Deconstructing Obama’s 2016 State of the Union Address
Master confusifier, Ericksonian hypnotist, psychopathic narcissist, and man-of-enigmatic-past Barack Hussein Obama showed up before the assembled Congress to hit his mark and perform the ritual of spinning comforting fictions and confusion about what’s going on with “America.” This speech is embedded with a mass of odd and contradictory suggestions that fly past before anyone can possibly process them.
Obama is like a kiddy pool, shallow even at the deep end, but up on the podium he’s primed to deliver to us the deep feelings that assure us that we’re still human, and share the values of the fake man. Yes, I did listen to it, and this edit is my brave attempt to deal with the cognitive dissonance.
A nauseated look at Mr. Obama’s last State of the Union address (as prepared for delivery, from Whitehouse.gov) – text being commented on is in Bold Red, my comments are bold and in (parentheses):
Mr. Speaker, Mr. Vice President, Members of Congress, my fellow Americans,
Tonight marks the eighth year I’ve come here to report on the State of the Union. And for this final one, I’m going to try to make it shorter. I know some of you are antsy to get back to Iowa.
I also understand that because it’s an election season, expectations for what we’ll achieve this year are low. Still, Mr. Speaker, I appreciate the constructive approach you and the other leaders took at the end of last year to pass a budget and make tax cuts permanent for working families. So I hope we can work together this year on bipartisan priorities like criminal justice reform, and helping people who are battling prescription drug abuse. We just might surprise the cynics again.
But tonight, I want to go easy on the traditional list of proposals for the year ahead. Don’t worry, I’ve got plenty, from helping students learn to write computer code to personalizing medical treatments for patients. And I’ll keep pushing for progress on the work that still needs doing. Fixing a broken immigration system. Protecting our kids from gun violence. Equal pay for equal work, paid leave, raising the minimum wage. All these things still matter to hardworking families; they are still the right thing to do; and I will not let up until they get done.
But for my final address to this chamber, I don’t want to talk just about the next year. I want to focus on the next five years, ten years, and beyond.
I want to focus on our (your) future.
We live in a time of extraordinary change – change that’s reshaping the way we live, the way we work, our planet and our place in the world. It’s change that promises amazing medical breakthroughs, but also economic disruptions that strain working families. It promises education for girls in the most remote villages, but also connects terrorists plotting an ocean away. It’s change that can broaden opportunity, or widen inequality. And whether we like it or not, the pace of this change will only accelerate.
America has been through big changes before – wars and depression, the influx of immigrants, workers fighting for a fair deal, and movements to expand civil rights. Each time, there have been those who told us to fear the future; who claimed we could slam the brakes on change, promising to restore past glory if we just got some group or idea that was threatening America under control. And each time, we overcame those fears. We did not, in the words of Lincoln, adhere to the “dogmas of the quiet past.” Instead we thought anew, and acted anew. We made change work for us, always extending America’s promise outward (what promise, exactly?) to the next frontier, to more and more people. And because we did – because we saw opportunity where others saw only peril (WTF does that mean?) – we emerged stronger and better than before (as always, forever without end, Amen).
What was true then can be true now. Our unique strengths as a nation – our optimism and work ethic, our spirit of discovery and innovation, our diversity and commitment to the rule of law – these things give us everything we need to ensure prosperity and security for generations to come.
In fact, it’s that spirit that made the progress of these past seven years possible. It’s how we recovered from the worst economic crisis in generations. (Lie) It’s how we reformed our health care system, and reinvented our energy sector; (made “health care” unaffordable and brought the Fracking disaster to America) how we delivered more care and benefits to our troops and veterans, (Lie) and how we secured the freedom in every state to marry the person we love (made it possible for gays and lesbians to enter into marriage contracts with an authoritarian government).
