President Obama will fulfill the constitutional obligation to update Congress on the “State of the Union” in a joint session of Congress tonight. Beyond the historical significance of the annual speech and the celebratory mood when the commander-in-chief enters the chamber of the House of Representatives, this President will come before a Congress that is the most unpopular in our nation’s history and deeply divided along partisan lines. Despite the serious issues facing the country, and the economic crisis at hand, the Republican led House has made its first priority the defeat of President Obama in the November election.
We hope this President will lay it on the line tonight and speak to the American public, as if the Republican lawmakers are not seated before him. President Obama should be frank with America and explain the economic peril we are facing, and how growing income inequality is one of the greatest threats to the nation’s long-term security. The President should challenge this nation to make fighting poverty a national priority and ensuring that young people receive a quality education, no matter where they live, an economic necessity and moral imperative. President Obama must also speak directly to the need to create jobs and continue his call for the private sector to take the lead in creating economic opportunity, with strategic investments from the federal government. He should take credit for returning our troops from Iraq and lay out the timeline for a similar exit from Afghanistan. The President should also stand firm on health care and remind Americans of the benefits of the landmark health care law.
With a critical election approaching we think the President should also address the efforts by Republicans to impose new restrictions on voting and how devices such as voter ID cards are nothing more than an attempt to curb the voting of racial minorities, the poor, young people and elderly. The nation needs to be reminded, coming out of the Martin Luther King National Holiday and the dedication of the national memorial in honor of the slain civil rights leader that we must still continue to wage the fight to protect the right to vote for all Americans. President Obama should also address the rising hate and anger in our nation driven by inflammatory rhetoric over the airwaves and from political candidates.
No matter what President Obama says tonight or how diplomatically and presidential he tries to articulate his vision; Republicans will react in the way they have since Rep. John Boehner became Speaker of the House. The GOP has not just become the “Party of No,” it is turning into a racist and subversive faction in American politics that is supporting a 21st century vision of white supremacy. Despite the sprinkling of Black and Latino faces in the party, Republicans and the party’s right-wing activists, and in particular the GOP presidential field, is making it clear that there is no room in their vision of America for African-Americans, Latinos, Muslims, immigrants, the poor, workers and gay Americans. President Obama must make it clear that he is prepared to wage an all-out war against the rising racism, classism and religious intolerance that has become the GOP brand.
Tonight is really the shot across the bow; the kick-off for the November election. There is a clear choice in this upcoming election year and President Obama must articulate the disaster the nation faces if it returns to the policies and practices of his predecessor. It is no mystery why none of the current Republican presidential candidates, or Republican leadership in Congress, makes any mention of the tenure of President George W. Bush. The truth hurts. While President Obama has been dignified in not pointing backward, Americans who have lost their homes, seen their jobs disappear and their savings vanish, are smart enough to know that the seeds of the nation’s current economic woes were planted long before he entered the Oval Office. It is our duty and obligation to repeatedly issue that reminder, and particularly counter those in the African-American community who now waver in their support of this President. For whatever disappointments we may have in some of his policy decisions, it cannot be denied that President Obama inherited a set of historical crises that consumed his first term. We wait with great anticipation tonight’s State of the Union Address to hear his agenda moving forward.