The State of Our Disunion

It is one of the grand spectacles in American politics and as such, I know I’m supposed to care.
Bringing the President, members of both houses and the Supreme Court all under one roof might be a security nightmare, but it’s also the one chance a year for the entire leadership of American government to come together to chart the course ahead.
But the State of the Union address has also grown into a retelling of well-worn positions and issues. President Obama stuck to those paths in talking about the successes he sees in the economy and the scaling back of armed American forces overseas.
He spoke of the need for a “middle class economy” and the role government can play in providing programs to address health care, child care and tax issues that are making it tough for many families to make ends meet.
The Republican response was equally predictable, saying life isn’t as grand as the President is painting it and continuing to harp on the party’s main bugaboo, Obamacare.
As such the night rarely offers many surprises.
The President also asked for a return to civility, asking the Republican-controlled Congress to at least find those places of common ground so that something can get done.
It was words many listeners were waiting to hear. New polling shows that an overwhelming 91% of the American public believes that Washington is dysfunctional and no longer working for the common good.
But the most telling moment might have been the only unscripted one. When President Obama started a sentence by saying he had no more races to run, it was met by a spattering of applause from the R side of the aisle.
That caused the President to shoot back, “I know, because I won both of them.”
That single remark lit up the Internet and dominated the cyber conversation. Critics of the President called him “rude” and said there was no place for it in an otherwise dignified event. Supporters whooped at the President’s quick wit and willingness to stand his ground.
For me it was proof of how thin the veil of civility really is. Both sides talk of working together because both sides know that’s what people want to hear.
But in the one moment when the curtain was pulled back we got a glimpse at how deep the divide remains.
If the State of the Union is supposed to give us a preview of the year ahead it succeeded. And that’s not good news for those hoping for better out of Washington.

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