But such progress is not inevitable. It is the result of choices we make together (Lie – the people of the United States make NO CHOICES as we are OWNED – thanks, George). And we face such choices right now (get ready, and keep the KY Jelly handy). Will we respond to the changes of our time with fear, turning inward as a nation, and turning against each other as a people? Or will we face the future with confidence in who we are, what we stand for, and the incredible things we can do together? (totally hyperbolic, insincere, flattering BS – or THIFBS)
So let’s talk about the future, and four big questions that we as a country have to answer – regardless of who the next President is, or who controls the next Congress.
First, how do we give everyone a fair shot at opportunity and security in this new economy? (when we hear this, do we just roll over and grant him credibility when he says this is what he wants?)
Second, how do we make technology work for us, and not against us – especially when it comes to solving urgent challenges like climate change? (OK, confusing conflation of Memes: We know what they want to do with their technology, and it’s clear that “climate change” is code for using technology to control us more)
Third, how do we keep America safe and lead the world without becoming its policeman? (code for “Stop Gun Violence” as well as a Big Lie – We ARE the world’s policeman – at least until the UN is sent in with “Responsibility to Protect” the world FROM us)
And finally, how can we make our politics (control people to) reflect what’s best in us, and not what’s worst? (trick question: this is something that “politics” can never do – We each, individually need to bring what’s best in us to the table)
Let me start with the economy, and a basic fact (hypnotic suggestion): the United States of America, right now, has the strongest, most durable economy in the world (OMG, LIE, LIE, LIE). We’re in the middle of the longest streak of private-sector job creation in history (Lying With Statistics – LWS). More than 14 million new jobs (what kind of jobs?); the strongest two years of job growth since the ‘90s (LWS); an unemployment rate cut in half (LWS). Our auto industry just had its best year ever (with unsold inventory building up to avoid layoffs and most cars now sold with Sub-Prime Loans). Manufacturing has created nearly 900,000 new jobs in the past six years (LWS). And we’ve done all this while cutting our deficits by almost three-quarters. (LWS)
Anyone claiming that America’s economy is in decline is peddling fiction (Lie – and a hypnotic induction to ignore what you see all around you). What is true – and the reason that a lot of Americans feel anxious – is that the economy has been changing in profound ways, changes that started long before the Great Recession hit and haven’t let up (Lie and crazy-making). Today, technology doesn’t just replace jobs on the assembly line, but any job where work can be automated (economy’s fine, who needs a job?). Companies in a global economy can locate anywhere, and face tougher competition (poor bubbies). As a result, workers have less leverage for a raise (and we’ll keep manipulating things to make this more true). Companies have less loyalty to their communities (OLIGARCHS have less loyalty to their fellow humans). And more and more wealth and income is concentrated at the very top (but there’s no decline here).
All these trends have squeezed workers, even when they have jobs; even when the economy is growing (Lie). It’s made it harder for a hardworking family to pull itself out of poverty, harder for young people to start on their careers, and tougher for workers to retire when they want to. And although none of these trends are unique to America, they do offend our uniquely American belief (THIFBS) that everybody who works hard should get a fair shot (Lie – the Elite Planners do not believe this).
For the past seven years, our goal has been a growing economy that works better for everybody (Lie). We’ve made progress (Lie). But we need to make more. And despite all the political arguments we’ve had these past few years, there are some areas where Americans broadly agree (i.e. when not overcast, the sky is blue with chemtrails) .
We agree that real opportunity requires every American to get the education and training they need to land a good-paying job (no opportunity without programming). The bipartisan reform of No Child Left Behind was an important start (and Common Core is finishing the job), and together, we’ve increased early childhood education (what does that mean?), lifted high school graduation rates to new highs (by lowering standards), and boosted graduates in fields like engineering (who have to move back in with their parents and get a job flipping burgers). In the coming years, we should build on that progress, by providing Pre-K for all (earlier programming), offering every student the hands-on computer science and math classes that make them job-ready on day one (and don’t teach pesky critical thinking), and we should recruit and support more great teachers for our kids (as long as they’re fine with dumbing children down).
