Some Thoughts on the State of the Union Address

Posted in Editorials on January 26th, 2011
by Elizabeth
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We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution. We may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promise that says this is a place where you can make it if you try. We may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything’s possible. No matter who you are. No matter where you come from.

President Barack Obama’s vision of America is truly inspiring. This section of his speech is reminiscent of the famous “Audacity of Hope” speech from 2004. “There is not a Red America and a Blue America, There is a United States of America!…”

It makes me feel good, and it was super cute to see members of Congress on their bipartisan dates, but I don’t know if there’s a there there. I still think Melissa McEwan said it best a few years ago, but I have more to add because the situation has not changed much in 3 years, it might have even gotten worse. George W Bush supported Immigration Reform, the START Treaty and the assault weapons ban – all unthinkable in today’s Republican Party.

One of my favorite questions about America today is brought to the forefront of my mind when I hear rhetoric like President Obama’s. I like the idea that despite our differences in race, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, and class we are all Americans. My father was not born in the US, and yet he is a proud citizen and veteran. I’m the daughter of a family containing different ethnicities and faiths, but in addition to the love that makes us a family, we also share a national identity as Americans.

Something I have been thinking about for a long time is this – what about people who don’t agree with the Constitution? People who oppose Birthright Citizenship, The Civil Rights Act, The Voting Rights Act or even Women’s Suffrage? If the definition of an American is one who believes in the vision of the founding fathers, in what way are those people Americans? I am deeply troubled by this question.

This question is one the President seems to ignore, and it makes it difficult for me to really believe that he is as effective of a leader as he could be because of it. It’s alienating to liberals like myself and I doubt it does anything for conservatives. I’m not making an argument about tone. I’m asking a question about his political worldview. In his book, “The Audacity of Hope,” President Obama wrote,

What’s needed is a broad majority of Americans – Democrats, Republicans, and independents of goodwill – who are reengaged in the project of national renewal, and who see their own self-interest as inextricably linked to the interests of others.

I don’t know what that means. I know that I am a liberal because I believe that my self interest is inextricably linked to the interests of others, among other reasons. But that view is wholly incompatible with modern American conservatism. It is in fact, fundamentally opposed. Why, then would President Obama write as if we have any philosophical common ground? We might have common ground on certain issues or policies. But not that one. Collectivism is a liberal, not a conservative value and you can’t just make it something everyone holds dear by fiat because it gives you goosebumps.

However, I might be wrong. In his first two years, President Obama has achieved an impressive amount of legislative victories, and if his incomprehensible (to me) point of view has contributed to his success in any way, I hope that he will continue to hold it. I would rather be making progress than have a leader who sits on his hands out of spite.

3 Responses to “Some Thoughts on the State of the Union Address”

  1. J. Clifford Says:

    Obama’s decision to make nice, and paper over differences with Republicans, is highly annoying to liberals like myself who actually wanted a President who was different from the GOP.

    What happens as a result of Obama’s vague common ground speeches is that progressives lose focus. So, we have Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat for goodness sakes, working with Diane Feinstein and the Republicans in the Senate to renew the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act for two and half more years without substantial reform.

    We worked too hard to get Obama in office to accept bland niceities and a big hug for so-called “clean coal”. I was very disappointed in the State of the Union Address.

  2. MissCherryPi Says:

    I agree with you for the most part.

    I think the worst things he has done have to do with not pushing harder to close Guantanamo and the recently revealed by wiki-leaks pandering to Spain s not to prosecute Bush. War crimes and torture are unacceptable.

    However, I voted for Barack Obama knowing he is a moderate DLC Democrat whose disdain for partisanship makes no sense to me. I had no expectations that he would be a liberal. I have voted green party in local elections where the Republican was a moderate and the Democrat unimpressive, and so there’s not much to lose, but I wouldn’t describe McCain/Palin as such and I wasn’t really that enthralled with Cynthia McKinney to be honest.

    Maybe it’s a topic for another post, but while I am often frustrated with President Obama, I don’t get all the angst. For example, I know that “clean coal” is an oxymoron, but Obama was very clear during the campaign that he supported it.

  3. FrankFrankly Says:

    The alternative to Obama’s style isn’t sitting on his hands, but rather demonstration of stronger leadership.

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