Republicans repeatedly interrupt Biden during State of the Union address | CNN Politics

Dear Miss Manners: Why are Republicans so rude?

Whatever happened to the values party?

Jeffrey Denny
4 min readFeb 9

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Dear Miss Manners: The other night I was doing my job as President of the United States by delivering the annual State of the Union address.

As usual, it was a hallowed American occasion, held in the House Chambers before 535 Senators and Representatives gathered under the U.S. Capitol dome, a global symbol of American democracy. We were also privileged to welcome a number of American heroes and other wonderful guests. Millions of Americans watched from home.

Like most presidents, I talked about the work we’re doing together that needs doing, what I believe we’ve accomplished, and what we still need to do to make America even stronger. And I asked for unity to get this work done.

So I was surprised, although not completely, that several Congress members ignored protocol, decorum and common decency by interrupting my speech like inebriated comedy club hecklers. They booed, hissed, jeered, and chattered out loud. One Distinguished Colleague from Georgia kept shouting “liar!”

Oddly, every one of the disrupters was a Republican.

Republicans used to be the party of decency, respect, and good manners. They were about good, traditional family, Christian and American values. They spanked children for being disrespectful. They blamed the Democrats for being rude, rowdy, rebellious, permissive, and destroying American values.

Now it’s the Republicans who are rude, and proud of it. They’re still denying, defending or dismissing the violent, deadly attack on the Capitol to illegally overturn a free and fair election and keep their former president in power after the overwhelming majority of Americans voted against reelecting him. And their former president, who was the rudest in modern history, still controls the Republican Party.

My question is, what happened to the Republicans?

— Vexed from Delaware

Dear Vexed:

Miss Manners cautions against tarring all Republicans. The vast majority, one presumes, are good, decent, well-meaning people with good manners, even if they are letting the bad apples spoil their party.

While Miss Manners respectfully is not a political expert, she knows enough to politely explain why the Republican Party has walked away from its traditional values.

First, Republicans were becoming obsolete as America grew more diverse and moved away from them. They had no choice but to rouse and empower a base of conservative White voters who resented being left behind by industrial, economic and social change. This was consistent with the Nixon-era “Southern Strategy” to foment racial division and peel Blue Collar Whites away from the Democrats. More recently, Republicans had to resort to gerrymandering, voter suppression, misinformation and disinformation, incitement of hate and resentment, and other nefarious political strategies to keep power.

Second, the Republican strategies worked. Too well. Now the base rules the party, and through it, even while a distinct minority of Americans, has a great deal of power over the majority and the nation. Unfortunately, many are mean-spirited, rebellious, despise government, and inspired by negativity and hate, especially against people who aren’t like or don’t agree with them.

Third, having created and empowered this base, many Republican politicians have no choice but to perform for it, and act like it, no matter how much it debases them and the party. This is necessary in addition because the party strategically refuses to offer solutions to the problems they cite to rile their base. That is why instead they need to invent, exaggerate, and attack straw men such as Socialism, “wokeness,” “cancel culture,” “grooming” and making children hate each other.

Fourth, and relatedly, the Republican Party needs to foment class war, preying on its base to resent wealthy, privileged, educated elites. Even though many if not most leading Republicans are wealthy, educated, privileged elites. Education (if not wealth and privilege) tends to sand the rough edges and socialize people by opening their minds to better understand humanity and the world. A lack of education makes people more susceptible to cynical political manipulation, misinformation and disinformation and spread it themselves. Even if it endangers them the most, like their denial of the Covid-19 pandemic and climate change.

Finally, and generally, as many have described, the internet and social media — Miss Manners calls it “antisocial media” — have made public discourse nastier. It is easier to attack people and their beliefs anonymously, reactively, and instantly without risk of reprisal. Naturally, the nastiness escalates and eventually becomes the new normal, defining deviancy down, as model legislator Daniel Patrick Moynihan — who worked for President Nixon — coined for a different reason. Republicans justify deviance by saying Democrats are worse, as if nastiness is a race to the bottom. If so, the race is not even close: Republicans are winning by a mile.

All in all, Republicans like those who disrupted your speech have no choice but to be rude. It’s what their voters love.

Jeffrey Denny is a Washington writer. Apologies to Judith “Miss Manners” Martin.

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Jeffrey Denny

A Pullet Surprise-winning writer who always appreciates free chicken.