There are many ways to look at the Obama approach to the 2015 State of the Union – the idea that the President’s strategy is ruining the culture and tradition of the State of the Union address is just one view and has been prevalent among his critics and some observers.
The value of this speech and its importance to American politics has risen and fallen with the context and the times; most recently it has become a combination “wish list” and “pageant.” The Obama administration is taking a different approach in 2015.
Normally, when a boxer “telegraphs his punches” it’s considered a serious mistake, a strategic error. In 2015, Obama is telegraphing his punches with a purpose. He no longer has future elections to worry about – no “piper” to pay. In 2015 the only piper the President intends to pay is Obama himself.
The State of the Union will not be the speech where the President unveils a litany of new initiatives; he has already unveiled a host of initiatives clearly intended to push forward a vigorous agenda and set the Republican opposition on its heels.
Obama’s recent initiatives
Consider the following moves the President has already made in public: the opening to Cuba; executive action on immigration; new police initiatives through the Department of Justice; the initiative requiring companies to offer paid sick leave to workers; the BuySecure Initiative safeguarding consumers from Internet cyber threats; high speed broadband expansion across the states; the Build America initiative to make infrastructure investment in roads, ports and drinking water systems; veto warnings on Republican plans to undo Obama Care and pass through the Keystone Pipeline; mortgage relief, tax reform and more.
The President will offer to work with the congress now fully controlled by the Republican opposition, but he has already given notice – he is on the move. President Obama is challenging the opposition to say no. Despite opposition from his critics, Obama will require and receive the funding he needs for national security and the war on terror, most especially in Iraq and the Islamic State.
Up to Congress
What can the Republican opposition do in response?
The President will be using the 2015 State of the Union Address to popularize initiatives already in motion. The challenge by Obama is intended to put the Republican majority on the defensive. Without future elections to worry about, President Obama seems to have gained energy – a spring in his step. Meanwhile, the Republicans are still mired in their ongoing internal debate about “the brand.”
The majority party is struggling to somehow escape being defined as the “Party of No,” and the “angry, pro-white, anti-woman, defender of the super-rich.” This is certainly an odd and ironic moment in history when the victorious majority party seems to have a problem with identity and struggles to define a real vision.
All of this will be even more interesting to watch as the Republicans gear up for the 2016 elections in search of a standard bearer who they hope will take them to the White House again. As the Republicans begin a final push to make Obama completely irrelevant, they might be surprised to see a President who is gaining new life and purpose on the wings of a major electoral defeat. The Republicans will be forced to make a choice: to work with or against the President, and either choice will complicate their efforts to re-make their brand.
Obama is telegraphing his punches, but he is clearly going down swinging.