Obama’s State of the Union address this year set the stage for American politics and reinforced the chances of a united Democratic Party winning this election year.
To countless Americans, Obama experienced the worst year of his presidency in 2013 and therefore other Democrats suffered as well.
Obama, who started out as a dignified leader, turned into a bungling bureaucrat who fumbled his healthcare rollout, an Orwellian villain who spied on his friends and a weak governor who couldn’t prevent Congress from shutting down the government – and that was only his October.
It’s little wonder why Obama’s approval rating dipped 10 points, from 53 percent to 43 percent, since his last State of the Union address.
But politics is forward-looking, just as memory is fleeting.
Spending no time sulking over 2013, Obama wisely delivered a resilient message of optimism for his future agenda.
It was no surprise that national income inequality was addressed foremost last night, and this primary point was also his strongest.
Though standing against growing income inequality obviously appeased populist Democrats, Obama succeeded politically on another – more slippery – front. He judiciously avoided striking the fears of socialism and class warfare into the hearts of centrist or moderately conservative voters.
He focused less on the persecution of the rich and more on upward social mobility, solving the problem from the bottom-up through education and job training.
Democrats and Republicans may disagree as to whether the rich are holding the poor down, but both parties agree that steps must be taken to reduce poverty and uphold the American dream.
Reaching out to companies to give the long-term unemployed a chance will hopefully prove to conservative voters, while not humiliating them, that the continually jobless aren’t necessarily scroungers.
Obama’s speech assured that government can promote opportunity and not hinder it, a pivotal difference undecided voters will have to consider this November.
Though Republicans may have a different approach to education and government infrastructure, Obama’s suggestion of slashing bureaucratic red tape to speed job creation likely spoke to fiscal conservatives.
Ultimately voters will come to their decision by the success of his legislation.
Democrats cannot afford any more sloppy legislation enactment, such as the Affordable Care Act
Obama has an advantage in that Republicans need to be hesitant when voting against or watering down anti-poverty acts, lest looking like enemies of the poor in the eyes of the voting public.
However, Obama did not shy away from a few points that will polarize some voters.
Environmentalists likely did not appreciate Obama’s endorsement of hydraulic fracturing, despite allowing energy independence and being cleaner than coal. Of course, though, ecologists are unlikely to vote for Republicans in the fall.
Pushing immigration reform this year will leave members of the Tea Party waking up sore this morning.
Insisting on a raise in minimum wage, though far from radical figures, likely raised conservative fears of nursing the unskilled and punishing job creators.
Nonetheless, if Obama’s push for higher learning is successful, voters will not complain about the economic impact from increased human capital.
Obama’s diplomatic handling of Iran and Syria likely spoke to voters who remember the unjustified military handling of Iraq.
Obama also relished in having the national stage to redeem his health care act. He can only hope he can heal the wounds Democrats suffered from its rollout.
It would have been honorable for Obama to take responsibility for the overreaching surveillance that left many voters distrustful. Yet in the theme of moving forward, he at least acknowledged it would end.
Looking forward, Obama only has two more State of the Union addresses to define his legacy and to help ensure his presidential
successor will be of his party.
Wesley Higgins is a junior majoring in mass communications.