Visions of SOTUs Dancing in Their Heads

I didn’t get to watch the SOTU last night, so I’ve been catching up by reading reviews. I like something Nancy LeTourneau said at Washington Monthly. She is responding to this part of the President’s speech:

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. But it will only happen if we work together. It will only happen if we can have rational, constructive debates…

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.

But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. 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. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. 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.

On this, LeTourneau remarked,

That is quintessential Obama. If you don’t understand the basics of what he is saying here, almost nothing he does will make sense to you. In his quest to forge an identity out of the the divergent forces of his own personal background, Barack Obama crafted a world view that values those differences and the wisdom that comes from the democratic process of respectful – if sometimes heated – dialogue. Even more than any one particular policy position, President Obama elevates that process as the priority for the survival of our democracy.

The reason the Republicans have adopted a strategy of spreading fear, anger, cynicism and distrust is because that form of engaged democracy is the biggest threat to their interests.

“If you don’t understand the basics of what he is saying here, almost nothing he does will make sense to you.”   I could expand that to say, if you don’t understand the basics of what he is saying here, almost nothing proposed by genuine progressives will make sense to you.

Go back to the first sentence in the SOTU quote above — 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. This is the liberal/progressive vision in a nutshell. This has been true since Teddy Roosevelt’s New Nationalism speech. It was clearly expressed in another State of the Union speech, delivered by Franklin Roosevelt in 1941:

For there is nothing mysterious about the foundations of a healthy and strong democracy. The basic things expected by our people of their political and economic systems are simple. They are:

Equality of opportunity for youth and for others.

Jobs for those who can work.

Security for those who need it.

The ending of special privilege for the few.

The preservation of civil liberties for all.

The enjoyment of the fruits of scientific progress in a wider and constantly rising standard of living.

These are the simple, basic things that must never be lost sight of in the turmoil and unbelievable complexity of our modern world. The inner and abiding strength of our economic and political systems is dependent upon the degree to which they fulfill these expectations.

Truly, these ideals have never been fully realized. But working toward this is what the United States is about — to liberals.

I don’t think the Right wants that stuff. They may say they do, but their votes say otherwise.  All they seem to want is wealth and power for themselves, and if that’s at the expense of others (including fellow Americans), so be it.  And because they don’t understand what we lefties hope to achieve, nothing we do or say makes sense to them. All they understand is power and privilege.

Le Tourneau writes, “Even more than any one particular policy position, President Obama elevates that process as the priority for the survival of our democracy.” These days, this is is a liberal-progressive way of seeing things. I know I’ve written in the past that righties have no respect for the importance of process, although I can’t find that post now.  And this is turning the norms of political science on its head. It used to be the “conservative” impulse to protect and preserve process, the traditional wheels and levers that make things work, and “progressives” who wanted to smash the old way of doing things to try something new. Today’s Right cares about nothing but outcome. If they have to smash through tradition and established procedure to get where they want, no problem.

I noticed that some right-wing commenters though last night’s SOTU was “boring.” Righties tend to claim boredom when confronted with an argument they can’t easily refute. Opportunity, fairness, equality, sustainability, peace — yeah, boring stuff. Never mind that these things would benefit them as well; somehow, such things feel like a diminishment to them. Let’s hate! Let’s drop bombs! Let’s tweak the economy so that we can all we rich! Let’s drill for oil until the sun don’t shine! That’s the ticket!

Elsewhere — responding to a Peter Baker column, Steve M writes that President Obama’s optimism is not really anything like Ronald Reagan’s “sunny disposition” back in 1980. Reagan projected cheerfulness, but his words warned of doom and promoted divisiveness. And it’s that stuff that got him elected.

Right now, half the country looks out its windows and sees a Mad Max movie, Steve M says. Well, maybe we all see a Mad Max movie. The difference is that liberals/progressives think we have everything we need to make it better, to make it more like the ending of It’s a Wonderful Life. We just need the will to do it. The Right thinks itself helpless without big guns to shoot the bad guys (everybody who isn’t Them) and big bombs to wipe out the scary foreign people. And the things progressives propose that would make things better make absolutely no sense to them.

And so we are at an impasse.

