The State of the Union has become a chance for the President to outline his ideas for the next year. If the ideas are good enough, there can be a public groundswell to help push them from ideas to law.
So Tuesday night, Barack Obama talked about income equality for women, raising the minimum wage, immigration policy, better access to health care and energy independence.
These are all ideas that everyone loves.
But the difference comes when you try to take an idea and make it work. Whether the good idea is worth the high cost is the political litmus test that separates the parties and even the factions within the parties.
Obama’s tone was positive for the most part.
However, there was an interesting dichotomy between “let’s work together to make this a year of action” and “America does not stand still – and neither will I. So wherever and whenever I can take steps without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families, that’s what I’m going to do.”
Obama was effective and powerful. The visitors used as props told his story well and made the show as effective as the speech.
Some of the pomp and pageantry really makes you long for the days when the President sent a written document to Congress and had someone else read it.
The Republican response was effective in some ways and diagnostic in others.
There were multiple responses.
We had the Republican mother of the year – Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) - who delivered a nebulous yet peppy response to the President. She responded to the State of the Union address like an astronaut on the moon would respond to a hurricane on earth. She knew it was happening but didn’t really get bothered with details.
She stuck to principles and beliefs.
That speech sounds good in a convention and can really rally the troops, but when you try to write legislation based on it, the crystal clear water of principle always gets muddied up with practicality.
That mud is what has stuck to the GOP lately and cost them Presidential elections. They have to figure out how to make their talk walk.
The Republicans - I’m sure coincidentally – chose another woman of a different ethnic background to deliver a response in Spanish.
Let’s see, the operating narrative is that the Republicans are bad on policies for women and Hispanics are the fastest growing minority in America who also vote overwhelmingly Democrat. I wonder how the GOP chose who would deliver the responses?
Page 2 of 2 - There is a fine line between relating to the audience and cynically pandering to a focus group outcome.
I guess when McMorris Rodgers wins the Republican Primary in 2016, I will eat those words, but as long as Rand Paul gets to come on and deliver his “real response from a relevant voice” response, it belittles the official choice.
The varied responses show that the GOP knows its weaknesses. That self-awareness was lacking when John McCain and Mitt Romney came out of primaries and lost to Obama.
That is a hopeful indicator for Republicans going forward.
They have realized where the leaks are in their voting bucket.
I’m not saying that parading an unknown Republican representative from the northwest on screen after Obama is the best solution. It felt like a veneer on rotten wood.
But it can be a step in the right direction.
If McMorris Rodgers can change the talking points and add balance to the Mike Huckabee “women’s libido” discussions, it will help the party.
I don’t believe the President will have any more luck dealing with Congress this year than he has in the past five. Neither party wants to do anything to give credibility to the other in an election year.
I also don’t know how much he can accomplish on his own with executive orders.
But the beauty of setting big goals is that even if you just move a little closer to them, you are better off than you were before.
In that way, both the State of the Union and the Republican responses were both successful.