And we have to make college affordable for every American (let’s cut Bernie off at the pass with Elite-sanctioned Socialism). Because no hardworking student should be stuck in the red (which is why we made it impossible to remove student debt with bankruptcy). We’ve already reduced student loan payments to ten percent of a borrower’s income. Now, we’ve actually got to cut the cost of college. Providing two years of community college at no cost for every responsible student (good slave) is one of the best ways to do that, and I’m going to keep fighting to get that started this year.
Of course, a great education (what do you think that means?) isn’t all we need in this new economy. We also need benefits and protections that provide a basic measure of security (the nanny state will protect you from cradle-to-grave – If we have the funding). After all, it’s not much of a stretch to say that some of the only people in America who are going to work the same job, in the same place, with a health and retirement package, for 30 years, are sitting in this chamber (is this some kind of sick joke?). For everyone else, especially folks in their forties and fifties, saving for retirement or bouncing back from job loss has gotten a lot tougher (most seniors don’t have squat, so we’ll tell you what your options are). Americans understand that at some point in their careers, they may have to retool and retrain (how about a “customer service” job after your engineering career went to India?). But they shouldn’t lose what they’ve already worked so hard to build (unless, of course, your pension was already stolen).
That’s why Social Security and Medicare are more important than ever; we shouldn’t weaken them, we should strengthen them. And for Americans short of retirement, basic benefits should be just as mobile as everything else is today (and they will ALWAYS be there, no matter what, Praise the Fed). That’s what the Affordable Care Act is all about (Lie). It’s about filling the gaps in employer-based care (like we all have) so that when we lose a job, or go back to school, or start that new business, we’ll still have coverage (that we can’t afford). Nearly eighteen million have gained coverage so far. Health care inflation has slowed (Lie). And our businesses have created jobs every single month since it became law (LWS).
Now, I’m guessing we won’t agree on health care anytime soon. But there should be other ways both parties can improve economic security. Say a hardworking American loses his job – we shouldn’t just make sure he can get unemployment insurance; we should make sure that program encourages him to retrain for a business that’s ready to hire him (intense training for Walmart greeters). If that new job doesn’t pay as much, there should be a system of wage insurance in place so that he can still pay his bills (I’m smelling that Nanny State…). And even if he’s going from job to job, he should still be able to save for retirement and take his savings with him (what planet is this guy from?). That’s the way we make the new economy work better for everyone (everyone that counts, that is).
I also know Speaker Ryan has talked about his interest in tackling poverty (like in the NFL, and giving it brain-damage). America is about giving everybody willing to work a hand up (Lie), and I’d welcome a serious discussion about strategies we can all support, like expanding tax cuts for low-income workers without kids (we care so much we’re gonna steal less).
But there are other areas where it’s been more difficult to find agreement over the last seven years – namely what role the government should play in making sure the system’s not rigged in favor of the wealthiest and biggest corporations (yeah, we’ll reign in “corporations,” but certainly not your Owners). And here, the American people have a choice to make (yeah, Slavery or, em, Slavery).
I believe a thriving private sector is the lifeblood of our economy. I think there are outdated regulations that need to be changed, and there’s red tape that needs to be cut. But after years of record corporate profits, working families won’t get more opportunity or bigger paychecks by letting big banks or big oil or hedge funds make their own rules at the expense of everyone else; or by allowing attacks on collective bargaining to go unanswered. Food Stamp recipients didn’t cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did (Lie – it was all planned). Immigrants aren’t the reason wages haven’t gone up enough; those decisions are made in the boardrooms that too often put quarterly earnings over long-term returns. It’s sure not the average family watching tonight that avoids paying taxes through offshore accounts. In this new economy, workers and start-ups and small businesses need more of a voice, not less. The rules should work for them (I’m lying – we have no intention of allowing this). And this year I plan to lift up the many businesses who’ve figured out that doing right by their workers ends up being good for their shareholders, their customers, and their communities, so that we can spread those best practices across America (thank you, satan).
