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Joni Ernst's State of the Union Response Was an Awkward Reminder That the GOP Is Broken

Mark Wilson/Getty Images

The substance of freshman Senator Joni Ernst’s response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union was as dull as her stilted delivery. Ernst promised to “change the direction” in Washington under the new Republican Congress, and yet did little to assure Americans what that change looks like. "I'd like to have a conversation about the new Republican Congress you just elected, and how we plan to make Washington focus on your concerns again," she said.

Then, she never explained Republicans' strategy for doing that. 

Ernst isn’t entirely to blame. The GOP is so fractured now, and so extreme on major policy issues, that it’s best to not address them at all. Those include many issues that Obama has addressed head-on in his address, like immigration, maternity leave, gay marriage, and climate change science.

Strangely, Ernst didn’t even attack a favorite conservative target of Obama’s agenda, the Environmental Protection Agency’s regulations on coal, oil, and gas. Her remarks instead touched on the usual, stale GOP issues: the Keystone XL pipeline, terrorism, cutting government spending, and, of course, repealing Obamacare. “Americans have been hurting, but when we demanded solutions, too often Washington responded with the same stale mindset that led to failed policies like Obamacare,” she said. “It’s a mindset that gave us political talking points, not serious solutions.” 

Obama doesn't have all the solutions, but Ernst has none.