Putting the “Union” Back in the State?

Putting the “Union” Back in the State?

State of the Union Address -Obama

A Recap on President Barack Obama’s 2014 State of the Union Address

Considering the overall tone of Congressional animosity in recent years, Tuesday night’s State of the Union was a veritable “love-in.” And at a time when Congress’ approval ratings are at an all time low, this is likely the best course of action for all concerned.

There are those who will choose to see right through it. However, I will give both parties kudos for finally recognizing that their adversarial tactics have done more harm than good. Besides…a little positive reinforcement couldn’t possibly make this situation worse.

In his speech, President Obama dubbed this the “Year of Action,” and it seems he hopes to achieve this by starting out with a bit of good-will. Praising the most recent bi-partisan efforts and singling out a couple of Republicans for their specific efforts and achievements will hopefully go a long way in supporting this good-will.

And following the Ted Cruz government shut-down fiasco, Republicans seem receptive. I base this on Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) demeanour and actions during the president’s speech. Say what you will of body language, but compared with recent years, there seemed to be a lot more clapping and a lot less disdainful scowling.

Even the Republican response delivered by Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-Washington) – despite containing the usual “bring back the good old days” and references to nebulous “plans” and “solutions” – the speech was presented in a much less adversarial (albeit somewhat saccharine) way.

And what did this do to Republicans? It’s still clear that Democrats and Republicans disagree on several issues – particularly in how to approach some of the challenges facing America – but this softened approach provides a glimmer of hope that compromise might once again be possible within the Republican Party.

Despite the good-will efforts, the media have chosen to latch on to the President’s warning that he will take action where he can when Congress is stalled. (A continuing battle of wills is much more exciting (and perhaps inciting)).

The president did issue one executive order in his speech, to raise the minimum wage of federal contract workers to $10.10/hour. But those who didn’t watch the speech may get the impression that the threat of unilateral action was the major point. I can tell you it wasn’t. Although the president made it clear he would act when necessary, it wasn’t done in an antagonistic way, and his preference for Congressional cooperation was also clear.

Nobody wants to see a “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” presidency. When democracy is dysfunctional it enables the tyrannical – even if well-intentioned. But when Congress does nothing, someone has to do something.

All of that aside, it does seem that most members of Congress are trying to turn a new leaf and gain back the support of the public.

Only time will tell if this is true… and if it is, let’s just hope for America’s sake it’s soon enough.

Erin Drushel

Missed the speech?  

View President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address below:

 

 

 

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