The same ol’ State of the Union
Kyle Palmer | Thursday, January 22, 2015
Tuesday night, I received a number of messages from longtime friends asking why I wasn’t filling up their Facebook and Twitter feeds with commentary on President Obama’s State of the Union Address as I had so done perennially. The reason why is because I had already read an advanced transcript of his prepared remarks and wasn’t really all that excited once the speech came. The only enjoyment I took away from the speech was when I could quiz myself on the names and home states of the different politicos in the chamber – at which point I realized I have an unhealthy addiction to politics, especially for not being a political science major, but I’ll ignore that for now.
In reading the speech, I felt like the same points were brought up as were every year prior. President Obama patted himself on the back for things that cannot be attributed to his doing, such as gas prices. He glorified his ideas as bold, sensible and proven. It was as if he was taking a victory lap from his 2012 reelection, forgetting the fact that he couldn’t energize his own supporters to get out to the ballot box in 2014, which led his party to experience unprecedented congressional losses, handing the Republican Party its first Senate majority since 2007 and its largest majority in the House since 1947. Truly an absurd time to inflate one’s own political image.
That said, the president is still a savvy communicator, and coupled with his speechwriting staff, that talent was on full display Tuesday. The buzzphrase of the night was “middle-class economics,” which showed the president is still not above dividing the nation and attempting to discredit his detractors. Surely, with titles of ideas like “middle-class economics” and “Affordable Care Act,” anyone who opposes them appears to be against the middle-class and affordable health care. The posturing never seems to end with this administration.
Most displeasing, though, was the president’s evidently continued unwillingness to reach across the aisle to work for the American people. While never addressing them directly, he made multiple sideswipes toward the Republican Congress and issued two veto threats. When pitching his ideas, the president is unrelenting in how non-partisan and non-political he believes them to be, full knowing that most Republicans and even some Democrats, would oppose them.
President Obama had the chance to get up on the Speaker’s rostrum and unite a country that is still deeply politically divided by showing he was genuinely interested in working with all members of Congress, the elected representatives of the people, but instead he decided to work exclusively with his weakened party and ignore those chosen to represent the majority of the country. He came into office promising “hope” and “change,” but we are only getting the same partisanship that has always been present. Leading his Democratic Congress, he held the heads of Republicans under water for his first two years in office, refusing to compromise or even listen. Now, even after the nation decisively rejected his party, he would still refuse to compromise. He had a chance to solidify his legacy as a president that actually unified a nation politically divided, but instead chose to drive a wedge into that divide, only making it grow.
Don’t get me wrong, I do think that the current state of this union is strong; rather, it has room to improve as it always will. It is doing well not because of President Obama’s policies, but because the American people are intelligent, innovative, moral and resilient. We will continue to improve, however accelerated or decelerated by the executive, because Americans want to do right by their family, their neighbors and their religious or ethical convictions. The credit of endurance and progress does not belong with the president, but with the people.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.