2016 is going to be a big year. It’s President Obama’s final year in office; it’s the year of campaigning and promises from almost twenty candidates vying for the presidency. And for the first time in my life, I will be able to vote as a citizen of the United State.
Onto the SOTU address. Essentially a lame duck at this point, President Obama lacks momentum, and with a Republican-controlled Congress basically just waiting for him to leave office, it’s highly unlikely that too many of his proposals will get passed; he’s too busy stopping Congress from trying to overturn everything he’s accomplished this year. Additionally, to improve the association of the current Democratic candidates, Obama instead focuses on the government’s accomplishments during his seven years as president, such as cutting unemployment rates down to 5%.
As for his plans for the future, Obama proposes to offer two-years of community college for free, something he mentioned in his address last year. Sure, nothing’s ever “free,” as my economics teacher will tell us, but certainly, by improving education of our citizens, we do in fact increase our resources — smart and innovative citizens –that will give back immensely to the economy. We want to be “the country that cures cancer,” the country that will forever remain the leader of the world, the country who will fight for its beliefs, the country of citizens who will not be controlled by corporations and banks.
Now, it’s funny to watch some of the presidential candidates tweet their reactions during the speech. Here are couple from the most active tweeter last night, Ben Carson:
Perhaps you haven’t seen this chart yet, Mr. Carson?And then this one:
No, he didn’t every say that. This is what President Obama says: “Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is linked to the rest of the world. And that’s why the third big question we have to answer is how to keep America safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere there’s a problem.” Why is it that America is the only country where such a large proportion of its politicians don’t believe in a problem that WILL affect our future generations? And he does talk about ISIL later on for quite a while. America is the strongest nation, he says, and we will root out these terrorists, but we cannot let fear cloud our minds. We cannot be hypocrites, for carpet-bombing cities where innocent people live is absolutely atrocious: “The world will look to us to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.” We need an international coalition behind us, because this is an international problem that we cannot solve by ourselves. If we want to show leadership, we need support.
But more than ever, this address emphasizes our need for a better politics. Partisanship has caused our citizens to lose their trust in the government, one that they see constantly fighting and threatening to defund itself, one entangled within blue and red ropes. Obama looks to the people –both those who agree with his policies and those who don’t — to voice their opinions, because in this country, that’s what provides the fundamental basis for our democracy. His rhetoric echoes that of when he first took office in 2008 — hope and change, except not in the form of a new president, but rather from we the people. By acknowledging the Republican Congress’s “constructive approach” to passing the budget last December, Obama refuses to allow politics to be defined by party lines, to further create chaos by claiming that “the Republicans are at fault.” [Though it did make me kind of sad to see how clear party lines were just by who stood up to clap. C’mon Speaker Ryan (and a good portion of the Republican party), not clapping when Obama talked about some of America’s greatest achievements in the past decade is sort of rude. Just saying.]
Maybe finally we’ll see the respect resurge in politics, because no, we don’t all have to agree with each other, but at least we don’t have to attack each other so loudly that we refuse to hear the other side. And perhaps the Republicans are also changing their rhetoric, for in the response (given by South Carolina governor Nikki Haley), Haley leaves us with these words that everyone can agree upon:
“We need to be honest with each other, and with ourselves: while Democrats in Washington bear much responsibility for the problems facing America today, they do not bear it alone. There is more than enough blame to go around. We as Republicans need to own that truth. We need to recognize our contributions to the erosion of the public trust in America’s leadership. We need to accept that we’ve played a role in how and why our government is broken. And then we need to fix it.”