Obama’s State of the Nation
Since I was in high school when W took office, it was bizarre to hear the President address Congress and actually say something I agreed with. Reform healthcare – sounds awesome if you can actually nominate someone that will make it through confirmation. Invest in education and the environment – also sounds awesome, if you can make it happen. Pull us out of this major recession/mini depression – as long as it doesn’t get any worse, I’m actually ok with Americans not consuming exponentially more than the rest of the world.
Now the question becomes how does President Obama go about getting it done? He can take the Clinton approach from his attempt to reform healthcare – pick a group of people, don’t ask what anyone else thinks, and throw your legislation out there. Remember, when Clinton did that, he had a Democratic Congress too, and that attempt fell to pieces. Or he can take a cue from the last 8 years. Bush decided he had a “mandate,” and stuffed whatever he felt like down the Democrats’ throat. Now, neither of these approaches were successful (in the long term), but Bush did get a lot of legislation through the Congress by making sure everyone was voting lock-step with the White House. I’d like to think that the Democrats’ inability to get shit done is a result of our “big tent” status. We are a collection of causes – environmentalism, feminism, minority rights, protection of civil liberties, social awareness. Often we forget our common bond. Republicans are united in their conservatism, be it social, fiscal or otherwise. I think that they’ve misplaced that identity because some Republicans just couldn’t bring Bush’s spending to terms with their ideology. But they’ll be back, and Democrats have a limited window in which they can operate.
What unites Democrats, in my opinion, is progressiveness. As Obama said, we can’t put off the problems of today for our children to pay for tomorrow. We have to look forward, make investments in ourselves and our country. They will pay off. I’m glad that someone in the Democratic Party has finally linked environmentalism with economics. Why is the environment important? Because there’s only one, and I’m not buying the argument that our technology will always advance enough to keep us ahead of destroying it. Many disagree with me on that point. But no one can argue that building a new, more energy efficient power grid isn’t going to create jobs and provide some stimulus to the economy. No one is going to argue that increasing our use of renewable energy is going to do the same (in addition to benefits in the national defense/foreign diplomacy arena). This makes so much sense that a lot of Republicans were talking about it in 2008. Does that mean it is a “moderate” issue? I don’t think so. I think that points to a real problem. We have been so stagnant, as a country, that being forward thinking (progressive) has morphed into a short-sighted stop-gap mentality. Without $4.00 a gallon gas and our friendly relations with the Middle East, the environment would have been much less of an issue.
So now is our chance to move forward. But we’re so far behind that we’ve got to catch up first. In light of this need, I say take the George W Bush approach. Ram it down their throats. Did we not get a mandate? Is this antithetical to the Democratic (democratic) ideal that makes our tent so big? Yes, but Democrats won a near filibuster proof majority in the Senate. Bush had terrible approval ratings and left us with a mess. Let’s clean it up and move on, so the next time the Republicans get control we have some cushioning. Apparently a surplus wasn’t enough.
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