In fact, many of our best corporate citizens are also our most creative (like, em, making money out of thin air). This brings me to the second big question we have to answer as a country: how do we reignite that spirit of innovation to meet our biggest challenges (while we continue to dumb you down and reinforce your Stockholm Syndrome conditioning – Hard, eh)?
Sixty years ago, when the Russians beat us into space, we didn’t deny Sputnik was up there. We didn’t argue about the science, or shrink our research and development budget. We built a space program almost overnight, and twelve years later, we were walking on the moon (don’t want to miss a chance to catapult this propaganda).
That spirit of discovery is in our DNA (yeah, we have American DNA, changes when you cross the border – Unless you’re a terrorist). We’re Thomas Edison and the Wright Brothers and George Washington Carver (and Charlie Hebdo – BTW this is THIFBS). We’re Grace Hopper and Katherine Johnson and Sally Ride. We’re every immigrant and entrepreneur from Boston to Austin to Silicon Valley racing to shape a better world. And over the past seven years, we’ve nurtured that spirit (thank you, satan).
We’ve protected an open internet (Lie), and taken bold new steps to get more students and low-income Americans online (how about a little DEVICE, Scarecrow?). We’ve launched next-generation manufacturing hubs, and online tools that give an entrepreneur everything he or she needs to start a business in a single day (there’s room at the top – Just check out Mark Zuckerberg!).
But we can do so much more. Last year, Vice President Biden said that with a new moonshot, America can cure cancer (with chemotherapy, radiation or surgery). Last month, he worked with this Congress to give scientists at the National Institutes of Health the strongest resources they’ve had in over a decade. Tonight, I’m announcing a new national effort to get it done. And because he’s gone to the mat for all of us, on so many issues over the past forty years, I’m putting Joe in charge of Mission Control (ground control to Major Tom). For the loved ones we’ve all lost, for the family we can still save, let’s make America the country that cures cancer once and for all (yow, a GIGANTIC pile of steaming lies).
Medical research is critical. We need the same level of commitment when it comes to developing clean energy sources (so we can put inventors’ work under National Security patent findings, or if need be, kill them – RIP Stanley Meyer).
Look, if anybody still wants to dispute the science around climate change, have at it (we’ll be branding you a terrorist “Denier” and disappearing you under NDAA). You’ll be pretty lonely (in detention), because you’ll be debating our military (water-boarding is NOT torture), most of America’s business leaders, the majority of the American people (mind-control is a thing of beauty), almost the entire scientific community (official science WORKS), and 200 nations around the world who agree it’s a problem and intend to solve it.
But even if the planet wasn’t at stake; even if 2014 wasn’t the warmest year on record (Lie) – until 2015 turned out even hotter (Lie) – why would we want to pass up the chance for American businesses to produce and sell the energy of the future? (now we’re gettin’ to the truth of the matter)
Seven years ago, we made the single biggest investment in clean energy in our history. Here are the results. In fields from Iowa to Texas, wind power is now cheaper than dirtier, conventional power (sorry about those birds). On rooftops from Arizona to New York, solar is saving Americans tens of millions of dollars a year on their energy bills, and employs more Americans than coal – in jobs that pay better than average. We’re taking steps to give homeowners the freedom to generate and store their own energy – something environmentalists and Tea Partiers have teamed up to support. Meanwhile, we’ve cut our imports of foreign oil by nearly sixty percent (Fracking Rawks!), and cut carbon pollution (carbon pollution? – oh that’s right, we don’t “debate the science”) more than any other country on Earth.
Gas under two bucks a gallon ain’t bad, either (ha, take that Vladimir).
