The yearly State Of The Union event is a great national treasure. It stands as one of the last rituals to garner a national collective viewing audience to hear one presidential voice at the same time without any editorial talk spinsters shaving it into partisan sound bites. Folks in attendance were on their best behavior. Not a boo, nor hiss, or any outbursts accusing Obama of lying were heard. Our governing class sat and stood to applause with civilized and unified patience, and we even got to see a usually dour Speaker of the House crack a smile once. Surely this could not have been that seriously divided Congress reported about so frequently. But, behind the face-saving pomp, this was a disheartening "State of the Disunion" speech.
President Obama, fresh from holiday recess and with some distance behind him from a dismal 2013, made his entrance. Obama gave an academy award performance as he played Gary Cooper's Will Kane in "High Noon." The president, with his game face on, set the tone from his entrance to the Congressional "Royal" Chamber. He worked his loyalists strategically placed on or near the aisle, dancing and powering his way with lots of game, as he aggressively shook hands and kissed his way to the podium. He appeared tall and lanky and proudly filled with Will Kane destiny. He knew it was "High Noon" and time for the showdown. I watched in amazement and could not help but wonder where this guy Obama has been lately. This WAS the president we elected, twice! Obama spoke with confidence, acted as if he had total control over the world, and possessed boundless visionary energy to pull a disgruntled country uphill in the sand, above the sour malaise, to his promised land. Except, the high noon shadows are looming.
The president spoke carrying a lighthearted grin but a repetitive theme of tongue and cheek mocking of Republicans filled the hall. Obama's speech was a menu of red meat for his political base. He offered hope, inspiration and compassion in highlighting financial inequalities for women, as well as addressing the grievances of most Americans by calling for raising the minimum wage.
Obama took multiple opportunities to invite Republicans to clock in and earn their pay by working with him on an ambitious legislative agenda way over due. But, he chided them as well with reminders that although they think it is high noon on his administration, the sheriff, Mr. Obama, by the order of the authority vested in him by the Constitution of the United States, could and would stand them down by drawing his pen to sign executive orders.
Truthfully, the president does have his back to the political clock with dwindling options. His own party's senators who are up for re-election in November are hiding from him and fearful of invoking platitudes that could marry them to a president whose approval rating is shrinking. One has to wonder if anyone does have the president's back right now. Republicans have doubled down on obstructionism by banking huge financial resources to run against Democrats by running against The Affordable Care Act.
Very likely the country is experiencing Obama fatigue, and this can be a disaster for his progressive agenda. The worst scenario for Americans would be for a Republican majority in the Senate in November. Voting out Democrats would lead to a more divided state of the union, and would be punishing the wrong party. I hope Obama has a posse out there and they can get energized to flood the ballot box to fuel forward a last ditch opportunity to focus our rich resources on those most needing it. Maybe even a miracle can occur, and the country punishes the transgressors by voting back a Democratic majority in both Houses of Congress and let Obama fulfill a change we can believe in.