I’m not going to watch the State of the Union address live. Instead, I’ll record the PBS broadcast and check it out after I fire up the season finale of “Lost.” It’s not that I don’t enjoy a good Obama speech, it’s that the occasion and the venue have lost their luster. George W. Bush made a mockery of the address in 2003 when he represented the idea that Saddam Hussein was trying to buy uranium in Niger as fact when he knew it wasn’t, and “Joe the Congressman” Wilson cheapened the chamber when he screamed “You lie!” at President Obama a few months ago. The speech is like a WWE match now — you already know what’s going to happen before it starts, but watching the guy get to the ring is always an adventure.
Plus, it’s not like any of the Republicans in the room are going to be listening to what our president is saying since they already decided not to work with him. Remember when our economy was on the verge of collapse and every Republican in the House voted against the Recovery Act? That was a declaration of war against President Obama. Right off the bat, that showed they didn’t respect the outcome of the landslide Democratic victory; and on every bill since, they’ve shown that they don’t accept the fact that he and his party have a mandate to govern. I thought my head was going to explode on Sunday when I heard senators McConnell and McCain say they would only work across the aisle if the Democrats promised not to say no to every Republican proposal — as though they have some new ideas the voters didn’t already reject in November of 2008. The Republican point of view was summed up perfectly on “Meet the Press” by the infuriatingly phony Peggy Noonan who said, “the 2008 election settled nothing, America is still in play.” The proper response to this instant and consistent legislative hostility is to change the rules of the Senate so that bills can be passed by a simple majority, taking away the Republicans’ ability to filibuster the Democratic agenda to death.
As for what we know about the things our president is going to propose tonight, they will work well to keep Democrats together. A freeze on discretionary spending is a nice bone to throw to the Blue Dogs yipping about deficits; and it will be good for President Obama to use that bully pulpit to stand up for the middle class while heaping scorn on Wall Street so progressives hear him sounding like candidate Obama the populist community organizer again.
But between now and the end of July, the Democrats need wins. They simply can’t go into the fall with equal pay for women and the stimulus package as their only legislative accomplishments; not while unemployment is still high and Gitmo is still open. Their programs don’t need to be designed perfectly, but the filibuster has got to go because their bills must pass — by any means necessary.
This isn’t about my home state electing a Republican because he’s good looking, but Scott Brown becoming the junior senator from Massachusetts actually makes my point for me. This guy ran on a campaign promise to filibuster health care reform and happily signs autographs with the number “41” because it takes 41 votes to block any legislation. Think about it, he is actually taking pride in the fact that his vote is critical in preventing the other 534 members of Congress from doing the job he and they are elected to do — pass laws that help solve our country’s problems. It’s almost like the Republicans are saying, “why should we allow potential solutions to these problems to be implemented so that the Democrats get all the credit if they work?” They’d rather undermine and sabotage the legislative agenda that voters from coast-to-coast supported, then try to run on a “give us a shot because the other side failed” platform. It’s the most delusional plan since John Edwards’ attempt to get a job in the Obama administration and, like the filibuster, it’s all the Republicans have left.
Time is not on the Democrats’ side. The Republicans have set up a false dichotomy in which the candidates in the governor’s races in Virginia and New Jersey and the special Senate election in Massachusetts were really running against the president, not their actual opponents — and that the election of Republicans anywhere is a rejection of Obama. He’ll be carrying every Democratic candidate who runs this November and he needs to be able to shake off dead weight like Martha Coakley. Eliminating the 60-vote threshold to get a bill through the Senate while taking away the primary Republican weapon against their party would be a great start for the president and the Democrats in Congress. After all, being blamed for doing what you have to do to implement an agenda that doesn’t work is much better than being blamed for not implementing an agenda at all.
Kenny Mack is a multi-platform content provider with four-quadrant crossover appeal who can’t wait to see how many Republicans disrespect the occasion, the venue, and the office of the president by tweeting during the speech. His past columns are archived at www.ifyoumissedit.com and he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.