Now we’ve got to accelerate the transition away from dirty energy. Rather than subsidize the past, we should invest in the future – especially in communities that rely on fossil fuels (OK, I’ll just say this once: petroleum is NOT “fossil fuel” – ‘nuff said). That’s why I’m going to push to change the way we manage (charge for) our (we do own the whole damn world) oil and coal resources, so that they better reflect the costs they impose on taxpayers and our planet (don’t plan on commuting to work). That way, we put money back into those communities (Lie) and put tens of thousands of Americans to work building a 21st century transportation system (oh yeah, get you out of those darn cars and into Bullet Trains, that’ll do ‘er).
None of this will happen overnight, and yes, there are plenty of entrenched interests (not like my bosses on Wallstreet) who want to protect the status quo. But the jobs we’ll create, the money we’ll save, and the planet we’ll preserve – that’s the kind of future our kids and grandkids deserve (just make sure they get “their shots”).
Climate change is just one of many issues where our security is linked to the rest of the world. And that’s why the third big question we have to answer is how to keep America safe and strong without either isolating ourselves or trying to nation-build everywhere there’s a problem (isn’t that what god made nukes for?).
I told you earlier all the talk of America’s economic decline is political hot air (Ericksonian suggestion #2). Well, so is all the rhetoric you hear about our enemies getting stronger and America getting weaker. The United States of America is the most powerful nation on Earth (that’s right, we will HURT you). Period. It’s not even close. We spend more on our military than the next eight nations combined (this is something to brag about?). Our troops are the finest fighting force in the history of the world (USA, USA!). No nation dares to attack us or our allies (except, perhaps, ISIS) because they know that’s the path to ruin. Surveys show our standing around the world is higher than when I was elected to this office (what surveys can he possibly be talking about?), and when it comes to every important international issue, people of the world do not look to Beijing or Moscow to lead (unless of course they’re not people under the thrall of Western propaganda, in other words, terrorists) – they call us.
As someone who begins every day with an intelligence (perhaps this word has been degraded) briefing, I know this is a dangerous time (there are people who want to hurt us). But that’s not because of diminished American strength or some looming superpower (ISIS, ISIS, ISIS, ISIS…). In today’s world, we’re threatened less by evil empires and more by failing states (like places that are TOTALLY BANKRUPT?). The Middle East is going through a transformation that will play out for a generation (if we have our way), rooted in conflicts that date back millennia (you are getting sleepy…). Economic headwinds blow from a Chinese economy in transition (if “something” goes wrong with our economy, it’s their fault). Even as their economy contracts (neener, neener, neener), Russia is pouring resources to prop up Ukraine (WTF?) and Syria – states they see slipping away from their orbit. And the international system we built after World War II is now struggling to keep pace with this new reality (it couldn’t happen to nicer guys).
It’s up to us (you, to do as you’re told) to help remake that system. And that means we (the Royal we) have to set priorities.
Priority number one is protecting the American people and going after terrorist networks (and, yes, we do mean HOMEGROWN terrorists). Both al Qaeda and now ISIL (ISIS, IS, whatever, our cherished creature) pose a direct threat to our people, because in today’s world, even a handful of terrorists who place no value on human life (remember Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Panama, Yugoslavia, Chile, Nicaragua, Honduras, etc. ad nauseum), including their own (war on the proles), can do a lot of damage. They use the Internet (Mainstream Media) to poison the minds of individuals inside our country; they undermine our allies (including our Greatest Ally, Israel).
But as we focus on destroying ISIL, over-the-top claims that this is World War III just play into their hands. Masses of fighters on the back of (very cool) pickup trucks and twisted souls plotting in apartments (board rooms) or garages (Federal buildings) pose an enormous danger to civilians and must be stopped. But they do not threaten our national existence. That’s the story ISIL wants to tell; that’s the kind of propaganda they use to recruit. We don’t need to build them up to show that we’re serious (but to advance the Hegelian Dialectic), nor do we need to push away vital allies in this fight by echoing the lie that ISIL is representative of one of the world’s largest religions. We just need to call them what they are – killers and fanatics who have to be rooted out, hunted down, and destroyed (as the State is designed to do).
