President Obama gave his State of the Union Jan. 20. Here students respond to what he proposed and what he’s capable of given the Republican majority in Congress.
Republican Club president: Robert Contreras
On Tuesday night, Obama gave his State of the Union speech. As we’ve come to expect from the President, his words were beautifully crafted… but lacked any real substance. Mainly, I found a lot of his speech ironic.
His points about the economy were ironic because everyone knows the government doesn’t create jobs; innovation creates jobs. As far as my party is concerned, he has only made job creation in small business harder than ever by proposing a higher minimum wage and forcing health insurance on the entire country. Then he bragged about gas prices, as if he personally lowered the prices. Prices dropped because OPEC [Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries] set their rates and the world had to adjust. Luckily America, especially our friends up north, can produce $70-80 oil barrels and our economy wasn’t thrown into a fluster like Russia, who can’t produce barrels that cheap. I’ll get to the pipeline later.
The most ironic statement of all was the one about “A Better Politics.” I agree that we should work together to find common ground solutions for today’s issues. But its ironic coming from a president with six years of gridlocked Congress, who has failed to listen to Republicans on issues such as the national budget and immigration for his entire tenure. Then when immigration became a hot topic, he issued an executive order, thus circumventing Congress, and exacerbating the problem already in place. No one wants a stagnant government, and no one wants a weak economy; we can all agree on that. But as far as my party is concerned, the president and his party aren’t making this any better. How about this: Clear the Keystone Pipeline, which has been approved in every state through which it will run and only needs federal approval, then we’ll have a discussion about minimum wages in this country. That’s politics, Mr. President.
Democrat Club president: Kai Pedersen
When President Obama delivered his sixth State of the Union Address to Congress last Tuesday he was speaking to more political opponents than he ever had before. The Republican Party had won control of both the Senate and added to their majority in the House in the midterm elections two months ago, an election that had the lowest voter turnout in 72 years. The Republicans in the audience Obama addressed were hoping that the president would be defeated and conciliatory in his speech. They were sorely disappointed.
President Obama’s State of the Union was the hitherto culmination of the best two months he has had since winning reelection in 2012. Notable accomplishments such as his aggressive executive actions to shield family members from deportation (with more vigorous deportations of dangerous and criminal undocumented immigrants), his unprecedented climate deal with China, the best year of economic growth America has seen since 1999, and topped off with his rather popular speech last week has driven his approval rating to the highest they’ve been in 18 months.
President Obama used his opportunity to speak in a way perhaps few were expecting. Obama wasn’t speaking defensively to his numerous political foes in the room; neither was he even attempting to woo the American public through the television screens. President Obama was speaking to an America 10 to 15 years in the future. He knew that any real attempt to persuade Congressional Republicans to accomplish anything of real progress would fall on deaf ears. They politically despise him, as was made evident by their incredibly disrespectful and unceremonious applause when Obama said he “had no more campaigns to run.” (To which he wittingly responded by reminding them that he had won the two he was allowed.)
His political opposition has always and will continue to obstruct him, even on measures that enjoy massive public support. Issues such as raising the minimum wage, fostering affordable childcare, expanding paid sick leave, and ensuring equal pay for equal work for women in the workplace are all (interestingly enough) enjoying near 73 percent approval, and Obama championed them fiercely in his State of the Union. All of these ideas, while enjoying huge support in the public, are unlikely to be adopted by the Congress that same public voted into office. Why? Only those lawmakers can answer, but none of this is news to President Obama.
As Obama spoke last week, I heard a president determined to use his last two years in office, not to wallow in stagnant, “lame-duckness,” but to aggressively and pragmatically drive to shape the political debate in his country. His strategy seems to be reaching Americans rather successfully. In the last 30 days alone President Obama’s approval rating has risen nearly five percent.