Politics Foreign Affairs Culture

Drinking in the Midst of Decline

State of the Union: Drinking domestics to get through another Biden SOTU.

President Biden Delivers State Of The Union Address

The rules were simple:

A drink for every standing ovation.


A drink for every reference to a member in the gallery.

A drink for every time a piece of Ukraine paraphernalia comes on screen.

A drink for every mention of Ukraine, Zelensky, or Putin.

A drink for every mention of Covid-19.

A drink for every time a mask-wearer was on screen.


A drink for every time Biden said “democracy,” or invoked January 6.

A drink for every time Biden mentioned his predecessor.

A drink for every time Biden said, “my fellow Americans.”

A drink for abortion or any of the common euphemisms.

A drink for every time Biden boasted about jobs or manufacturing.

A drink for every time a Supreme Court justice was on screen.

A drink for every time Gen. Mark Milley was on screen.

Every year the State of the Union comes around, observers of American politics, some casual, some more serious, post their own version of a State of the Union drinking game on social media. As the low-guy on the totem pole on TAC’s full time staff, and the fact I’m the only one with “reporter” in my job title, it fell on me to watch, and then write something about Biden’s second State of the Union address. So, with a rack of Coors Light already in the fridge, I thought to myself, "What the hell. At least I’ll make this year’s State of the Union interesting." I cobbled these rules together from a few of these games online, and added a few rules of my own—the sight of Mark Milley drives me to drink anyways.

I turned on Fox News and started a bit early. Tucker Carlson was still on. With a crack, the first can opened, and I took a few sips as Carlson’s nightly program wound down, preparing my mind and body for what was to come. 

Shortly after Fox’s State of the Union coverage began, Milley came on screen. That’s a drink. The Supreme Court Justices, five (Roberts, Kagan, Kavanaugh, Coney Barrett, Jackson) active, two (Breyer, Kennedy) retired. Seven drinks.

The First Lady entered the gallery shortly after. As she made her way to her seat, Second Gentlemen Douglas Emhoff greeted her. They attempted to share a kiss on the cheek, but both went for the same side. Emhoff planted one right on the First Lady’s lips. I decided to finish my first beer.

I drowned out the Sergeant-at-Arms announcing the president’s entrance with another crack and fizz of a can. President Joe Biden bumbled his way to the rostrum. Biden’s personal health mirrors that of the nation. When Biden came to Washington, the country was seemingly optimistic, attentive, and capable. Five decades later, the country and its president are fragile, forgetful, staggering from one crisis to the next.

But Biden was getting ready to do what he’s done for half a century in Washington—deny the reality that America is an empire on the decline. What better way to detract than opening with a few jokes.

After recognizing the First Lady, Biden casually leaned on the rostrum like it was a bar top, looked at Chief Justice Roberts and said, “By the way, Chief Justice, I may need a court order. She gets to go to the game tomorrow, next week; I have to stay home. We got to work something out here.” Biden’s Philadelphia Eagles square off against the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend in the Super Bowl. He slightly stumbled on the delivery, so it didn’t land so well as he intended.

His next joke did land, however. “I start tonight by congratulating the 118th Congress and the new speaker of the House, Kevin McCarthy,” the president said. “Speaker, I don’t want to ruin your reputation, but I look forward to working with you.”

Biden’s next laugh line went more understated, as it was partially drowned out by applause for Rep. Hakeem Jeffries, the first African American minority leader in history. “He won in spite of the fact I campaigned for him,” the president said.

Explaining the joke often ruins it, but I found this wisecrack particularly revealing. Biden inherited an economy that was quickly recovering, a secure border, and an America largely at peace. Now, the economy is stagnating—the actual force behind slowing inflation—the border is overrun with migrants and drugs, and America is on the cusp of getting into a war with a nuclear power. It’s no secret—this presidency isn’t going particularly well. 

Which is why rumors abound about getting Biden to step aside before 2024—something Biden is well aware of. But invoking his support for Jeffries raises a crucial question to his would-be challengers: What tangible, electoral loss can you pin on me? I beat Trump in 2020, and we overperformed in 2022. Sure, things aren’t great, but I’ve taken back power for the Democrats, and have managed to mostly keep it.

After all the decorum, Biden launched into his introductory remarks. It was a flurry of drinks. Manufacturing and jobs, Covid-19, January 6 and democracy, all mentioned multiple times in the span of a minute or two. Another beer down. 

The brief introduction led Biden to this line:

"When world leaders ask me to define America, and they do, believe it or not, I say I can define it in one word, and I mean this: possibilities. We don’t think anything is beyond our capacity. Everything is a possibility."

It was confirmation that Biden, for the moment, was on his game. Earlier on in his administration, Biden attempted to define America in a single word. What came out was, “Asufutimaehaehfutbw.”

Shortly after, Biden launched into a portion of his speech talking about building an economy for the middle class.

“For decades, the middle class has been hollowed out,” the president said, “too many good-paying manufacturing jobs moved overseas. Factories closed down. Once-thriving cities and towns that many of you represent became shadows of what they used to be.”

Some Democrats share Biden’s attitude towards the American economy, but oftentimes their lamentations are for purely the material conditions in the communities that have been left behind.

Biden’s view is more robust. “Along the way, something else we lost,” Biden continued. “Pride. Our sense of self-worth.”

