The State of the Union...or... Campaign?
During Tuesday night’s State of the Union Address, President Obama laid out his campaign agenda, attempting to appeal to the widest possible range of potential voters in the 2012 election. While the present audience was the contentious congress who has steadfastly opposed his will since the landslide 2010 midterm elections, the President clearly spoke past them to the millions of moderate voters who will determine his fate. Delivering a laundry list of campaign promises failed to deliver on the promise of addressing the health of the country and elucidating a coherent plan going forward. In the grand democratic tradition, we offer a dignified voice of dissent.
Politics and dignity need not be mutually exclusive, but rarely do they co-exist peacefully. To acquire power in America, the aspiring politician must court the favor of a diverse voting public with carefully placed promises, pandering to individual interests. If this sounds cynical, welcome to the reality of modern politics. Many have criticized the President’s ability to lead; his ability to campaign is unquestioned. The dichotomy was no more apparent than in his State of the Union speech.
The rhetoric of campaign promises filled the space where we might have expected the President to make the case for his performance. Claims such as: “In the last 22 months, businesses have created more than 3 million jobs. Last year, they created the most jobs since 2005” ring hallow when immediately proceeded by, “In the six months before I took office, we lost nearly four million jobs. And we lost another four million before our policies were in full effect”. The most rudimentary math skills reveal we still have a net loss of 5 million jobs. The prototypical optimism of a State of the Union was couched in promises we cannot hold the President accountable for: “”When students are not allowed to drop out, they do better. So tonight, I am proposing that every state — every state — requires that all students stay in high school until they graduate or turn 18.” Such grandstanding language makes for instant applause – who would oppose every child in America graduating high school? – but there is zero accountability in such a proclamation.
If you are not aware our wars are funded by borrowing money, consider this your wake up call. We cannot make-a-wish borrowed money into savings, see Madoff, Bernie.
Actually delivering a consensus of 50 states committed to such legal action requires an act of leadership. Agree or disagree with the premise, the ability to report the success of such an effort would be the most dignified of achievements – forging a national direction out of the varied interests of 50 separate state governments. The ability to deliver on such a statement is inconsequential to a campaign. The applause and movement in the opinion polls is what matters.
If such rhetoric truly marks the state of our union, we are truly still firmly in the grasp of a cynical age. It takes a cynic to dress a hundred vague promises as an honest platform of political ideology. It takes a cynic to fix his lips to say, “Take the money we’re no longer spending at war, use half of it to pay down our debt, and use the rest to do some nation-building right here at home”. If you are not aware our wars are funded by borrowing money, consider this your wake up call. We cannot make-a-wish borrowed money into savings, see Madoff, Bernie.
The state of the union is we are compromising ourselves to the cynicism of pandering for votes with half-truths and undeliverable promises. Too many of our peers have dismissed themselves from the school of American democracy, creating the conditions ripe for leadership without dignity. The Modern Man must demand more from his public servants. His engagement is the only path to an age of enlightened leadership. Anything less is selling your voice for the false gold of a warm smile and engaging sophistry.