President Obama gave his best, most inspiring State of the Union address ever. And social media made watching it so much fun.
Obama got standing ovations when he called for free community college, paid sick leave, paid maternity leave, raising the minimum wage, and a vision of America that is diverse, prosperous, and fair.
On Twitter, John Fugelsang observed that, while Congress rose to its feet to applaud strengthening unions, John Boehner was blowing his nose.
Randi Weingarten joined the cheers when Obama challenged Congress: “If you truly believe you could work full-time and support a family on less than $15,000 a year, go try it. If not, vote to give millions of the hardest-working people in America a raise.”
There was a huge outpouring as Obama acknowledged the scourge of student debt and declared: “I am sending this Congress a bold new plan to lower the cost of community college – to zero. “
And, of course, the Twittersphere went nuts for Obama’s gotcha moment, when he said “I have no more campaigns to run,” and the Republicans in Congress applauded, then stopped cold as the President said, “I know, because I won both of them.”
Yes, it was gratifying as hell to hear Obama talk about progressive priorities, and to join the whole progressive community in laughing at Boehner, who looked positively ill. To listen to Obama is to marvel at the sheer out-of-it-ness of the Republicans, who blow their nose at the idea of joining the rest of the developed world in providing health care, sick leave, and access to college to the citizens of the richest country on Earth—ideas a great majority of Americans support.
But here’s the thing: the Republicans are winning. And they’re doing it in spite of their unpopular ideas, their uncoolness, and the disconnect between their priorities and those of the American people.
Never mind Iowa Senator Joni Ernst’s lackluster Republican response. It was word salad. She used to work at Hardy’s. She was so poor she wore breadbags on her feet. Now she’s sponsored by the billionaire Koch brothers to make the case that what the working poor really need is not higher wages or sick leave or the chance to go to community college for free—it’s the Keystone Pipeline.
The fact that the President’s speech was so in tune with Americans’ real priorities and the Republicans are so out of it shows how far our politics has drifted from any semblance of a real democracy.
And, unfortunately, much of the President’s record since he won, twice, shows it, too.
The Trans Pacific Partnership trade deal, and fast track authority to push through such deals, which Obama supports, kill jobs, suppress wages, and are unpopular with Americans: As the PCCC pointed out during the State of the Union, Americans support replacing these deals with fair trade policy by a margin of 75 to 11.
Likewise, Obama touted lower gas prices and his Administration’s success reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil. As the FiveThirtyEight blog pointed out, there has been a giant oil production boom on Obama’s watch, much to the delight of oil companies. And the President has resisted all pressure to limit fracking, and supported the oil industry’s aggressive extraction—with or without the Keystone Pipeline,—continuing our planet’s deadly trajectory.
So while it was gratifying to hear such a progressive speech, and to join the rest of the progressive community in poking fun at John Boehner, it’s sobering to confront the real challenge--figuring out how to overcome the politics that make broadly popular, common-sense proposals like the President’s so hard to achieve, and the benighted policies of John Boehner and Joni Ernst and their corporate sponsors ascendant, even after Obama’s two big Presidential wins.
Today, on the fifth anniversary of Citizens United , when the Supreme Court ruled that corporations are people, money is speech, and opened American elections to the highest bidder, the citizens’ movement to reclaim our democracy is one place to start.