One of the main themes of the 2011 State of the Union was bi-partisanship. Not only has this message lead to increased popularity for Obama, it is also a way for the President to keep the pressure on the Republicans to continue to get things done. Obama said, “New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.”
Obama started his address by stressing unity after Tucson, “It’s no secret that those of us here tonight have had our differences over the last two years. The debates have been contentious; we have fought fiercely for our beliefs. And that’s a good thing. That’s what a robust democracy demands. That’s what helps set us apart as a nation. But there’s a reason the tragedy in Tucson gave us pause. Amid all the noise and passions and rancor of our public debate, Tucson reminded us that no matter who we are or where we come from, each of us is a part of something greater – something more consequential than party or political preference.”
He continued, “We are part of the American family. We believe that in a country where every race and faith and point of view can be found, we are still bound together as one people; that we share common hopes and a common creed; that the dreams of a little girl in Tucson are not so different than those of our own children, and that they all deserve the chance to be fulfilled.”
Obama reminded the GOP that Americans want bi-partisanship, “Now, by itself, this simple recognition won’t usher in a new era of cooperation. What comes of this moment is up to us. What comes of this moment will be determined not by whether we can sit together tonight, but whether we can work together tomorrow. I believe we can. I believe we must. That’s what the people who sent us here expect of us. With their votes, they’ve determined that governing will now be a shared responsibility between parties. New laws will only pass with support from Democrats and Republicans. We will move forward together, or not at all – for the challenges we face are bigger than party, and bigger than politics.”
On immigration Obama spoke in terms of both Democrats and Republicans, “Now, I strongly believe that we should take on, once and for all, the issue of illegal immigration. I am prepared to work with Republicans and Democrats to protect our borders, enforce our laws and address the millions of undocumented workers who are now living in the shadows. I know that debate will be difficult and take time. But tonight, let’s agree to make that effort. And let’s stop expelling talented, responsible young people who can staff our research labs, start new businesses, and further enrich this nation.”
In terms of the deficit Obama pointed at both Republicans and Democrats, “So now is the time to act. Now is the time for both sides and both houses of Congress – Democrats and Republicans – to forge a principled compromise that gets the job done. If we make the hard choices now to rein in our deficits, we can make the investments we need to win the future. Let me take this one step further. We shouldn’t just give our people a government that’s more affordable. We should give them a government that’s more competent and efficient. We cannot win the future with a government of the past.”
Obama talked about unity from within the American Dream, “We may have differences in policy, but we all believe in the rights enshrined in our Constitution. We may have different opinions, but we believe in the same promise that says this is a place where you can make it if you try. We may have different backgrounds, but we believe in the same dream that says this is a country where anything’s possible. No matter who you are. No matter where you come from.”
The message from the President was very clear. America likes the middle. Here I am. The question is where are you going to be? Obama is essentially putting the Republicans in a bind. Either they can join him in the middle and anger the Tea Party, or they can stay on the right and anger the rest of America. This address tonight was about Obama planting his flag right in the political middle of America.
This was a great piece of strategic positioning by Obama. He used the address to build on the momentum that he has been gaining politically since he moved to the middle. The State of the Union was very moderate and practical. I didn’t think that there was a proposal in the whole address that was not moderate, while this development may anger both the left and the right, it is a message that is going to be received very well with the middle.
If this was the opening salvo of Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, the GOP is in big trouble. Obama didn’t give the impression that he was a liberal or extremist. He looked, sounded, and acted like a president that is totally in charge. Obama challenged the Republicans to move to the middle with him tonight. Should they refuse, the President looks poised to roll through them on his way to winning a second term in 2012. The choice is yours, Republicans. Are you going to work with the President, or be a speed bump on the way to his reelection?