Point of View Columns

State of Disunion

When President Obama delivered his State of the Union address this week he reminded many of his supporters why they supported him in the first place. His soaring oratory and explicit challenge to his Congressional opposition was greeted with predictable denial, intransigence and a continued forced migration from reality. What was crystal clear is that the State of the Union reflects political and philosophical disunion.

When Barack Obama took the presidential oath of office on January 20, 2009 an opposition coalesced that was dedicated to his defeat and failure. This coalition was cemented with mortar containing equal parts of philosophical dissent, racism, anger, bitterness and opportunism. Since that time the coalition has claimed victories by taking control of the House of Representatives and frustrating numerous legislative initiatives proposed by the Obama Administration.

But President Obama did not fail and he was not defeated. And on November 6, 2012, there was much gnashing of teeth in the right wing wilderness when he was reelected. But rather than seek a path that might meander near reconciliation and compromise, the disloyal opposition has pursued a nihilist agenda that too closely resembles national suicide.

But if 1.20.09 and 11.6.12 are dates, the mere mention of which drives Teapublicans crazy, then 1.28.14 is guaranteed to require boatloads of straitjackets with which to contain and confine the opposition to President Obama. Because in his most recent State of the Union speech he basically threw down his executive gauntlet – inviting the right wing of the right wing to act like adults but also promising to exercise his powers as president as assigned to him by the Constitution.

The Teapublican furor upon this announcement would be comical if the challenges facing this country weren’t so serious. Indeed, their references to fascism, dictatorship and imperialism were so far from reality that the word “fantasy” does not do justice to the Teapublican departure from the Planet Earth.

What is most interesting is that, in keeping with his personal political narrative, President Obama did not even hint at a radical agenda. Consider some of the items that the right wing of the right wing considers to be radical – in 2014:

  • Women should receive equal pay. Currently women comprise about 50% of the workforce and are paid 77% of what men make for comparable labor. President Obama referred to this disparity as an “embarrassment” – and he is right
  • The federal minimum wage has not been raised for decades. President Obama, following the actions taking place in numerous states and cities, announced that by Executive Order he will require federal contractors to pay an increased minimum wage of $10.10 to their employees on federally funded projects (not exactly a princely sum but certainly a right step in the right direction).
  • The Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, was passed into law in 2010. Since then it has been ruled constitutional by the United States Supreme Court and with Obamacare a key element in the 2012 president campaign President Obama was reelected by 5,000,000 votes. So President Obama called upon Congress to stop trying to repeal a law that is already in effect and try to make it better.

There is no way to interpret President Obama’s speech as the rhetorical platform for a radical agenda. Yet the Teapublican response varied from some members walking out during his speech to another miscreant tweeting that he was acting like the “Kommandant in Chef (sic)” to House Speaker John Boehner threatening to take the President of the United States to court for the high crime of exercising his constitutionally articulated executive powers.

It would seem that in the coming months we will witness a continued dedication to dysfunction by the Teapublican cohort in Congress. Thankfully, we will also see President Obama meeting this challenge head on by effecting change wherever possible – through persuasion, Executive Order and by example.