The State of the Union address and the minority party’s response(s) are the apex of made-for-TV politics, and that’s not a compliment.
I avoid them most years, but the replies have been getting increasingly hilarious as the Republican party devolves further and further into leaderless anarchy. Witness this year’s five “response to the State of the Union address” speeches: an official Republican Party address by freshman Senator Joni Ernst, a Spanish-language address ostensibly following the same outline as Ernst’s (more on that in a moment) by freshman Representative Carlos Curbelo, a “Tea Party response” by Representative Curt Clawson, and personal, unsponsored reply speeches by Sens. Ted Cruz and Rand Paul.
One could safely expect the non-party-sponsored speeches to be off-message, and to greater or lesser degrees they were, but in theory Ernst and Curbelo were giving the same official GOP response (which tells you a bit about how pre-scripted these things are, and how little flexibility they have to respond to what actually comes out of the President’s mouth).
Only trouble is, they didn’t give quite the same speech.
On most of the particulars, the message was the same, with the same not-particularly-relevant talking points delivered in the same order. But on immigration reform, Ernst’s English-language speech was silent — she never used the word “immigration” at all — while Curbelo’s Spanish-language speech called for Congress to
“…work through the appropriate channels to create permanent solutions for our immigration system, to secure our borders, modernize legal immigration, and strengthen our economy.”
Not exactly radical stuff, but the discrepancy is telling. Two GOP freshmen deliver ostensibly the same message in two different languages; in the Spanish-language version the GOP is suddenly the party of “permanent solutions for our immigration system,” while in the English-language version it doesn’t come up at all.
Pandering to different constituencies with contradictory messages and hoping no one notices is nothing new in politics — but it’s usually at least done with different speeches, rather than with differing translations of the same, party-approved message.