Sarah Huckabee Sanders attacks ‘left-wing culture war’ in SOTU response

Last updated on February 8, 2023

Republican Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders is set to undercut President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address as beholden to “woke fantasies” and untethered from mainstream America.

“Most Americans simply want to live their lives in freedom and peace, but we are under attack in a left-wing culture war we didn’t start and never wanted to fight,” Sanders, who is tasked with giving the GOP response, said in prepared excerpts released before the president’s speech.

Tuesday’s event is set to mark the rapid elevation for Sanders, who was sworn into elected office for the first time just weeks ago. However, she is far from a political neophyte, as her father held the same position she now occupies from 1996-2007 and Sanders previously served as press secretary in the Trump White House. She also represents a new class of Republicans attempting to marry Trumpism with more traditional parts of GOP orthodoxy.

In one of her first acts as governor, Sanders garnered national attention for a directive banning the term Latinx across the Arkansas government. In her Tuesday response, Sanders similarly waded into culture war subjects that have animated conservatives in the Biden years, inveighing against “false idols” of the left and other conservative punching bags.

“That’s not normal. It’s crazy, and it’s wrong,” she said.

Huckabee is also expected to hit the president for his stewardship of the economy and the Biden administration’s handling of immigration policy.

Those broadsides are not far apart from the depiction of Biden and his fellow Democrats presented by her previous boss, former President Donald Trump, underscoring the lasting impression he has made on the Republican party.

Trump — the only major declared Republican candidate for the White House — released his own short response to Biden’s speech in which he painted a bleak picture of the country and accused the president of allowing illegal immigrants to “storm” the country and letting drug cartels smuggle “poison” across the border.

Trump also highlighted inflation, the rise in murder rates, and said the Biden administration is “trying to indoctrinate and mutilate our children” — a reference to sexual orientation and gender identity issues that have animated the party.

By contrast, Sanders’ excepts echoes those same themes without quite the same edge, and nods to a softer touch that Republicans have at times grasped for as a way to modulate the former president’s agenda into an enduring coalition.

“Republicans believe in an America where strong families thrive in safe communities. Where jobs are abundant, and paychecks are rising,” Sanders says in her remarks.

Nevertheless Sanders’ speech stands in contrast to the tone left by her predecessor, Republican Asa Hutchinson, a regular presence on Washington Sunday shows who in the past has condemned some of Trump’s rhetoric, his most controversial policies while and members of the former governor’s fellow lawmakers in Arkansas.

Meridith McGraw contributed to this report.