The State of Our Union Is Divided and Nearly Incapable of Resolving Anything
We put too much emphasis on the State of the Union address, which arrives again tonight.
We expect more from a president than a self-produced report card — something closer to hope that an elected government, even this split government, will address the biggest problems facing us with practical, achievable, common-sense goals.
The state of our union is Divided and nearly incapable of resolving anything. As a result, as a nation, we are confused and often delusional, disagreeing about what to do because we don’t even accept basic facts and choosing paths that promote our individual self-interest over caring for others.
Almost anything Joe Biden chooses to discuss tonight will be met by applause from half the room. But only half. It’ll be almost as if Biden wafts an, er, idea balloon and Republicans immediately shoot it down. We’ve gotten used to it.
If we’re lucky, Speaker Kevin McCarthy won’t tear up Biden’s remarks in public, as Nancy Pelosi did with Donald Trump’s speech.
It is doubtful we’ll hear Biden announce broad new legislative agendas that will face early death in the Republican-majority House.
Instead, we’ll hear calls to find common ground and logic in a world where individuals choose to hear only news with which they agree. One conservative Washington Post columnist suggested that Biden simply hand a written report to McCarthy, then look into the cameras and say: “America, enjoy a night off.”
Yes, we should have bandwidth for a self-assessment as a nation, but we can’t seem to get beyond self-congratulations, slogans, and the ever-present politics of the next election.
The Price of Division
Our public debates are so frequent, so silly, so hard-edged that they threaten to lose meaning.
One side thinks fairness and equity issues should dominate, particularly as it affects racial, gender and identity access to education, law, wealth, and an American Dream that is dwindling amid high prices. The other side thinks unless we close borders, ban abortion, fund private and parochial schools with public money, limit voting rights and ignore any problems involving guns, policing or access to learning and health, we are headed for perdition.
It is a Congress that insists on looking backwards through endless, if off-base investigations, rather than forwards through ways to improve our lives.
This president will choose to talk about the compromises still possible, about a call to American-ness that can appeal to all. He will talk about job numbers rather than egg prices, about how we rally to help hurricane victims rather than the needed investments to move climate and energy policies, and about a bipartisan approach to protecting Social Security.
Only 36 percent of Americans surveyed by ABC and The Washington Post said they thought Biden had accomplished “a great deal” or “a good amount” in two years that included covid vaccine distribution and individual aid payments, infrastructure bills, and a long list of other things.
We can’t agree on honoring our debts, on backing our military, on at least feigning adherence to following a president on foreign policy. We have arrived at a time in which individual opinion is all that is needed to address even major questions and admitting up front that those opinions lean heavily on partisanship and winning the next round.
What we’re fighting about is race and civil rights that are inclusive. We’re fighting about whether Christianity has become a state religion. We’re fighting about whether hate speech is now the normal conversation, and how we individually can get as much money as possible for as little work as possible.
Few of these topics will be the subject for serious contemplation tonight.
Instead, color commentators will try either to give Biden some color or paint the scene in its starkest partisan political terms. It again will only be about winning and losing, legislative feints and tactics.