It’s been a few days, but I still wanted to take some time to put my spin on the State of Union Address. Not point by point, but in a broader view. The one thing I think Washington needs to change most is their tone with each other. As such, I think President Obama took many steps to affect the organizational culture of today’s politics. Some steps were positive, some were negative and some were more like marching in place.
Chronologically speaking he started out good. He addressed the issue head on to Congress. He chastised them for not being able to work together, but in this regard he never went far enough. I have no problem with the President giving Congress a lecture. I have no problem with the President calling out the Supreme Court. I think we need to have three distinct branches of government that keep tabs on each other.
Checks and balances were meant to work like this. The governmental system crafted by the founders is really a hodgepodge of the other systems. The Senate is an aristocracy, the Supreme Court an oligarchy, the House works under populist principles and then you have the Office of the President to add a dash of monarchy. Each type of government will have leaning towards one type of special interest or another. This is the idea of self regulation.
Unfortunately, the more we have all the members of these organizations rallying around the flag of a specific party the more they cease to represent those groups of people they would normally look out for. Instead, they begin to work for party leadership, an invisible group that operates in the background to align the various players with the goal of holding onto and expanding the power of the party.
So I am happy to see the President take on the Congress and the Supreme Court. Finally, I thought, he’s triangulating in the right way. Throughout the speech though, I kept waiting for the other shoe to drop. I wanted a good moment where he would look at the left side of the chamber and telling a cheering Democratic Party…..”Hey, I’m talking to you too!”. That was the zinger than never happened but should have.
To make matters worse the next morning I received this in my email box:
A fundraiser letter from the DNC using the name of the man who had just said that members of government should quit operating in campaign mode all the time. Classic. I gave ten bucks to Obama’s campaign back in the day, and as such have been on the DNC mailing list since. So I get emails from POTUS (aka the DNC sending out messages conveniently not authorized by the Candidate). I assume, but do not know for certain, that the RNC operates in similar fashion and had I given to McCain I would be receiving similar messages from the RNC.
So things were looking pretty bad, until President Obama met with Republican House Members two days later. I watched the entire dialogue and found it to be terrific. Some serious give and take. Honest discourse and even admissions that went against party lines at times.
Now he needs to do the same with the Democrats. So far he’s lectured Congress like a parent lecturing two kids, one of whom is the obvious favorite. If this keeps up, these actions will embolden the Democrats to the point their smugness will become a cancer. He needs to take on Congress as a whole. This means Speaker Pelosi and Harry Reid are the opposition. He should chide them for not getting things accomplished. He should be questioning why they couldn’t find a way to work with Republicans. Lay it on the line for Congress…demand results, not excuses.
To do this he would need to separate himself from the Democratic National Party. But if he can, he has a shot to be a transformational leader. If he doesn’t, he will only reinforce the cycnicism of the country.