Sarah Huckabee Sanders Plays Trump’s Spin Doctor in SOTU Response
After President Joe Biden’s calls for unity in his annual State of the Union address, Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders stoked right-wing grievances in her official Republican response on Tuesday night.
Sanders went down the list of Republican complaints: A president and administration ensconced in “woke fantasies”; the constant siege of “a left-wing culture war”; a country in which “our children are taught to hate one another on account of their race, but not to love one another or our great country.” This is life in the “radical left’s America,” Sanders declared as she delivered the remarks from Arkansas, where she entered the governor’s mansion just last month.
The 40-year-old Sanders served as former president Donald Trump’s longest-serving White House press secretary. She ascended to the governorship by showing adequate support to her former boss, if not undying fealty. (“I love the president,” Sanders told Fox News last month when asked if she would endorse Trump’s 2024 campaign, demurring to offer more.) She recounted Trump only in fond reminiscences during Tuesday’s speech, eschewing the topic of Trump’s attempt at reelection by attacking Biden’s. “At 40, I’m the youngest governor in the country, and at 80, he’s the oldest president in American history,” she said before offering this ambiguous conclusion: “It’s time for a new generation of Republican leadership.”
Even if Sanders meant to suggest Trump should no longer lead the party, her speech retreaded the same grievances her former boss favors. “Every day we are told that we must partake in their rituals, salute their flags, and worship their false idols,” Sanders declared, without making clear which rituals, flags, or idols to which she referred. “The dividing line in America is no longer between right or left. The choice is between normal or crazy,” she added.
She accused the Biden administration of “doubling down on crazy” and called the president “unfit to serve as commander in chief.” For contrast, she touted the record of her former boss in dubious soundbites reminiscent of her days spinning Trump’s presidency from the White House briefing room. “President Biden inherited the fastest economic recovery on record” and “the most secure border in history,” she said at one point. “But over the last two years, Democrats destroyed it all.”
The governorship is Sanders’ first elected office. It’s an enormous jump in responsibility for someone who served in a White House communications shop, which offers little practical training for being a chief executive. But Sanders’ rapid ascent and selection as her party’s spokesperson on the night Democrats take their victory lap suggests, perhaps, that throwing red meat to the base is, in fact, what it takes to succeed in the modern GOP.