President Donald Trump is set to give the annual State of the Union speech on Tuesday evening. Democrats have chosen Massachusetts Representative Joe Kennedy III to give the official response to Trump’s speech.
Giving a response to the State of the Union address began in the late 1700s, but fell out of popularity during the over one hundred years that the message was only provided in writing. In the mid twentieth century, presidents began delivering the speech orally again, and their messages were heard all over the country due to the popularity of radio and television. And with that popularity, the party in opposition to the president resurrected the tradition of the response.
The problem with the response speech is that it is typically incredibly boring and unmemorable. This is because the speech is never given in as grand a setting as the president’s, and it typically just reiterates the party’s stances instead of offering any new information. Also, as journalist Jonathan Bernstein asks, “Who wants to watch a second political speech right after one that usually goes on too long?”
Democrats are hoping to avoid all this by having Joe Kennedy III give the response speech this year. In spite of his pedigree – Joe is the grandson of RFK, and a member the US’s most famous political family – he hasn’t attempted to make waves or put himself in the spotlight. But this hasn’t stopped him from standing out from time to time.
Kennedy has been a vociferous opponent of Republican policies and has criticized Trump. During the battle to repeal Obamacare, a speech of video of Kennedy criticizing Paul Ryan got more than 10 million Facebook views. After the violence and racist rhetoric of the Charlottesville protests, Kennedy gave another impassioned speech which was also viewed millions of times.
Choosing a young, white, rich politician from a family of politicians may not help the Democratic party shed its “establishment” image. But the passion and energy of Joe Kennedy could definitely help make this years’s response to Trump’s State of the Union address very memorable.