Obama will present the State of the Union tonight.
Republicans plan to have not one, but three, responses to President Obama’s State of the Union address. Each one will in their own way show how social media and fractures in the Republican party have changed the opposing party’s response to the president’s annual speech before Congress.
Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers from Washington is giving the official response to the State of the Union address. However, there will also be a Tea Party response from Utah senator Mike Lee. In addition to those responses, Kentucky libertarian senator Rand Paul will give his own speech that isn’t affiliated with any Republican organization.
A longtime Republican strategist sees all the speeches as a symptom of a larger problem within the GOP. “There is no clear leadership in the Republican Party right now, no clear direction or message, and no way to enforce discipline,” said Mark McKinnon. “And because there’s a vacuum, and no shortage of cameras, there are plenty of actors happy to audition.”
No matter how many response speeches there are, there’s little evidence the messages will be heard. Many voters switch the channel after the president’s speech and even more already have their minds made up. A response speech to the President’s State of the Union address rarely makes voters switch political parties.
All the Republican speakers are vying for viewers and responses through social media. McKinnon is leading an effort for Republican members of Congress to send Vine videos to constituents following the State of the Union address. Paul’s address will also send out his speech through Twitter, Snapchat, and Facebook to reach voters.
If the speeches are paid any attention, it’s usually for the wrong reasons. Republican response speeches have been mocked mercilessly, from Michelle Bachman’s facing the wrong camera during her Tea Party speech to Senator Marco Rubio awkwardly drinking water in the middle of his response speech.
The response to the State of the Union address started in 1982 when Democrats had a long response to Reagan’s policies. Now with the short attention span of voters, Republicans have to present their ideas to a smaller audience in a shorter amount of time.
Times have changed when political leaders could dictate one message of a political party. As Republican adviser Kevin Madden said, ” It used to be that congressional leadership could develop the broad outline of the party’s message, and everyone else could echo it. ” Now Republicans have various messages that they hope will compete with the message of President Obama.