Last night’s State of the Union address was one of the most unusual, at least in my lifetime, but the reasons were good and valid and very welcome. In the past, presidents have tended to use the speech to craft a wish list for Congress to help them pass, but this one was crafted as a major “Screw You!” to a Republican Congress that he knows damn well won’t do anything to help him accomplish anything positive for the American people.
And for the record, you PUBs (Progressive Unicorn Brigade) out there, he’s always known this; this is not a naïve moron; he’s known all along. What he was trying to do for the last seven years is to let American voters know this, so they’d swap out the Republicans for people with brains. Unfortunately, whereas we should have been behind him all along as he tried to propagate this message, instead the professional left and PUBs yelled at HIM and suggested HE was somehow too stupid to understand that Republicans were dead set against him.
Suffice it to say that, if YOU were smart and not at all naïve, you would understand that the “compliment” he gave Speaker
Eddie Munster Paul Ryan, in which he said, “I appreciate the constructive approach that you and other leaders took at the end of last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for working families,” he was being both sincere and facetious. He knows damn well Ryan also worked with McConnell to get a bill that would have killed the ACA and de-funded Planned Parenthood to his desk, finally, after 61 previous tries, just so he could veto it and they could go back to their idiot “base” and say, “see?” What he’s trying to do it to get you to go after the GOP for that, not roll your eyes and call him stupid. If you’re one of those “progressives” who thinks they are smarter than him politically, ask yourself if you could get the highest turnout in 40 years and win two terms for a black man with the middle name “Hussein.” If you can’t (I couldn’t), then assume he’s smarter than you and defer to his judgment. Do the same for both Bernie AND Hillary, too, because they’re both smarter than PUBs and pro lefties, politically speaking. Deferring and learning is the only chance the progressive movement has for political success.
Most of the State of the Union was a finger in the eye of the GOP and everything they stand for, while it was also very pro-American people. The best advice I can give to both Hillary and Bernie is to emulate it for the next six months, at least, because it was the ideal campaign speech to demonstrate what the Democratic Party actually stands for. He not-so-quietly revived two themes from his original campaign, “hope and change” and “we are the ones we have been waiting for” and he set a theme for the 2016 election, and dared us, as progressives, to take up that mantle and move the country forward.
I mean, he all but said, “Republicans suck and if you vote for them, you’re a complete idiot, because they don’t care about anyone but those who have tons of money.” I mean, the man started with a plea for criminal justice reform, which basically means an end to the drug “war,” a severe scaling-down of the prison industrial complex and a greater emphasis on treatment over punishment. He also asked for gun control, equal pay for women and an increase in the minimum wage. That was right out of the gate.
But he also did something extraordinary, that many pundits did not pick up on; at least that I’ve seen from the day-after coverage. This is important for progressives to get, yet I see few signs that the professional left gets it at all. Instead of speaking about his plans for the next year. Read this carefully:
“But for my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to just talk about next year. I want to focus on the next five years, the next ten years and beyond. I want to focus on our future.”
He then went into a litany of things he envisions for our future, and they were all things he knows damn well will never pass a Republican Congress. He’s planning to hand things off to a Democratic President (whether Hillary or Bernie) and he is daring progressives to actually work for progress and to do whatever is necessary to make things happen. Of course, he said the usual line, “The State of the Union is strong,” but he basically dared us to make things happen that will make it even stronger.
Think about it. What does he have to say to get PUBs and professional lefties on board?
He basically called the GOP out on their climate change denial before he called for putting a government in place that would expand and accelerate our transition away from fossil fuels. He dared the American people to continue to expand investment in solar and wind. Progressives have to take up that mantle and knock down the Republicans on that issue the same way he did; not by laughing at them and calling them stupid, but telling the truth and forcing them to refute it.
He called the GOP out for blocking jobs creation, even as he cited his own jobs creation record. He came in with the economy in total meltdown and in less than two years, he had it back on the rails. Democrats created 14 million private sector jobs, while Republican cuts cost 1.5 million public sector jobs. He has basically dared us to make sure voters know who’s responsible and we have to take him up on that.
He called them out for their opposition to gun control and for their disgusting love of all things NRA and dared us to create a system that keeps guns out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them. Think about that the next time you make the NRA the problem. They’re not the problem, the GOP is. A handful of Democrats voting with the NRA isn’t the problem, the entirety of the Republican majority caucus is the problem.
He also called out the GOP for their support and exploitation of the system of bribery and extortion that we currently call an electoral system, and for their hypocrisy over constantly calling for term limits and railing about the corruption of “career politicians” at the same time most of them are career politicians. He called for major election and campaign finance reform at a State of the Union address. The question is, will we progressives be able to take up that mantle and do something about it.
Most of all, he called on all of us to be good citizens and to work to make good things happen in this country. He called on us to be nicer to each other, stop screaming at each other and to treat everyone with dignity and respect, regardless of their lifestyle choices.
In short, President Obama made one of the greatest campaign speeches of his life last night. The only question that remains is, do we progressives have the balls to actually take him up on his dare and do exactly what he’s asking for?
I sure hope so.