Tonight's State Of The Union Speech is going to be important in more ways than usual. What President Obama has to say OR chooses not to say is critical because of the Republican nominee whom he is going to be facing. The last few weeks of GOP primary madness has spelled out who it is going to be. The Republican party has only one choice at this point: Notobama.
More below the Orange Omnilepticon.
The Elephant in the Room: the Republican Problem
Notobama is going to be the Republican candidate for the White House because that's all the party has to offer: rejecting Obama.
None of them has anything positive to offer, no bold plans, no new ideas. It's the same hash of conservative fundamentalism they've been serving up since Reagan:
• Smaller government (you're on your own, suckers)
• Lower taxes (on the rich),
• Deregulation (pollute like mad while bankers run wild),
• Traditional values (racism, homophobia, fundamentalist sanctimony)
• Strong military (war without end, diplomacy by saber rattling, guns everywhere.)
• Strong principles (belief over facts or reason.)
• Trust in the power of Free Markets (Class warfare and corporatism on steroids)
And a bunch of rich old white men owning everything, forever and ever. Griftopia über alles!
Does anyone think they've seen this movie before? Is it possible America is getting just a little tired of this? Are the Republicans finding this a harder sell these days? Are normal people getting a little wary of millionaires prancing around pontificating they know how to take care of the little people?
What you can see among the base the GOP has been chasing for so long is the onset of a more pronounced fortress mentality. They reject anything that isn't fed to them by FOX, Rush, Hannity..... When they get into arguments over politics, they repeat talking points verbatim, and then put their hands over their ears and shout even louder. "Kenyan Socialist! America hater! Class Warfare! Politics of Envy! Destroying America!" And the more they do this, the more isolated they become. And the more virulent.
The Obvious Answer
The GOP base is shrinking, so how do they pull in enough independents and suppress turn out for Obama to win? Simple: The Big Lie campaign.
It's what they've been doing since 2008. Now, they're amping up the volume out of desperation. They're going to try to make the campaign all about Obama and how America is in worse shape than ever since he took office. Distortions, exaggerations, and outright falsehoods 24/7. This is what FOX NEWS was created to do; this is why Citizens United was handed down by a GOP Supreme Court; this is what talk radio is all about. (Hannity has changed his show's opening montage to the "Stop Obama Express," counting down to election day in November when "We can take America back") This is the message that will be coming from the Superpacs, this is what will be in all the attack ads.
It's a simple idea: when you suck, make your opponent look like he sucks more.
The State Of The Union Speech tonight is Obama's best chance to nobble this before it gets any worse. The whole point of the GOP spin machine is to supply the frame to put Obama in context on their terms. He needs to frame the debate on his terms and marginalize them. He has facts on his side - but he must find a way to tie them to emotions and ideas that will make the American people pay attention to his message. His message needs to be compelling, and it needs to offer a clear choice to voters.
Trying to blur the differences at this point to go after low information voters is not going to be enough. He needs to make a strong case that the Republicans have rejected every opportunity to work with him for the good of all Americans. He can point to the states that fell under GOP control to demonstrate the real GOP agenda: anti-worker policies, huge cuts to the social safety net, the politics of division, and the real politics of envy, where millionaires complain the poor have too much and don't pay enough in taxes.
He can talk about what he HAS accomplished:
• A stimulus program that - despite all the claims to the contrary - stopped the worst recession in decades and began to turn it around
• Economic policies that - despite unanimous opposition from the right - have begun to create jobs again, not as fast as anyone would like, but faster than waiting for magical market forces to do it.
• Withdrawal of our troops from Iraq and an end to the war, leaving the Iraqi people free to pursue their own destiny
• Beginning to draw down our forces in Afghanistan.
• The repeal of DADT with the cooperation of the military, in a way that defied predictions of military collapse.
• The killing of Osama Bin Laden
• The fall of Ghaddaffi, without a single American casualty
• International cooperation on the toughest sanctions ever against Iran.
• The beginning of health care reform for millions of Americans, and the billions of dollars in savings coming from it.
He can point to the challenges facing the country: jobs jobs jobs; a fiscalized economy that's a job killer and wealth concentrator; infrastructure that needs to be rebuilt and retooled for the 21st century; the need to move beyond a dirty dying fossil fuel economy to a green economy that will create sustainable jobs; finding ways to cope with a changing world environment where more people than ever live in cities and depend on increasingly threatened natural resources....
The list is endless and full of ways to tie it into making life better for all Americans again. The Republicans have nothing to offer against this except more of the same snake oil that has failed to deliver on its promises time and time again - unless you belong to the .1% super rich.
Certainties, Questions, Known and Unknown Unknowns...
Will the President do this tonight? I have no idea. His raging moderate tendencies have not served him well; the pundit class addiction to 'bipartisanship' may demand to be appeased; the third wayers, triangulators, and vanishing Blue Dogs may dig in their heels; the big money donors still have deep connections into DC whomever is in the Oval office and they have their agenda. Will the European economy tank during the campaign? Will the Republicans keep the House and take the Senate? Will the crazy weather get even crazier? Will an active sun finally hit us with another Carrington event?
Who knows? But... Notobama will be on the GOP ticket. It's up to the President to knock down this straw man and take it to the Republicans.
7:20 PM PT: Just finished listening to the speech - sounds like the President decided to go big - and threw down a few gauntlets. And my initial impression is he's stopped waiting for the cross-aisle magic to happen, and has really started pounding the message that we are all in this together.
7:23 PM PT: Starting to listen to the commentators deconstruct, decompose and dismantle the impact of the speech. Oh for some blessed silence. The better to hear wing nut heads exploding in outrage.