Thursday, January 28, 2010

Watching State of the Union with the fam...

Bill came home from work tonight with a story that studies now show that most of the younger voters who engaged in the Obama campaign/win are now completely uninvolved in the political process. To remedy this, the four of us listened on the radio to Obama's State of the Union Address while we ate dinner, then retired to the tv room to watch the rest.

The kids paid close attention, indeed, our 15 year old son shushed me and his sister as we repeatedly made comments about some of the congress people's clothing (I'm trying to teach my daughter to value flash over substance, o-kay?).

As I sought there, watching the speech and thinking back to the campaign, I flashed to that election night where practically our entire cohousing community of some 45 people was crowded into the small living room of one of a one-bedroom apartment to watch the coverage on our neighbor's widescreen tv. The excitement was over-the-top with everyone, including the communists and green party activists who may or may not have voted for Obama.

I resolved to create a wild State of the Union party for the next Obama speech and started planning the snacks, but then remembered that I was watching this speech now and focused. The speech was by and large excellent. The man can talk, and his people can write. He snuck in some good jokes, and some self-effacing, crow-eating moments. He blamed the previous administration copiously, but not in a mean way. He announced some doable and admirable initiatives, mostly to create jobs and boost the economy.

3 things stuck out at me from the speech:

1) Obama bashed the Senate more than I've ever seen one President bash a particular body of the Congress. Consciously praised the House, bashed the Republican minority for forcing a supermajority to get anything done, bashed the cowardice, bashed them for stopping health care, bashed them for stopping financial reform package, bashed bashed bashed. Clearly a decision was reached to make the Senate the scapegoat. Safer then bashing the whole Congress--after all only 1/3 of the Senate is up for relection this year, while the whole darn House is up--too risky to lay the blame on the whole institution. Plus the House has delivered and the Senate hasn't. So bash he does...

2) Obama announced a (probably modest) return of protectionism. I counted 4 instances when he talked about initiatives to save American jobs, export more, enforce more sanctions on international trade, etc. Maybe I'm wrong but this seemed like a different strategy than Clinton, and plays well with labor of course, and probably is popular generally. Maybe this is a way of playing to the public mood for isolation at the same time as he's gotta fight a war. Let's be isolationist on the economy, if not on security.

3) In the last 5-10 minutes of the 70 minute speech, almost in an instant, the whole room changed, both on the screen and at home. The assemblage went from watching a politician give a speech and playing their respective roles of clapping, booing, cheering, or being bored at certain parts, to listening. Speaker Nancy Pelosi over Obama's left shoulder lost her frozen deer-in-the-headlights grin and dropped her jaw. Tears came to her eyes as Obama spoke of the way the nation had pulled together to get through crises before and we could do it again.

For a few minutes, he was the Obama we voted for, the Obama who can change the world, the Obama we trust. And we were all Americans listening to our President.

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