A Little Bit More on the State of the Union Address

George Washington's First State of the Union A...

George Washington’s First State of the Union Address (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A friend chided me for commenting on the State of the Union (SOTU) address without watching it, and I want to speak to that.  A week after the address, I still feel no qualms about not watching.  For one thing I read several reactions to it and saw a number of clips.  Since I am not very interested in what the President says these days, but in what he and the Congress can get done, that seems plenty.

Also, I have found no argument against the most powerful segment being his passionate urging that proposals to reduce  gun violence be voted on in Congress, as I wrote about in my previous post.

One thing I do want to add, though, is the dreary thought that all of this emotion was garnered to simply push our Congress to vote on gun-related proposals, NOT TO ACTUALLY PASS ANYTHING.

That seems the most significant point of all.   Our Congress is so gridlocked that simply getting a vote on a proposal rates as an achievement.   How twisted is that?  Of course, Obama undoubtedly thinks that if votes are taken something will pass, but it still underscores  how the engines of our ship of state are barely working.

It is this gridlock that devalues everything said by the President and members of the Congress.  What matters is what gets done, not what is said.  So, I have been much less interested in SOTU than in the upcoming  “sequester”  deadline March 2 (across the board budget cuts on about 0ne-third of the budget).

Nobody seems confident in predicting what Congress will do about that and if no one can even predict that, most things the president proposed mean nothing to me yet, except again the matter of gun-related proposals, some of which seem to have momentum.

That’s all I have to say.   Those who want to think more about SOTU should find the divergent takes of Ezra Klein and Matt Miller interesting.   Both center-left types whose opinions I respect, they reacted to the address very differently.  Klein saw it as “shockingly bold” – unlike the “nothing new here” reaction of most commentators.  Miller, on the other hand, called it “hollow”, even more disappointing than being old hat.

To sum up his disappointment:  “Even if Obama’s agenda becomes law, after eight years of the most progressive president in memory, America will still be a country in which work is less well-rewarded, college is far costlier, and poor children’s life chances more limited by accident of birth than in virtually every other wealthy nation. American exceptionalism indeed.”

Klein’s video can be found here, while Miller’s column can be found here.  The video begins with the usual short ad, then some intro-clips, so you need to be a little patient.

By the way, though calling the President’s agenda bold, Klein admits he has no idea if any of it will be passed.   Which is why I don’t care about the words, even if they were “bold.”


2 responses to “A Little Bit More on the State of the Union Address

  1. For those of us who are interested in active citizenship and taking the long view, I think vision in the SOTU matters as much as what can happen “tomorrow,” or even this year or this decade. To a progressive, the SOTU is not a piece of entertainment, but a roadmap of cause. We are the ones who canvass, volunteer, tweet, fund raise and blog to move a progressive agenda forward. It’s why we finally have the ACA and why we will have Climate Change legislation before long, why immigration reform will happen very soon and why gun legislation will stay alive. We activists will not make the same mistake we made in 2010. We will stay on the do-nothing congress until it is extinct as a legislative majority and we will support of candidates in 2014 who can win and best fulfill the SOTU vision PBO laid out. We will be turning out folks to the polls.

    Granted there are many like you who are impatient with the march of progress. That’s fine and your voices are as important as the activists’ voices. I can’t blame anyone for being indifferent, or for being frustrated because the President can’t “make it so.” But a legislative body in a democracy is not a sports “team” with a coach or a “crew” on a starship with a captain. There are no absolute voices in a Democracy. Democracy is designed to be sloooooooow. It is Democracy’s great vulnerability because horrible injustices can happen as elected officials “debate.” At least now we have digital technology that allows the process to speed up, to reach critical mass on issues that have simmered for decades. Within 4 short years this country flipped completely on gay rights, not because people changed but because a President, for the first time, spoke up. On a variety of gun issues, for the first time in decades, the president will force politicians to go on the record with a vote.

    In short, I totally understand why you preferred to have others sum up the SOTU for you, but to an activist, a person who loves politics and cheers for the agenda of PBO, it is about as persuasive an argument as me arguing that catching the highlights of the Super Bowl is the same as watching in real time as the Ravens beat the 49ers. And how many times have I seen Wisconsin play in the Rose Bowl? Why on earth watch again?

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