14 thoughts on “Visions of SOTUs Dancing in Their Heads

  1. It was boring to conservatives, not just because they can’t refute it , but that they don’t understand it.

    President Obama might as well have given the SOTU in Ancient Aramaic!

    What they wanted to hear, is the one tRUMP/Cruz would give in Good Ol’ plain Murkin!.
    One in which Iran will soon be the world’s largest nuclear-fused glass desert, and where trainloads of Hispanics will shortly be on their way South to Mexico, going past fields of singing darkies, working in chain-gangs in the hot fields.
    And one where women know their place – at home, barefoot, pregnant, making meals, and taking care of the children; including home-schooling and giving them “Christian” ‘edumacations!’

    Last night’s SOTU, was too “French” for them.

  2. I guess I’m a sucker for soaring rhetoric. But Obama makes absolute sense to me. You’d have to be an obstinate shithead to find fault in what Obama was saying.
    I was glad to see that Obama called out Rubio by indirectly making reference to the, We are a nation in decline, fucking bullshit that Rubio has been spouting. It really offends me to hear such a defeatist rhetoric that is solely intended to instill fear and negativity in the minds of the American people so that Rubio can position himself as some sort of a saviour.
    I’m not advocating american exceptionalism, but it really gets by back up to hear some little twerp who’s still wet behind the ears making negative pronouncements about America’s greatness. And if there is any truth to be found in Marco’s we are a nation in decline statement it would be in the area of political leadership where the Repuglican candidates are concerned. The GOP is fielding an array of mutts who are estranged to the qualities of decency, civility, or compassion.

  3. “I was glad to see that Obama called out Rubio by indirectly making reference to the, “We are a nation in decline”

    Me too, this nation in decline bullshit is pure political consultant talking point mumbo jumbo! These are the same assholes who have criticized the President for not saying how “exceptional” we are constantly, now all the sudden since they are running for office we are a nation in decline, this from the party that drove us off the cliff, give me a break Pantry-waists like Rubio, Cruz, the rest of them are nothing more than pitchmen, they say what the high paid political consultants think will get them elected period, its all bullshit. President Obama on the other hand says what needs to be said without purposely trying to offend people, I believe its called being a leader!

  4. “I’ve looked at the candidates. Ted Cruz is my man”

    Hmmm nothing about the old: They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’—not a word!… Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare”.

  5. Nikki Haley dug herself a hole. When she wasn’t trashing Trumpies (ruining her shot at veep), she was lying “soaring deficits”, or calling for Yet Another Ground War in a country most people couldn’t find on a map.

  6. From my FB group “Free Doug Hughes”…

    IF there is any doubt the message about getting the money out of politics is becoming mainstream, read the following :

    “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. 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. It will depend on you. That’s what’s meant by a government of, by, and for the people.”
    Barack Obama SOTU 2016

    Please, PLEASE note in the second paragraph – this wasn’t a request to Congress that Congress do something – this was a call to the PEOPLE, that it will happen when WE demand it.This is my mission and I will gladly leave the stage when it is done.

  7. I feel I’m becoming a morbid harbinger here, but:

    Oh no, Snaaaaaape!

    Alan Rickman has passed. Also aged 69, also from cancer.

  8. Gulag, based on age, nationality, and vocal characteristics, maybe Prince Charles best be taking his own pulse regularly.*

    *Probs a good idea in any event. I’m never sure with him.

  9. Wow, Swami, good description of that Robertson guy. The advertisement brought back the picture of Michael Dukakis manning the tank. The opposition made fun, and a lot of hay out of it. But, Micheal Dukakis served in Korea, so he had a right to the photo op.

    Ted Cruz looks just as ridiculous as Phil Robertson does, but in a nearly opposite sense. The commonality is that they are both such posers. Cruz seems to be posing the goofy little kid duck hunting with his strange uncle.

    Carlos Santana has a way with words, too.

  10. Based on the longevity genes in the royal family, Prince Charles probably has nothing to worry about. QE2 is 90 now and her mother lived to be 100, I believe. Of course, they are women and women live longer. And I’m sure they have access to the best health care in the world. Still, I am jealous. Although I’m not quite sure why people want to live to an old age. Is it the fear of dying? But if so why? That is the nature of things and nobody gets off this planet alive.

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