"If Congress won't act, I will."
Here's the key difference between President Obama's State of the Union speech of 2013 and his speeches of the past: He reached past his own cautious nature to paint a vision for progress with a very broad brush.
This was not a speech about what is possible, but rather, a speech for what is right. We can dicker over whether he should have said minimum wage should be $15 per hour instead of $9 per hour, but the fact is that until his speech, it wasn't even on the radar.
Nor was climate change. Not really. Or universal pre-Kindergarten. None of those things were on the front burner before his speech, but they are all part of the larger progressive vision now, well-articulated and philosophically compatible with what most of us who call ourselves progressive stand for. I wanted him to go big and he did.
The importance of what the president said doesn't rest in what action Congress will take. We know Congress won't take any action. But while President Obama had the attention of the country and the media for an hour, he shamed Congress while laying out specific policy objectives for a progressive and sustainable agenda.
The clip at the top deals with climate change and his policy objectives. While offering Congress the opportunity to pass legislation to deal with the issues of infrastructure, preparation, and carbon emissions, he also promised them that if they didn't deal with it, he would. Republicans should take him at his word on that. For progressives, it offers some solid evidence that these proposals are not just mere words on the page, but meaningful policy initiatives.
More broadly, though, this speech was intended to set priorities and an agenda on his terms, rather than the Republican mantra of debt and deficit. He got that part out of the way in the beginning, then proceeded to the larger vision of investment.
If we can keep this initiative moving in this direction, whether it be guns or climate change, there should be a wave by 2014 that not only brings the Congress back into the hands of not just Democrats, but progressives. This speech wasn't mere talk. Policy initiatives are underway. The grassroots infrastructure created by OFA is in place. There won't be much cooperation from the media and there certainly will be wailing from Republicans, but if we ignore it and keep the push for these policies moving, there's no reason why November 2014 can't come back our way, gerrymandering or otherwise.
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