Truth be told, I was only half listening to President Obama’s State of the Union (SOTU) address the other night. The once soaring rhetoric rings hollow these days. Not that I wasn’t skeptical of Mr. Hope-y Change-y from the get-go.
Even fervent Obama supporters are disappointed with the president’s inability – make that his unwillingness – to take on the moneyed interests that have colonized our politics and wrecked the economy. And Obama’s paean to militarism that bookended the SOTU makes it clear that the 2009 Noble Peace Prize winner has cast his lot with American Empire.
Small wonder, then, that in his response to the president’s address, Indiana’s Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels saluted Obama “for his aggressive pursuit of the murderers of 9/11 and for bravely backing long overdue changes in public education.”
Daniels’s remarks should remind us that despite all of the rhetoric and political posturing to the contrary, Obama’s record is more closely aligned to neoliberal principles and objectives than anything that even remotely resembles a progressive agenda. Case in point: the much-maligned “ObamaCare” is little more than a federal subsidy (a.k.a. corporate welfare) for the health insurance industry.
"If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear Daniels stole that line from Stephen Colbert’s Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow."
As for the president’s latest prescriptions for tax reform, corporate accountability and economic recovery, file it under “too little, too late” – right alongside Obama’s pledge to “fight obstruction with action.” Unless he’s (still) confusing acquiescence with action, the prospect of 112th Congress passing meaningful reform legislation in a presidential election year is wishful thinking.
Then again, it seems wishful thinking is the order of the day. Mitch Daniels put it best on Tuesday: “We do not accept that ours will ever be a nation of haves and have nots; we must always be a nation of haves and soon to haves.”
If I didn’t know any better, I’d swear Daniels stole that line from Stephen Colbert’s Americans for a Better Tomorrow, Tomorrow.
Precisely what we’re “soon to have,” Daniels didn’t say. But if the corporatists in both parties have their way, it’s a safe bet endless war, union busting, low-wage jobs, lousy benefits, unsafe water, air and working conditions are all in the cards.
Obama made one thing perfectly clear on Tuesday night: the phrase “class warfare” is taboo for polite company. Just the same, it’s all the rage in Republican-controlled statehouses across the country. Obama’s silence on the GOP-led assault on worker’s rights and collective bargaining is all the more infuriating in this regard.
So what’s the take away from the SOTU and the Republican response? Neither party sees the writing on the wall. Last year’s worker uprising in Wisconsin was just the beginning. From the Arab Spring to Occupy Wall Street, people are resisting American empire, the corporate takeover of electoral politics and the wishful thinking of the haves and their political handmaids.
The people’s voice is clear and grows louder by the day: We won’t have it.
Kevin Howley is associate professor of media studies at DePauw University. He is editor of Understanding Community Media (Sage, 2010) and the forthcoming Media Interventions (Peter Lang). He writes regularly on media, culture and politics at e-chreia.