President Barack Obama’s first State of the Union Speech last night was yet another glowing example of his ability to outperform practically anyone who has ever delivered a speech in a public forum. His skills as an orator are probably unmatched by anyone coming before him. To some extent, that trait might have been the very thing that propelled him, first, to the democratic nomination for president, and then to a general election victory in 2008.
However, after being in office for a year, the record does not indicate that his words and his accomplishment are in lock-step. In fact, the most important declared goals vs. what has been achieved in his first year at US president tell a very different story. It is therefore difficult to say at this point whether his speech did much to change the minds of those critical independent voters who got tired of waiting for the change they voted for to occur.
According to the CNN/Opinion Research poll numbers released after the speech, 48% felt “very positive” about what they heard the president say and 30 % felt “somewhat” positive about it. Although the two add up to a 78% positive rating, a year ago the number of “very positive” listeners alone was 68%, or 20% more after Obama’s first address before congress. That 20% deficit demonstrates that independent voters are shying away from the president and his domestic agenda after a year of endless partisan bickering in congress.
In reference to the extreme partisanship occurring on Capital Hill, Obama did say something pretty bold during his speech:
“And if the Republican leadership is going to insist that 60 votes in the Senate are required to do any business at all in this town, a supermajority, then the responsibility to govern is now yours, as well. Just saying no to everything may be good short-term politics, but it’s not leadership. We were sent here to serve our citizens, not our ambitions.
Those fighting words were directed at the GOP members of the US senate. Since the beginning of Obama’s administration a year ago, the republicans in Congress have voted “no” unanimously (or nearly unanimously) on almost every bill in the president’s domestic agenda, including health care reform and the economic stimulus package.
With the election of republican Scott Brown last week, the democrats’ filibuster-proof supermajority in the senate is gone. That means that as long as the GOP votes as a party block instead of individuals representing their individual states, they can essentially stop the senate from acting on the business of We, the PEOPLE!! dead in its tracks.
The tactic of seizing the moment to cast the spotlight on the opposition, as Obama did last night, is refreshing to say the least. For too long this president has believed that if he just works hard on his agenda, everyone else will slowly but surely come to think as he does and believe in the domestic agenda he does. That clearly has not worked.
Finally the gloves have come off and Obama is taking the political fight to the other side, who have never been reluctant to do the same. The republicans are on notice that playtime is over and the fight will now be delivered to their doorstep. If the Obama and the democrats had chosen to learn and apply this lesson six months ago, Scott Brown might not have been elected to Ted Kennedy’s senate seat , and the democrats would still have hold of that 60-seat super-majority in the senate.
But on the other hand, as painful as it has been for the democrats, at least this has happened while there is still time to get the message and thus salvage their political existence. Obama’s walk must now match his talk, because if he or it doesn’t, he’s facing a defeat for his party in 2010, and for himself in 2012. The GOP has put out a mountain of lies about health care reform and other issues on the president’s domestic agenda. They did so loudly and repeatedly until people started to believe them. As long as Obama challenges these lies immediately, directly and continuously, regarding health care reform or any other issue, he will be okay and he will slowly regain the lost support of those independent voters who were instrumental with putting him into the White House to begin with.
We’ll be watching and frankly cheering for the president in the coming months. And if the GOP still wants to continue in their roles as naysayers and obstructionists, we’ll be watching for that, too.
But will the majority of Americans watch carefully as well, or will they just believe the person who screams the loudest and the most?