As far as State of the Union speeches go, President Obama gave a fine address. His eloquence is beyond question, he was conciliatory at times to the Republican side of the aisle, tough at other moments.
The president also offered a rare public display of disapproval toward the third branch of the federal government, using a small portion of his address to criticize the Supreme Court's recent ruling that designated corporations as identical to individuals in the political realm.
By my unofficial count, the president in slightly more than 60 minutes, addressed jobs, war, the deficit, bailouts, freeze on government spending, healthcare, education, nuclear weapons, off shore drilling, and national security.
But the most revealing part of the speech was the following:
"To Democrats, I would remind you that we still have the largest majority in decades, and the people expect us to solve problems, not run for the hills. And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town -- a supermajority -- then the responsibility to govern is now yours as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it's not leadership."
The aforementioned statement underscores a fundamental difference between the two major political parties.
The nation is angry and scared; and the Republican Party is far better skilled at playing to those fears than Democrats are to playing to people's hopes. If your game plan is to feed the people's fear and anger, being the party of "No" may not be governing, but as the president also suggested it's good short-term politics that can lead to becoming the majority.
I truly marvel at the G.O.P. bluster. One would think they were the standard bearers of good government.
The president was right to point out at the beginning of the last decade; there was a budget surplus of over $200 billion. And by the time he took office, there was a one-year deficit of over $1 trillion and projected deficits of $8 trillion over the next decade.
From 2000-2008, the majority of which had Republican majorities in the House and Senate, in addition to occupying the White House, was arguably in the most fiscally irresponsible tenure since the formation of the republic.
They conducted two wars, without very little debate on the House or Senate floor, that were financed on borrowed dollars, they passed huge tax cuts without the corresponding spending reductions, and financed, again on the government credit card, an expensive prescription drug program.
This type of fiscal malfeasance was more than enough evidence for Republicans to have their name enshrined along with the Federalist and Whigs into the pantheon known as "political parties of yesteryear."
While their record of accomplishment over those eight years demanded they be thrown out of Congress as the majority party in 2006 and lose the White House in 2008, the country remained in the throes of fear and anger. Much of that fear and anger was created on their watch.
Fear and anger are emotions that tend to shun critical thinking, easily susceptible to manipulation, and do not require a solution to be satisfied, albeit temporarily.
What new ideas does the GOP possess? They have none, but they don't need any, as long as fear and anger are their primary tools to grind the political process to a screeching halt. It doesn't matter if you can only advocate tax cuts that are antithetical to the needs of many who are angry and fearful.
However one feels about these tactics they are effective because they connect emotionally. Democrats, liberals in particular, continue to be arrogantly pacified by having the issues on their side while they lose elections as if emotional connections are irrelevant. If issues were all that mattered we would have had a President Michael Dukakis and President Al Gore.
But assuaging fear and anger cannot be accomplished in a one hour State of the Union address. It will require more than the president's masterful oratory. It will also require a unified party, along with its surrogates, making its case ad nauseam to the American people.
That is, if Democrats are not too afraid to come down from the hills.
Byron Williams is an Oakland pastor and syndicated columnist and blog-talk radio host. He is the author of "Strip Mall Patriotism: Moral Reflections of the Iraq War." E-mail him email@example.com or visit his Web site: byronspeaks.com