The State of the Union is boring

Two days ago, president Obama gave his state of the union speech that I, as is my usual practice, did not watch. I really hate meaningless political rituals. Apparently he listed several progressive proposals and was not at all conciliatory towards the Republicans or their agenda, even making pointed digs and laughing and winking at them, which has infuriated them.

Larry Wilmore in his monologue gave the highlights.

Wilmore was right in his assessment that his speech seemed to indicate that Obama seemed to have broken free of past constraints and is pursuing a progressive agenda. But we have seen this film before. Democrats always, always, talk a good game when they are not in a position to achieve their stated goals. But when they can, as in the first two years of the Obama presidency, they do very little. Then they could have passed laws (or at least tried to) raising the minimum wage, equal pay for women, providing paid sick leave, providing free community college education, recognizing the rights of the LGBT community, raising taxes on the very rich, all the things mentioned in his speech. But they did not. They did pass a health care reform bill (without even a public option, let alone single payer) and the Lilly Ledbetter act that provided women with more chances to fight for equal pay, but that was about it.

But the revived rhetorical moves are not all in vain. They do keep the progressive agenda on the front burner, which is a good thing.

The Daily Show also covered the speech highlights and made fun of the dour Republican reaction to even the good news about the economy.

And of course we had the Republican responses to the speech, whose numbers are growing each year as everyone tries to get their moment in the spotlight.

(These clips aired on January 21, 2015. To get suggestions on how to view clips of The Daily Show and The Nightly Show outside the US, please see this earlier post. If the videos autoplay, please see here for a diagnosis and possible solutions.)


  1. says

    Well, duh. Obama is a true Democrat. People are unclear on what that means.

    FDR said, back in the 1930s, that he was saving capitalism from itself by giving the poor enough benefits to keep them from rioting and killing the rich. Ever since then, that has been the one consistent Democratic policy line. Democrats don’t stand for making the world a better place for everyone, they stand for keeping everyone just slightly less wretched than would make them revolt. Over the last few decades, between the relative prosperity of the 1990s, the Republican Party’s willingness to act as overt Bad Cops, and the willingness of the public at large to take social wedge issues seriously despite neither party ever being willing to take definitive action*, the amount of actual tangible benefit required to do this has been whittled away to a tiny fraction of what it was in the 1930s.

    *For years, under Bush, the Republicans controlled both houses of Congress and the Presidency — which is why there was no bill introduced to outlaw abortion at that time. For a couple of years, under Obama, the Democrats controlled both houses of Congress and the Presidency — and Obama’s “evolved” view on gay rights naturally didn’t happen until they lost the House.

    Basically: if you vote for a Democrat when you could be voting for a Green, you are voting to keep yourself as miserable as it is possible to be without being desperate enough to go out and riot over it. Democrats generally don’t like to admit this, but it is exactly the truth.

  2. Reginald Selkirk says

    and was not at all conciliatory towards the Republicans or their agenda, even making pointed digs and laughing and winking at them, which has infuriated them.

    They were in need of infuriation.

  3. md says

    The progenitor of many bad ideas, Woodrow Wilson, revived for us the State of the Union in spoken form. Before Wilson, going back 113 years to Jefferson, it was delivered in writing.

    Jefferson thought it too Kingly to make it a speech. We ought to take Jefferson’s wisdom to heart and end this media spectacle as a part of process to dethrone the modern American Presidency.

  4. astrosmash says

    My hope is that America is coming to the end of the republican’s ‘Boy Who Cried Wolf’ story…All of their freaked out shrieking had SOME entertainment value, but it seems that their tactics, as ‘capital’, HAVE to be nearly spent. It just seems like human beings would have to become desensitized to anything that is so constantly in ‘view’ as ’twere. The quirks that once seemed ‘cute’ can eventually become grounds for divorce…Let the divorce BEGIN!!!!!

  5. says

    Why the fuck would we want to “dethrone the modern American Presidency?” And how would ending the spoken version of the SOTU speech accomplish this?

    The progenitor of many bad ideas, Woodrow Wilson…

    Such as…?

  6. dysomniak "They are unanimous in their hate for me, and I welcome their hatred!" says

    Such as…?

    World War I?

  7. md says

    Such as…?

    ,The League of Nations, national right of self-determination.

    to the point at hand, the American Presidency continues to grow in power, regardless of the party occupying it, and congress continues to abandon its responsibilities all to willingly. Look at executive actions, the size of Presidential staffs (or VP staffs, for gods sake, or the First Ladies staff), look at how we now go to war with congress as a sideshow. Ask the average man on the street who controls taxes and spending in the country and far too many think its the President.

    Having a more humble President forgo a TV appearance for the written word would be a small step in the right direction towards re-educating people what is actual role is: the head executor of 1 branch of the American government.

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