Last week’s State of the Union speech made one thing very clear: President Obama hired a new speech-writer and he “got his mojo back, baby”. There was a confidence in the speech that had been sometimes lacking during the past few years. States of the Union addresses are rarely memorable. Great speakers are memorable, like your Reagans or Clintons, but few of their speeches stand out after the test of time. The few memorable lines often come from Inaugurals or special occasions. (JFK’s “ask not what you can do for your country, but what your country can do for you” or FDR’s Pearl Harbor address “You have nothing to fear but fear itself”) President Obama’s speech this week might end up being one that is remembered for years to come, when he turned the factual laundry list speech to a rousing emotional speech at the end.
Giving a State of the Union address in such polarized times is no easy task. The first term was one of attempted compromise. The reality now is that House Republicans are simply unwilling to work together for ideological reasons. The same people who wouldn’t stand during the speech or return calls after the election are the same complaining they aren’t being reached out too.
Unfortunately, no amount of wining and dining is going to break the hardline far-right opposition that opposes any bill just because of bipartisan cooperation. Marco Rubio learned that the hard way when he was lambasted by his own party this week by trying to compromise.
The President’s speech walked a fine line between being a gracefully presented laundry list of goals while being realistic. These goals, barring immigration, see little hope of being put forward towards an obtuse Congress. Much like Ronald Reagan did to achieve his tax policy changes, it’s time for the President to take his argument to the people.
The only way we are going to see these changes is by making it so politically damning to be continually obstinate that Republicans will have to learn that they cannot ignore the will of the American people to placate their gerrymandered constituencies.
The speech’s high point was, for me, started with the call for electoral reform in our country. Desiline Victor, a 102-year-old, should not have waited 6 hours in line to vote. Every American who has the ability and privilege of voting should have the ability to do. Denying people voting rights through gerrymandering and gamesmanship is un-American and sad.
However, the climax of the crescendo came when the President called out the names of the victims of gun violence and stated they deserve a vote. He did this with dramatic rhythm and cadence that caused the audience to respond with equal emotion. This was more than a call to just vote on gun safety legislation or immigration, but moreover it was a call to Congress and Republicans to allow for other voices to be heard and vote on laws for the American People. No more games, this was a call to get things done.
Reprinted from 5th District State Sen. Curt Thompson's (D-Tucker) blog. Thompson represents parts of unincorporated Duluth, Norcross, Tucker, and Lawrenceville. Also, check the Senator out on Facebook and Twitter.