That’s exactly what we are doing (not quite). For more than a year, America has led a coalition of more than 60 countries to cut off ISIL’s financing, disrupt their plots, stop the flow of terrorist fighters, and stamp out their vicious ideology (how’s that working for us?). With nearly 10,000 air strikes, we are taking out their leadership, their oil, their training camps, and their weapons. We are training, arming, and supporting forces who are steadily reclaiming territory in Iraq and Syria (from their governments, after all they’re “failed states”).
If this Congress is serious about winning this war, and wants to send a message to our troops and the world, you should finally authorize the use of military force against ISIL. Take a vote. But the American people should know that with or without Congressional action, ISIL will learn the same lessons as terrorists before them (like the empire of the West). If you doubt America’s commitment – or mine – to see that justice is done, ask Osama bin Laden (don’t make me lie again!). Ask the leader of al Qaeda in Yemen, who was taken out last year, or the perpetrator of the Benghazi attacks, who sits in a prison cell (hold on a sec, has Hillary finally been detained?) . When you come after Americans, we go after you. It may take time, but we have long memories, and our reach has no limit (grandiosity knows no bounds…).
Our foreign policy must be focused on the threat from ISIL and al Qaeda, but it can’t stop there. For even without ISIL, instability will continue for decades in many parts of the world (we have think-tanks working on it) – in the Middle East, in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in parts of Central America, Africa and Asia. Some of these places may become safe havens for new terrorist networks; others will fall victim to ethnic conflict, or famine, feeding the next wave of refugees. The world will look to us (what world is he referring to?) to help solve these problems, and our answer needs to be more than tough talk or calls to carpet bomb civilians. That may work as a TV sound bite, but it doesn’t pass muster on the world stage.
We also can’t try to take over and rebuild every country that falls into crisis (are there no nukes?). That’s not leadership; that’s a recipe for quagmire, spilling American blood and treasure that ultimately weakens us. It’s the lesson of Vietnam, of Iraq – and we should have learned it by now (you’d think).
Fortunately, there’s a smarter approach, a patient and disciplined strategy that uses every element of our national power. It says America will always act, alone if necessary, to protect our people and our allies; but on issues of global concern, we will mobilize the world to work with us, and make sure other countries pull their own weight (mush, you huskies).
That’s our approach to conflicts like Syria, where we’re partnering with local forces and leading international efforts to help that broken society pursue a lasting peace (of the dead).
That’s why we built a global coalition, with sanctions and principled diplomacy, to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran. As we speak, Iran has rolled back its nuclear program, shipped out its uranium stockpile, and the world has avoided another war (I want some of what he’s smoking).
That’s how we stopped the spread of Ebola in West Africa. Our military, our doctors, and our development workers set up the platform that allowed other countries to join us in stamping (i.e. rolling) out that epidemic.
That’s how we forged a Trans-Pacific Partnership to open (monopolize) markets, protect (screw) workers and the environment, and advance American (predatory) leadership in Asia. It cuts 18,000 taxes on products Made in America, and supports more good jobs (in countries where folks work for poverty wages and manufacturers can pollute and then sue us if we try to interfere). With TPP, China doesn’t set the rules in that region, we do. You want to show our (ignorance is) strength in this century? Approve this agreement. Give us the tools to enforce it.
Fifty years of isolating Cuba had failed to promote democracy, setting us back in Latin America. That’s why we restored diplomatic relations, opened the door to travel and commerce, and positioned ourselves to improve (“improve”) the lives of the Cuban people. You want to consolidate our leadership and credibility in the hemisphere? Recognize that the Cold War is over. Lift the embargo.
