I enjoyed watching President Obama’s state of the union speech last week. I watched it again the next day with a poli sci student who had to write a paper about it. When I went looking for a copy of the text, I found that the White House has also posted an augmented version on YouTube. I checked that out for a few minutes, but didn’t need to see all the powerpoint.
I was surprised that Obama seemed much less partisan than expected. Partway through the live presentation I texted a friend that the president had joined the Tea Party, promising no more bailouts. Afterwards several commentators did indeed agree that the president had used some of the language and issues of the libertarian right in a pitch aimed at independent voters. On the other hand he also raised the fairness issue on taxes, an Occupy Wall Street meme.
Reading the text, and sampling the many pundits who weighed in with their reviews, the speech was more partisan than it sounded. It is an election year after all. He’s going to run against a do nothing Congress. So he made a lot of proposals that are unlikely to be acted upon until after the vote in November.
I don’t have a big problem with partisanship, when the word is defined as bias in favour of a particular cause. Nor do I despise politicians, as long as they support democracy and behave ethically. I do think however, that the party system in the United States has had a corrupting influence on their elections, legislation and government.
Obama has been in campaign mode since last fall, and the Republicans the same. That’s a whole year with important issues being kicked down the road.
I’m hoping Obama gets re-elected. McCain was the better candidate in 2008, but the winner did okay, given the mess the economy was in. He would have done even better if the Republicans had controlled Congress those first two years. His health care bill would have been more carefully written and he would have had some cover when the stimulus failed to produce the jobs he said it would. While I thought Obama was too inexperienced before, now he’s the incumbent, and the only people more qualified are too old or ineligible to run again.
As this New Yorker article indicates, Obama wants to be non-partisan, or at least bipartisan. I’d like to see what he could accomplish without worrying about re-election. If he squeaks back in, he and Republican budget chair Paul Ryan could take on the deficit and medicare, and force cooperation on the leaders of both parties.
Perhaps an unrealistic fantasy I admit. But that’s what I was dreaming last Tuesday evening. Maybe Obama was too.