Friday, January 15, 2016

The Goal of the State of the Union

            As we have mentioned in class, the tone and subject matter of Obama’s seventh State of the Union were quite different from the other recent addressees to Congress. Specifics were compromised in favor of a broad, optimistic look towards the future and a simultaneous defense of policy passed during both of his terms as president. Instead of trying to mobilize public support for policies or potential actions, Obama delved into the scrum of the next political election, seemingly hoping to structure the debate over the key issues he presented, which, to Paul Ryan and others, seems to dirty or degrade his post as president.
          However, going into his last year as president, Obama does not have the same political influence as he had coming off an election, especially with a Republican Congress, so it is doubtful that any massive legislation will get passed. As a result, trying to utilize this widely publicized speech to compel Congress to fall in line on some contested legislation would be a futile action and a wasted opportunity in a year that sees so few chances to enact change.
       Instead, as the parts of the speech he spent patting his back indicate, he wants to preserve what he already has accomplished and desires to see the continuation of his legacy, which depends greatly on the ideological orientation of the future president. By indirectly denouncing Trump and inserting key talking points about economic opportunity and the utilization of technology, Obama makes the most of the public attention by dampening the flame of extremism and aiding his fellow Democrats, who are far more likely to continue his programs and take the country in a direction that builds on his presidency.  The speech reflects the reality of Obama’s final term, which had lots of partisan discord and an ultimate lack of focus on passing bills via compromise.  
         Now for some questions. Everybody either watched or read the speech in its entirety (at least I hope so), so what did you think its aim was? Was it more idealistic than I made it out to be? Less? What should be the main aim of the Obama presidency in its final year? Is it suitable for an incumbent president to meddle with the politics that decide his successor? Any thoughts on the four future goals he listed (economic opportunity and security, technology, foreign security and restraint, and the political system) are also welcome and appreciated.



Anonymous said...

I think that the speech was pretty idealistic.Obama's comment that the United States of America is the "most powerful country in the world" seemed very confident, maybe too confident. While the president should think highly of our country, he seemed overly confident. I think the main aim of Obama's final year of his presidency should be making sure things in general do not get worse. I do not think that it is suitable for an incumbent president to meddle with the politics that decide his successor. It seems a bit similar to midnight judges, but I still think that the next president should be elected as fairly as possible according to who the people vote for. I think the most important of the four issues is economic opportunity and security because they are important to how people are affected personally and immediately.

Anonymous said...

I respectively disagree with Tara. I think that it is suitable for Obama to meddle with the politics of the 2016 election. Unlike Adams when he made his midnight appointments, Obama still has an entire year left of his term. Additionally, Adams' appointments directly affected Jefferson's presidency. Obama's words about presidential candidates will not directly affect the future president's years in office. His words will simply influence voters to vote one way or another. There are several other factors that will help voters decide who to elect as president besides the current president's opinion. Most people, I assume, that would argue against Obama making these political statements would be Republicans. But according to confirmation bias, Republicans, anyways, would not heavily take into account Obama's remarks as his words contradict their preconceptions. Moreover, Obama, after all, is a citizen of the United States. He should be able to speak his mind, just as political activists do, in favor of one presidential candidate or another. The big difference, however, is that Obama has a large audience that will listen to his remarks. Thus, Obama is able to influence the people that open their ears to his words. Despite speaking about the politics of the upcoming election, the president needs to be cautious with his words to prevent putting himself in front of the firing line of his opponents. Thus, as leader of the Democratic Party, Obama should be able to meddle with the politics that decide his successor, but he should also be cautious about not crossing the line.

Jeffrey Song said...
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Jeffrey Song said...

While I do agree with Olivia about Obama "meddling with politics" during his last year because, well, it's an entire year left of his term and it presents another potential time frame for Obama to implement his agenda and appeal to the American people about his proposed legislation/reform. However, based on what we learned last semester about a president gradually losing support as his term goes on and thus being unable to enact his agenda as effectively, it would be reasonable to assume that Obama probably won't be able to accomplish anything drastic in his last year bar some drastic measures/circumstances (stuff like the recent executive order maybe?)

But, something interesting that popped up when I researched this topic was the fact that Obama has had remarkably consistent approval ratings throughout his entire presidency - he's currently hovering around 46-47% but he's never been lower than 38% during his entire presidency. To put that into perspective, 'only two other presidents, Dwight Eisenhower and John Kennedy had higher "worsts"'(bloomberg).

The reason for this flat-line approval rating graph? One plausible theory blames the increase of political polarization of the parties and the increasing divisiveness between the American people as a result. Chances are, if you voted for Obama and was a supporter of him when he was first elected, you still are today. The same goes for the other way around as well. Thus, Obama might still have chance yet to enact the reforms he's failed to pass during the duration of his presidency. He certainly speaks a lot about idealism in his speech, and I don't think it's ever too late to count him out when it comes to American politics.