“A politics of dumbed-down public discourse and low voter turnout combines with a dynamic economy of stubborn inequalities to produce the paradox of a powerful state and a failing democracy.” Sheldon S. Wolin, Democracy Inc.
I didn’t watch the State of the Union speech this week. I couldn’t bring myself to do it; figured it would just tick me off. I’ve since read, on Truthdig and Truthout and the New York Times and the BBC and Al Jazeera, accounts of what the speech contained, and how Obama’s rhetoric soared and how John Boehner sneered or that despicable blowhard Mitch McConnell looked bored.
None of the faintly progressive ideas Obama put forth stand a chance of being enacted by a Republican-dominated Congress.
Obama’s time is winding down and he had nothing to lose by calling for taxes on the rich to aid the middle class. Too little too late, the class war has been waged and the rich won. Obama can claim all he wants that the bad old days of the 2008 financial meltdown are behind us, but average citizens who work for wages and struggle to put food on the table, pay the rent, the medical bills, the college tuition, know better. The economy recovered for the banks and Wall Street hucksters, the insurance companies, not for us.
The political and financial elites who run this country are insulated from the day-to-day realities faced by the masses. Make no mistake; this is the way it has been for most of American history. The white men who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution harbored no love for the great-unwashed masses or for democracy; they distrusted the masses, so they constructed legislative firewalls to constrain the democratic impulse.
The State of the Union is political theater, and more often than not a theater of the absurd. From what I’ve read, Obama bounced like a pinball between populist themes and cheerleading for trade deals that will further ruin the fortunes of working people and exacerbate income inequality; he praised hydraulic fracking and warned of the perils of climate change.
That’s how you play both ends of the table.