Monday Edition


1. Biden’s SOTU Hype

Bubba’s Two Cents: In our cat-chasing-laser-pointer media culture, new developments constantly get hyped as game-changers when they’re not. There’s a lot of talking heads fighting for your attention, and it’s easier to get it if they make you think the stakes are high.

How good was President Biden’s high-energy State of the Union Speech really? (Washington Free Beacon)

His supporters are touting it as a win. As The Washington Post’s Aaron Blake put it, Democrats think the president “changed the 2024 game” by “demonstrating verve and combativeness amid concerns about his age and mental acuity.”

But the reality’s less rosy. While a post-speech CNN poll found 65% of viewers had positive reactions to the SOTU, it’s the lowest rating in 25 years. Meanwhile, Biden’s critics say the fire he displayed was actually a sign of weakness, not strength.

The Washington Free Beacon’s editors: “Biden's remarks on Thursday evening were a desperate attempt to unite a fraying coalition and shore up poll numbers that have cratered since Oct. 7 as those of his ‘predecessor,’ the one he invoked so often last night, have surged. … Not since the botched pullout of Afghanistan in August 2021 has Biden suffered such a crisis of confidence, at home and abroad.”

To a large degree, polling backs up the Free Beacon’s assessment. He’s trailing former President Trump nationally. Biden’s losing ground with once-solidly Democratic demographics like Latinos, black Americans and young voters.

Then there’s public perception of how Biden has addressed the issues that matter most to voters.

  • Economy: 74% of Americans say the economy is in “poor” or “only fair” shape.

  • Immigration: Only 18% say the government’s doing a good job handling the border crisis.

2. The Internet’s Ruining Politics

The internet has played a major role in making us miserable about politics, argues writer Jay Caspian Kang. (New Yorker)

An ABA civics poll from last year found 85% of Americans think society is less civil than it was a decade ago. 65% say they feel exhausted when thinking or talking about politics, per Pew Research Center.

Kang says part of the reason is society is reflecting online culture, which is built around pettiness and bickering. A few years ago, WorldStarHipHop, a site centered around street fights, took the world by storm. Anyone who spends even a little bit of time on social media knows drama drives a huge share of engagement on platforms. It’s not surprising then that news and political discourse has also gotten uglier and more polarizing.

Kang on how political debates have become inescapable and how it’s counterproductive for our system to be based on constant arguing: Today, we live with the irony that the intense pitch and total saturation of political conversation in every part of our lives—simply pick up your phone and rejoin the fray—create the illusion that important ideas are right on the verge of being actualized or rejected. But the form of that political discourse—millions of little arguments—is actually what makes it impossible to process and follow what should be an evolving and responsive conversation. We mistake volume for weight; how could there be so many posts about something with no acknowledgment from the people in charge?”

3. Pro-Immigration Black Sheep

Bubba’s Two Cents: Pro-immigration business owners are kind of in a weird spot. On the one hand, their economic arguments don’t fit the tone of Democrats’ humanitarian pro-immigrant stance. But they definitely don’t have a place in today’s blue-collar GOP, which fiercely opposes immigration for cultural and increasingly America First economic reasons.

Americans are increasingly concerned about the number of immigrants coming into the country, making it a tough sell for employers who say they want higher migration levels to fill open positions. (Bloomberg)

Business groups in a number of industries have been calling for more legal immigration for years. There are currently 9 million unfilled jobs in the economy, and bureaucratic red tape means the process of securing work permits for immigrants is slow and complicated. By some estimates, the labor shortage could end up costing the U.S. economy $1.75 trillion in lost output.

The government can’t approve work permits fast enough for employers.

  • The U.S. reached its cap of 33,000 H-2B visas for the first half of the 2024 fiscal year in less than two weeks.

  • There were a record number of work authorizations in FY 2023.

  • Only 25% of those registered for the H-1B visa lottery were issued a work visa, marking the lowest ratio in over four years.

Daniel Fisher of the Associated Equipment Distributors trade association: “There’s not a member of Congress who hasn’t seen help wanted signs outside restaurants and other businesses. … And we’re just trying to make it known that ‘Hey, we have this need also.’”

The timing is bad. Record-high levels of migration have pushed immigration to the top of the list of voters’ concerns. And while research shows immigration boosts the economy, it also depresses wages, especially for low-skilled workers.

4. The Real Trump

Bubba’s Two Cents: Former President Trump’s contradictions show you can’t put him or “MAGA” into a neat box. Trump Republicans might be more skeptical of corporations and friendly toward unions than the old guard, but they still support free markets and hate socialism. Democrats worry about MAGA turning the U.S. into a Christian Nationalist dystopia, but Trump’s core base is made up of Republicans who rarely go to church.

Trump shocked many people on Thursday when he said he opposes a bipartisan bill to force the Chinese company ByteDance to sell TikTok. (Axios)

Democrats and especially Republicans have raised concerns that TikTok’s links to the Chinese government pose a security threat to the U.S. Months before leaving office in 2020, Trump tried to ban the popular social media app.

Hardline conservatives praise Trump for being more radical than “RINO” Republicans, while critics have accused him of bringing far-right politics into the mainstream GOP. But over the years, Trump’s taken some surprisingly moderate stances.

  • Last month, he defended Bud Light and called for an end to conservatives’ boycott of the company.

  • He’s called six-week bans on abortion a “terrible mistake” and suggested pro-life Republicans need to moderate on their messaging.

  • Trump hosted the conservative LGBT group Log Cabin Republicans at Mar-a-Lago in 2022, when he said, “We are fighting for the gay community, and we are fighting and fighting hard.”

  • The former president has upset some supporters by repeatedly endorsing COVID-19 vaccines.

5. The Power of Language

Bubba’s Two Cents: Conservatives are facing two challenges when it comes to battles over whether we should use words like “illegal immigrant.” First, it’s just a fact of life that language evolves over time. Second, it can be hard not to sound like a jerk when you’re defending language that offends some people. But it’s also hard to ignore that these changes in language seem designed to push one sides’ particular agenda.

President Biden has apologized for using the word “illegal” to describe an undocumented immigrant accused of killing a 22-year-old woman in Georgia. (NYT)

Democrats and immigrant advocates slammed Biden for his choice of words during the State of the Union address on Thursday

Julian Castro, the Democratic former Mayor of San Antonio: I’m glad President Biden expressed regret on this. I know a lot of people, even many Democrats, say, ‘What’s the big deal?’ I used to think that. But language has tremendous power, including the power to dehumanize migrants and make violence against them more acceptable.”

The AP Stylebook dropped the term “illegal immigrant” in 2013. While the book was once considered the gold standard “no nonsense” news guide, in recent years, conservatives have accused the AP of taking on a progressive bent. For instance, the AP Stylebook added an entry for “pregnant people” to describe transgender and nonbinary individuals who are pregnant.

A study published by The Economist last year found journalists increasingly use language that leans Democratic, and the trend has gotten worse since Donald Trump's presidency. Another study released last year found only 3.4% of journalists identify as Republicans.

Did you like an item in today’s edition? Do us a favor and forward it to a friend to help spread the word about $001 News. Also, click here to subscribe today.