This is a bit dated, but I think it is still relevant.
Note: Although my comments relate to President Obama’s 2014 State of the Union, I could do something similar for every president. Politically speaking, I think President Obama hit a home run.
The State of the Union, in my opinion, highlights some of the worst aspects about American politics. Over the course of my 25 years of existence on earth, the world has witnessed the birth of several breakthroughs in communication. The growth of the internet, mobile phones, consumer video conferencing, and tablets have completely changed the way most live. To give you some perspective, using a basic high speed internet connection, I just downloaded the entire Wikipedia database onto my computer...in just over 20 minutes. Never has communication been more instant.
It should come as no surprise that the State of the Union and its 93 responses, are catering their remarks to these new standards in communication. While watching the State of the Union, I kept paying attention to various forms of social media. One quote is still popping up: “Let’s get immigration reform done this year. Let’s do it. It’s time.” I have seen countless memes, retweets, and posts expressing excitement about immigration reform. There have been others that are outraged by the same exact quote. In the slight possibility that I missed something controversial, I went back to the transcript. In full context, these were President Obama’s words on immigration:
Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system. Republicans and Democrats in the Senate have acted. I know that members of both parties in the House want to do the same. Independent economists say immigration reform will grow our economy and shrink our deficits by almost $1 trillion in the next two decades. And for good reason: when people come here to fulfill their dreams – to study, invent, and contribute to our culture – they make our country a more attractive place for businesses to locate and create jobs for everyone. So let’s get immigration reform done this year.
Forget controversial, President Obama did not say anything at all. There is not a single reasonable person in a America that believes current immigration policies are ideal. The only substance in that paragraph related to the study performed by independent economists. Even then, President Obama made sure he removed all possible relevant information. He gave no names who performed the study. $1 trillion in savings was mentioned without any insight into what policies are needed to receive the projected gains. Most people have learned that true success frequently, if not always, comes as a result of considerable thought, time, and tenacity. Nobody should expect President Obama to outline every single aspect of the reform he wants, but citizens are smart enough to handle more substance. Using the same number of words as President Obama, let me outline my idea for immigration reform.
Finally, if we are serious about economic growth, it is time to heed the call of business leaders, labor leaders, faith leaders, and law enforcement – and fix our broken immigration system. I know that members of both parties in Congress want comprehensive immigration reform. Tomorrow I will release the specifics of my proposal which will include the following: 1) Improved and increased border security. 2) Amnesty for those that have proven to be responsible members of society. 3) A complete overhaul of the pathway to citizenship, including major revisions to the cumbersome citizenship test. These changes will save the country trillions of dollars. I am willingly to work with any member of Congress, so let’s get immigration reform done this year.
Not everyone will agree with my plan, but at least everyone knows where I stand on the most important aspects of immigration reform. Refusing to outline specifics will only increase the partisan nature of politics. The truth is that people prioritize issues and joins the party that best represents them. It is rare for a person to agree 100% with every official party stance on every single issue. Failing to be open and honest about policy positions can only increase partisan attitudes. For example, let’s say I am a moderate Republican that did not vote for President Obama in 2012. If he does not go into greater detail about his proposals in the State of the Union, I will have to assume that I do not agree with him, simply because he is a Democrat. That attitude is both unproductive and destructive.
The State of the Union has become just another mindless reality show. When President Obama said "let's get immigration reform done this year," every Democrat erupted with thunderous applause. In fact, clapping interrupted President Obama's speech a mind-blowing 81 times, according to Politico. This practice of non-stop applause during the State of the Union has to stop. It is ridiculous for at least two reasons.
First, there is rarely anything that truly deserves applause. As described above, most of the speech is political fluff. Based on crowd reaction alone, one might conclude that President Obama cured cancer while giving an iPhone and free scoops of ice cream to every person in America. Instead, the president usually states an unachievable goal with no clear plan to reach that unachievable goal.
Second, the applause should not persuade anyone. The people clapping does not represent typical Americans. The vast majority of the audience are politicians, the majority of which are part of the “Only 13% of the Country Likes Us” Congress. In other words, any cheers are at best self- interested. At times the State of the Union seems more self congratulatory than the Academy Awards where they give out gold-plated idols. (Please recognize that I am mainly joking. I don’t think they are worshipping idols...that much).
Politicians are brilliant at persuading their constituents. There are always exceptions, but for the most part, our representatives in government are primarily concerned with reelection. I do not doubt that those serving in government want to help this country improve. I believe that many are genuine in their opinions, but I am convinced that our politicians desperately want to be reelected and for the most part, will do whatever it takes to win. The truth is our leaders, pundits, and journalists continue to engage in nonsensical commentary and unleash unfair criticism because voters accept it. As long as we continue to accept dumbed-down mediocrity from politicians, nothing will ever change.
I will always vote for the candidate who respects me as an intelligent citizen, even if he or she is member of a political party I oppose. It is far better than voting for a buffoon who agrees with me. I call on all voters to do the same. The era of mediocrity must end.