Global Journal of Hip-Hop Culture.

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