Thursday, January 28, 2010

SOTU Think You Can

A couple decades ago I watched a different president deliver his State of the Union speech in my parents’ living room. None of us had voted for that president (George H.W. Bush) but nonetheless we listened to all of the promises, the smorgasbord of goodies presented, the pet projects that would get billions of dollars. Environmental projects were green-lighted, buckets of educational funds disbursed, funds for scientific research promised. Finally I turned to my mother and said, “and people think they voted for a Republican.”

“Oh, honey,” she said with a sigh and wave of the hand. “It’s all just empty rhetoric.”

Heh. At least I come by my cynicism honestly!

Of course she was right. All of those great made-for-TV promises disappeared in a puff of smoke over the ensuing weeks, never to be mentioned again. No one ever asked about them, certainly not anyone in the media; once the SOTU credits rolled it was back to business as usual.

Last night President Obama gave a rousing State of the Union speech, but all that SOTU euphoria will dissipate unless we hold our president and our Congress accountable. I do not want a return to business as usual, yet it appears that’s what we will get unless we DFH’s on the left demand more. And by demand I do mean back up our talk with action.

This morning I open my e-mail to find a fundraising plea from the DNC’s Organizing For America, sent out under the President’s name with the subject line “I Can’t Do It Alone.” The e-mail repeated some SOTU highlights, then asked
Can you help fuel our fight for the middle class with a monthly donation of $15 or more?

No, I can’t. You folks don’t get what deep shit you’re in, do you? POTUS cannot do it alone, but if your grand idea to mobilize the base is to ask for a donation, then you’re not listening. This is not business as usual, it can’t be. Our country has splintered, our media is distracted by every bit of made-for-primetime political theater that is tossed their way. Corporate kings are in the counting house, counting all of their money, but regular folks can’t get a loan for their homes or businesses. Things have continued to get worse for people, the President has issued a rousing call to arms, and the message we get from Democrats is we need to elect more Democrats? Puh-leeze. Y'all had your filibuster-proof majority and you screwed it up.

Listen, all of those Dems wearing purple last night to show their bipartisanship need to remember: we don’t care about bipartisanship. We care about results. We care about jobs, we care about access to healthcare not accompanied by financial ruin, we care about drinking water not poisoned with mercury and arsenic. We wanted change, we voted for change, we expect change. I tried to watch Gov. Bob McDonnell’s response and all I heard was the same failed Republican ideas that voters rejected over a year ago: tort reform won’t solve our healthcare crisis, scaring the crap out of people about terrorism does not make us safer, deregulation caused our financial meltdown, it won’t solve it.

So, yes I loved the President’s speech, he has a message and ideas, whereas the Republicans clearly have nothing new to say that wasn't already tried, failed, and rejected by the majority of voters. But unless these things actually get implemented into real policy initiatives, and not watered down by lobbyists, none of it will really matter. The problem is not who is President or which party has a fillibuster-proof majority in the Senate. Our problem is deeper than that.

Yesterday I happened by The Swashzone and saw this awesome post by our friend the Octopus. Go read it. And give some serious thought to what he suggests, see if it’s something you can do. Corporations see us as mere wallets and bank accounts to fatten their bottom lines, while politicians see us as votes to propel their careers. But it’s time those in both camps are reminded that we the people are in charge. I’m tired of being treated like a sucker by my corporate overlords and politicians of both parties.

Let’s face it: the State of the Union is just a speech. Our country is horribly, tragically, broken. It will take more than one president or one member of Congress to fix it. People need to take this shit seriously and act accordingly.