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OPINION
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We Need More Sarah Huckabee Sanders Republicans

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Al Drago/Bloomberg, Pool

On Tuesday night, Arkansas Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders tackled one of America’s most notoriously difficult speaking gigs — and she nailed it with what appeared to be ease. She also demonstrated, humbly, what Republican leaders can and should be.

The rebuttal to the president’s State of the Union address has proven to be a challenging venture for both Republicans and Democrats, and it’s often seen as having a negative impact on the future upward political success of those chosen to give the rebuttal.

Water bottles, lip spittle, the wrong tone, and more have arisen as notorious distractions that have — right or wrong — eclipsed the actual message being delivered. The apparent pitfalls that have affected others, however, never appeared in Governor Sanders’ rebuttal. 

Normally, the president has the advantage of speaking to hundreds of people crowded into the House chamber around him. Real-time feedback from the audience can allow the president to tailor remarks, dump out of certain topics if they aren’t being received well, or double down on lines that will receive applause from at least half the chamber. 

The rebuttal, on the other hand, doesn’t have any of those advantages. All they get is a camera to stare into, no live reaction and no applause to punctuate declarations or demand attention to what was just said. Governor Sanders, however, handled the rebuttal’s odd, disadvantaged format well.

Responding to the State of the Union is also difficult due to the inherent need to guess what will need to be addressed and rebutted. Writing a rebuttal at the same time the president is drafting and fine-tuning his preceding address to Congress makes for a tricky situation.

What will the president mention or ignore? What tone will the president take? How will members of Congress respond in the chamber? A rebuttal must match some of what the president says in order to provide a rapid response and must offer a contrast to the president’s tone. On Tuesday night, Sarah Huckabee Sanders did both.

The distinctions she drew between herself and Biden were quick and punchy. He’s the oldest president in history, she’s the youngest governor in America. She’s “the first woman to lead my state,” he’s “the first man to surrender his presidency to a woke mob that can’t even tell you what a woman is.”

With that line, Governor Sanders was off to the races and didn’t let off the gas or pull any punches through the rest of her rebuttal that, importantly, refused to shy away from issues that consultants and squishy moderates will say the GOP needs to ignore to be competitive. That’s one of several reasons Tuesday night became Governor Sanders’ moment. 

Sanders still gave due time to economic and security issues inflicted by Biden and other Democrats, but she also laid bare why the president’s party poses a danger to America — for more reasons than high taxes, strict regulations, or weak foreign policy — by running through the issues that motivate voters and flip independents into the GOP column. 

Democrats’ woke gender ideology? Check. Racist CRT? Check. Weaponized political correctness? Check. Biased Big Tech collusion with federal bureaucrats? Check. Divisive identity politics? Check. Forced adherence to leftist orthodoxy? Check. School choice? Check.

Importantly, what Sanders said is what she’s done in just her first few weeks in office — a significant contrast to Biden’s address on a higher level. While Biden talked about his Republican “friends” and tried to brag about unity and helping Americans, his policies and rhetoric have been and done the opposite. Governor Sanders, on the other hand, has already implemented the values she spoke of in Arkansas, with new bold policies still being unveiled.

Governor Sanders’ leadership, tone, and message all provided a calm and measured but clear and forceful contrast with what Biden delivered on Tuesday night — and it all landed. It did so because Sanders has not just the right values but the right message to communicate them and the steel to actually put them into action.

In a time where polls show Americans are increasingly underwhelmed with the reigning political class, Sanders also spoke out as the youngest governor in America and the first woman to lead her state to call for more leaders to rise up, “not to be caretakers of the status quo, but to be change-makers for the American people.”

Sanders is right to call for Americans, especially those in her party, to stop looking back at things that cannot be changed and instead look ahead at what the Republican Party — and America — can be if we refuse to surrender, boldly share conservative ideas, and refuse to be bullied into backing down. 

“Make no mistake: Republicans will not surrender this fight,” Sanders said Tuesday night of this rising generation that can change things for the better, not fight to keep them the same. “We will lead with courage and do what’s right, not what’s politically correct or convenient.”

More of that, please. 

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