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Forget SOTU Address: Obama Needs State of Reunifying Action Post-January

In Articles on February 3, 2014 at 4:18 pm

Ignore the platitudes we heard from President Obama during the State of the Union Address. Without presidential leadership that unifies in action throughout 2014, this year’s address rings hollow

WASHINGTON, DC / PITTSBURGH  (January 29, 2014) 

We know how the speech began: with some variation or series of initial statements proclaiming how strong the Union is as we start 2014. We heard about the added jobs to the economy. We heard about the lowered unemployment rate. We heard about stories of heroism from everyday Americans, some of whom were noted as special guests in attendance Tuesday evening.

While we were told of our strengths at the beginning of the prime time speech, we were subsequently brought back to the realities that millions of Americans face daily in the Obama-driven economy. We heard the buzzwords and catch phrases that indicate to us that, perhaps, our Union is not as strong as we were just told by the second-term president.

Income inequality. Poverty. Debt ceiling negotiations. “We still have work to do.”

Jobs are scarce, while good jobs are mostly filled by frightened Americans scared to lose what they currently have. People have given up on looking for work as the labor force has hit record lows for workforce participation rates. Poverty has also risen to record numbers as well, with far too many Americans counting on unstable food stamp availability and eroding unemployment benefits to get through the daily grind. People are losing labor hours, healthcare insurance plans that worked for them for years – and hope for better days ahead, all during the Age of Obama.

Yet, as long as we continue to see from President Obama – in tone, in verbiage, and in action – a sentiment suggesting that these woes are the exclusive work of one political party versus another, these hardships will not subside in 2014, making the State of the Union Address another annual exercise in futility akin to my new year’s resolution to give up Dunkin Donuts’ coffee.

Forget what you heard from President Obama Tuesday night as Commander-in-Chief during the State of the Union Address. If he does not lead as Unifier-in-Chief from February through December, his words will ring hollow and their positive impact on the nation will be negligible – just as they have over the past 5 years.

President Obama has overseen an unfortunate string of disappointing efforts on the part of the American government collectively and from his administration individually throughout the duration of his presidency. From the roll-out of Obamacare last fall on back to the failure to cap unemployment at 7.0% by way of the stimulus package enacted 5 years ago, there has been an array of heartaches and adjustments that the American people have endured without the energy of “hope and change” to carry them through effectively.

From camera-ready bi-partisan debates on healthcare reform that never happened to hastened starts of not-ready projects (such as the administrative errors around the AIG bonus payouts and the red tape woes with the stimulus money along with Obamacare’s initial website problems), President Obama has been dead-set on pushing his political agenda through instead of focusing on pushing for tangible success, even if that means bridging the gap with Republicans during times of super-majorities on Capitol Hill as well as of divided government. As a result, Americans have suffered through ongoing economic hardships and a jobless “recovery” from the Great Recession. All the while, the tone of the nation has turned increasingly bitter as waves of political and social rhetoric rip this traumatized nation further apart.

Ironically, Mr. Obama – once the promise of a post-partisan and post-racial America – now stands as flashpoint for America’s regression, not progress, on multiple grounds. In many ways, unless his presidential style changes, this “Obama Effect” will go on overseeing a divided country, not a state of union.

The most disappointing aspect of the 44th President has been his continued failure to live up to the unifying rhetoric and vision that he projected as a candidate in 2008 and as a newly-minted president in his inaugural days in office. Talk of President Obama as the new Camelot, this generation’s President Reagan, or an inspiring Nobel Peace Prize winner for the good of the nation has constantly been drowned out by the political noise of blaming Republicans and the political missteps of 2009 and 2010 when Obama’s political capital was at its height. Major legislative items such as immigration reform, education reform, infrastructure re-development, and joblessness could have been addressed better (or, in some cases, addressed at all) if the focus on the president stayed on addressing the historic needs of the nation, not on the political advantages in Congress in 2009 and subsequent bickering afterward. Being historic as a president has nothing to do with winning unexpected elections. At one point in 1980, Reagan was an underdog to an incumbent president. Being historic – particularly for the sake of the Union – involves taking the nation to a new place for enriching and successful partnerships, prosperity, and posterity. Talking at political opponents in January, then talking around them for the rest Presidential addresses create debate. Presidential action – or any void of successful action thereof – creates legacy.

If President Obama wants a presidential legacy that will be honored by all Americans once his tenure has completed, he must look past the flowing words that he has offered us at this time each year during the State of the Union Address. He must advance a state of mind and a mode of governing that reunifies a politically-, socioeconomically-, and culturally-divided nation. Flowery words in January and fiery rhetoric for the following eleven months simply has not gotten results for Americans on his watch. Therefore, in 2014, we must ignore the words of an address in January and hold accountable a president for his actions from February onward.

Lenny McAllister is a political commentator featured on various local, national and international outlets including PCNC, CNN, and Sun News Network. He is the host of “The McAllister Minute” which appears weekly on “The Bev Smith Show” and the American Urban Radio Network. The Pittsburgh-based pundit is the former host of of Launching Chicago With Lenny McAllister on WVON The Talk of Chicago 1690 AM. He is a former congressional candidate. Follow him on Twitter and Facebook.



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