January 27, 2010

The State of the Union and the State of the Obama Presidency

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The State of the Union is much more than a presidential obligation, it’s become a right of passage, a test of a president’s mettle, a referendum on his successes and failures over the period of 365 days. The defeats that lay behind President Obama are numerous, fresh from a key loss in Massachusetts, not to mention the enormous budget deficit and the looming difficulties of health reform.

A year on, it may be a good time to reflect on Barack Obama, junior senator from Illinois, who inspired a generation of college students not too different than you and I, to believe that change was possible. But what has happened to that man, the under dog candidate all the way from the first polls in Iowa to the electoral college?

Tonight’s State of the Union showed that the Barack Obama that we remember is still alive and well, but a new more politically calculating side has emerged. For all those who said that this man would be wishy washy, who couldn’t execute, who didn’t have experience, he is trying to show them that they were wrong. He’s pushing forward with healthcare reform, even with the political cards against him. He’s pushing forward against corporate spending on political campaigns, something his Republican counterparts will not support. Barack Obama, the president than many Republicans voted for, may have fallen into the same partisan trap that many other presidents have fallen into. As he fights his way to execute his campaign promises he has had to deal with one of the most partisan Congressional bodies in recent memory. But Obama, the man, is pushing for a unified Congress and a unified nation. In typical fashion, President Obama drew upon the union that he promoted during the campaign.

“We face big and difficult challenges. And what the American people hope – what they deserve – is for all of us, Democrats and Republicans, to work through our differences; to overcome the numbing weight of our politics,” Obama said.

But the difference is, today few people seem to pay attention. The pundits talk a lot about how Obama has lost his grass roots movement, the movement that got him elected, the one that pushed the Democrats into historic majorities in the House and Senate. We college students have been some of the strongest supporters of that campaign, and similarly, we have become the people least interested in politics. In recent elections, college students have returned to the record lows of voter turnout that defined the elections previous to Obama’s meteoric rise.

Even now, as the office listens to Obama speak, our attention is varied. As he rambles on about the changes he’s had to make to the financial system, telling us it wasn’t “popular, but it was necessary”, few of us seem to care. The Obama administration has realized the err in their ways and is bringing the great political pupeteer, and last year’s graduation speaker, David Plouffe back into the fray. Obama ignited a generation for an amazing 18 months, but the pilot light seems to be out only 12 months after he took office.

A year from now, the world can be a far different place. Americans can have a reformed healthcare system, the war in Afghanistan could be over, and for the first time in a decade, we as a nation may no longer be at war. But similarly, nothing may change at all. We all look forward to 2010 as the end of the ills we as a nation have faced, and we all have great hope that Obama can lead us on to greener pastures.

Original Author: Rahul Kishore