American leadership in the 21st century is not a choice between ignoring the rest of the world – except when we kill terrorists; or occupying and rebuilding whatever society is unraveling. Leadership means a wise application of military power (da boss wants you should give us your resources), and rallying the world behind causes that are right. It means seeing our foreign assistance as part of our national security, not charity. When we lead nearly 200 nations to the most ambitious agreement in history to fight climate change (yeah, the climate’s gonna stop changing any time now) – that helps vulnerable countries, but it also protects our children (with heavy metal nano-particulate protection). When we help Ukraine defend its democracy (fascists), or Colombia resolve a decades-long war, that strengthens the international order (and what order is that?) we depend upon. When we help African countries feed their people and care for the sick (how about some GMO’s and some vaccinations?), that prevents the next pandemic from reaching our shores. Right now, we are on track to end the scourge of HIV/AIDS, and we have the capacity to accomplish the same thing with malaria (did Barack finally hear about MMS? – oh, didn’t think so) – something I’ll be pushing this Congress to fund this year (just put it on the tab).
That’s strength. That’s leadership. And that kind of leadership depends on the power of our example (we can only pray that people don’t learn by example). That is why I will keep working to shut down the prison at Guantanamo: it’s expensive, it’s unnecessary, and it only serves as a recruitment brochure for our enemies.
That’s why we need to reject any politics that targets people because of race or religion. This isn’t a matter of political correctness. It’s a matter of understanding what makes us strong. The world respects us not just for our arsenal; it respects us for our diversity and our openness and the way we respect every faith (Lie). His Holiness, Pope Francis, told this body from the very spot I stand tonight that “to imitate the hatred and violence of tyrants and murderers is the best way to take their place.” (and we’re well on our way) When politicians insult Muslims, when a mosque is vandalized, or a kid bullied, that doesn’t make us safer. That’s not telling it like it is. It’s just wrong. It diminishes us in the eyes of the world. It makes it harder to achieve our goals. And it betrays who we are as a country (I think that’s getting pretty clear to most folks by now).
(Cue the Ericksonian Cheerleading and entrainment push):
“We the People.” Our Constitution begins with those three simple words, words we’ve come to recognize mean all the people, not just some (funny, that’s not the way the Courts interpret it); words that insist we rise and fall together. That brings me to the fourth, and maybe the most important thing I want to say tonight.
The future we want – opportunity and security for our families; a rising standard of living and a sustainable, peaceful planet for our kids – all that is within our reach (flagrant Lie). But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates (these debates are not on the agenda – At all).
It will only happen if we fix our politics (I thought they were already fixed).
A better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. This is a big country, with different regions and attitudes and interests. That’s one of our strengths, too. Our Founders distributed power between states and branches of government, and expected us to argue, just as they did, over the size and shape of government, over commerce and foreign relations, over the meaning of liberty and the imperatives of security (blah, blah).
But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens (whom we’re working to divide with distrust even as I speak). It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic (and our society is devolving at breakneck speed despite the “empathy and good intentions” of our hierarchical overlords). Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested (such as the known facts that 19 hijackers with box cutters brought us to our knees on 9/11 and “Adam Lanza” killed 27 people at Sandy Hook Elementary), and we listen only to those who agree with us (I’m listening to you, Barry). Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest (so I guess it’s all working then).
Too many Americans feel that way right now (and we have plans to deal with them). It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency – that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.
But, my fellow Americans, this cannot be my task – or any President’s – alone. There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected. I know; you’ve told me. And if we want a better politics, it’s not enough to just change a Congressman or a Senator or even a President; we have to change the system to reflect our better selves.
We have to end the practice of drawing our congressional districts so that politicians can pick their voters, and not the other way around. We have to reduce the influence of money in our politics, so that a handful of families and hidden interests can’t bankroll our elections – and if our existing approach to campaign finance can’t pass muster in the courts, we need to work together to find a real solution. We’ve got to make voting easier, not harder, and modernize it for the way we live now (repeat after me: voting brings change, voting brings change…). And over the course of this year, I intend to travel the country to push for reforms that do.