“It’s about a lot more than a paycheck. It’s about your dignity. It’s about respect.”

Biden, a man of the silent generation, is still holding on to an old-guard Democratic message that is increasingly losing favor with the modern Democratic Party, which simultaneously views labor as an impediment to individual autonomy and determinative of it.

Democratic leaders from the generations that follow—the boomers, Gen Xers, millennials—don’t shed tears for the forgotten man. Obama once called them “bitter clingers”; Hillary called them “deplorables.” They’re poorly educated, religious, white men. They’re getting their long overdue comeuppance.

It’s no surprise, then, that the modern Democratic Party wants to abandon Biden just like they’ve left behind working class communities throughout the American heartland. 

By the time the camera pans to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders donning a mask, I had finished my third beer.

As Biden talks about supporting the middle and working class, Vice President Kamala Harris stares so intensely at the back of Biden’s skull I thought she was going to burn a hole through the president’s head, calmly approach the rostrum, and take his place as if nothing happened.

They bid Biden adieu at their own risk. In 2020, Biden managed to claw back Michigan, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania that Clinton lost to Trump in 2016. Does Kamala really think she’ll fare better in these states than Hillary Clinton, let alone Joe Biden?

As Biden went on talking about the economy, blaming inflation and high consumer prices on Putin and the war and Ukraine and promising all kinds of manufacturing jobs, I continued to drink. Four went by quickly. I was a few sips in to my fifth beer. The buzz made me feel dull to the point of drowsy and discontent. I wasn’t too upset with anything Biden had to say—I had expected to be at odds with most of it. 

It was Republicans I got more and more frustrated at as I drank. No Republicans protested Biden’s lies about inflation, no boos about our continued involvement in Ukraine or the mythology Biden spun about January 6 or chip manufacturing. Republicans did what they’ve seemingly done for my entire life—sit silently and politely as the left made their big disastrous plans for the county known. And when Biden did manage to say a good thing, “we’re going to make sure the supply chain for America begins in America,” for example, only a handful of Republicans stood. It was a painful wide-shot of the chamber for the true believers of Trump’s economic vision.

I wished this was more like the United Kingdom’s House of Commons, I thought to myself. Biden continued on, stopped by a round of applause from his party every few seconds. Each time was a drink. The president went after Big Pharma, but said nothing of the opioid epidemic, fentanyl, or the border—he made sure to separate any talk of Big Pharma and fentanyl by fifteen or so minutes. 

Fox’s cameras panned to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who wore a vibrant blue and yellow striped tie in solidarity with Ukraine. The cameras showed Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, too, who was wearing a lapel pin to show his support for Ukraine.

On to the sixth beer. The more I drank, the funnier Biden’s old-man-yelling-at-cloud schtick got. At one point, Biden essentially called a bunch of the speech’s attendees fat. “One in ten Americans has diabetes. Many of you in this chamber do, and in the audience.” Lacking all self-awareness and pounding beers in my chair like a fat ass, I laughed.

Finally, Republicans decided to be interesting. 

“Instead of making the wealthy pay their fair share, some Republicans, some Republicans, want Medicare and Social Security to sunset—” Biden was cut off by a torrent of boos from Republican lawmakers. And for good reason—as the new Congress came into session, Republicans came out and said they wouldn’t be going forward with any attempts to reform Social Security or Medicare. 

Regardless how one feels about the long-term prospects of our entitlement programs, this is a sound political maneuver. If a party is out of power and wants to regain it, it's probably not smart to come after one of the government’s most popular programs.

Biden knows Republicans made this promise—he met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy last week.

In response to Republicans’ boos and jeers, Biden said, “I enjoy conversion.”

“We all apparently agree, Social Security and Medicare is off the books now, right?” Biden went on to say. “All right. We’ve got unanimity.”

It was a clever move on Biden’s part: Take the GOP’s pre-existing commitment to not go after Social Security and Medicare, lie about it to the American people in the speech, watch the GOP go bananas, and then declare victory.

From then on, Republicans engaged more with the president. Republicans hollered at the president who is known to have a bit of a temper (see “look, fat”), and Biden couldn’t help but fire back. 

At one point, Biden started yelling at Republicans angry about the Chinese balloon: “Name me a world leader who would change places with Xi Jinping!”

“Name me one! Name me one!” The president shouted into the microphone. 

Not long after I finished my sixth beer.

Biden continued through America’s various crises, both real and imagined. He talked about education, border security—invoked as part of “comprehensive immigration reform”—health care, democracy and domestic terrorism. He used anecdotes from members of the gallery to try and bring his solutions to bear for each issue. It was a period of heavy drinking. My seventh beer was empty, my eighth was opened.

Though my senses were dulled, it was clear the president was losing control: control over the audience, control over his temper and tongue, control over his speech, his administration, his country. By the time Biden’s speech reached its crescendo—“because the soul of this nation is strong, because the backbone of this nation is strong, because the people of this nation are strong, the state of the union is strong”—it was hard for anyone paying attention to believe that the state of the union is strong.

But isn’t that why Joe Biden was elected in the first place? Is he not president because we want to forget America is in decline, just like Biden forgets what state he’s in? Isn’t it easier to live out our days eating ice cream and cracking jokes about the good old days instead of looking at America’s reality dead in the face?


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