But I can’t do these things on my own. Changes in our political process – in not just who gets elected but how they get elected – that will only happen when the American people demand it (Lie). It will depend on you (staying in “your place” and listening to your betters). That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people (hey, just who are these “people?”).
What I’m asking for is hard. It’s easier to be cynical; to accept that change isn’t possible, and politics is hopeless, and to believe that our voices and actions don’t matter. But if we give up now, then we forsake a better future (and Charlie Brown is gonna kick that football one of these days). Those with money and power will gain greater control over the decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic disaster, or roll back the equal rights and voting rights that generations of Americans have fought, even died, to secure (is this a prediction?). As frustration grows, there will be voices urging us to fall back into tribes, to scapegoat fellow citizens who don’t look like us, or pray like us, or vote like we do, or share the same background (or to Wake the Flock up, withdraw our consent to be governed and cease compliance with a violent, illegitimate system).
We can’t afford to go down that path (da boss wants you should stay in line). It won’t deliver the economy we want, or the security we want, but most of all, it contradicts everything that makes us the envy of the world (like the platinum mastercard and tailgate parties).
So, my fellow Americans, whatever you may believe, whether you prefer one party or no party, our collective future depends on your willingness to uphold your obligations as a citizen (14th Amendment citizen, with “privileges” and “responsibilities” – You did consent to this, yes?) . To vote. To speak out. To stand up for others, especially the weak, especially the vulnerable, knowing that each of us is only here because somebody, somewhere, stood up for us. To stay active in our public life so it reflects the goodness and decency and optimism that I see in the American people every single day. (I’m getting’ all teary eyed now…)
It won’t be easy. Our brand of democracy is hard. But I can promise that a year from now, when I no longer hold this office (oh please, oh please, anybody but Obama – hey, it worked with Bush, right?), I’ll be right there with you as a citizen – inspired by those voices of fairness and vision, of grit and good humor and kindness that have helped America travel so far. Voices that help us see ourselves not first and foremost as black or white or Asian or Latino, not as gay or straight, immigrant or native born; not as Democrats or Republicans, but as Americans first, bound by a common creed. Voices Dr. King believed would have the final word – voices of unarmed truth and unconditional love.
They’re out there, those voices. They don’t get a lot of attention, nor do they seek it, but they are busy doing the work this country needs doing.
I see them everywhere I travel in this incredible country of ours. I see you. I know you’re there. You’re the reason why I have such incredible confidence in our future. Because I see your quiet, sturdy citizenship all the time. (and you’re saying to yourself: I will stay inside my box)
I see it in the worker on the assembly line who clocked extra shifts to keep his company open, and the boss who pays him higher wages to keep him on board.
I see it in the Dreamer who stays up late to finish her science project (better not be a free energy device if you know what’s good for you), and the teacher who comes in early because he knows she might someday cure a disease (if, of course, the “cure” is patentable).
I see it in the American who served his time, and dreams of starting over – and the business owner who gives him that second chance. The protester determined to prove that justice matters, and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe.
I see it in the soldier who gives almost everything to save his brothers, the nurse who tends to him ‘til he can run a marathon, and the community that lines up to cheer him on.
It’s the son who finds the courage to come out as who he is (that’s right, Dad, I’m an anarchist), and the father whose love for that son overrides everything he’s been taught (Son, now I see – We don’t need a monolithic authority that arrogates to itself the power to use deadly force to protect it’s interests).
I see it in the elderly woman who will wait in line to cast her vote as long as she has to; the new citizen who casts his for the first time; the volunteers at the polls who believe every vote should count, because each of them in different ways know how much that precious right is worth. (Don’t forget to vote, and vote often!)
That’s the America I know. That’s the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word. That’s what makes me so hopeful about our future. Because of you. I believe in you. That’s why I stand here confident that the State of our Union is strong (Boston Strong!).
Thank you, God bless you, and God bless the United States of America.