By Arley Johnson, Executive Director for The Advocates for The Other America
Every year politicians, political junkies, the media prognosticators we call pundits and millions of everyday Americans gather around the television to watch the President deliver the “State of the Union” address. The three branches of our government, Executive, Judicial and Legislative all position themselves in the people’s House of Representatives chambers, in the greatest Capitol Building on the face of the earth. The most recognizable and powerful figures of our government are seated and poised to listen to the President of these United States expound on the condition of our Republic. It is a grand tradition and an excellent display of Democracy in action; our version of “pomp and circumstance.” During a Presidential Election year this speech takes on added meaning as we look for clues outlining the fall campaign.
This was President Obama’s third “State of the Union Speech.” How did those three years pass so quickly? The final year of his presidency and the ongoing campaign gives everyone time to consider what should happen next and how he should be judged. My wish is that people would judge him correctly by looking at the complete record. He deserves no special treatment and he should be measured against the same yardstick used for every one of his predecessors. Reward him for the successes wrought during his administration and note his shortcomings. The right to a second term weighs in the balance, as it should. I hope the American people will be willing to honestly ponder a few questions before making their choice for our President this year. Our countries fiscal situation in terms of the unemployment rate and the national debt is an area of great concern to people of all political persuasions. So, setting aside the other crucial issues including poverty, defense, competitive trade, energy, the environment and education:
- Does President George W. Bush still bear his share of responsibility for the economic conditions in the country?
- Should President Obama be held responsible for not completely cleaning up the mess he inherited?
- Does the President understand the magnitude of the problems our country is facing?
- Have any of the moves made by the President to correct the economic conditions been helpful?
- Have any of the moves made by the President made the economic conditions worse?
- Should Congress bear some blame for economic conditions not being improved?
- Did the President actively try to work with Congress to improve our nation’s economic conditions?
- Did Congress actively try to work with the President to improve those economic conditions?
- Should the President bear the lion’s share of blame for our existing economic conditions?
- Do any of the Republican candidates for President make you feel that they will do a much better job than President Obama under similar circumstances?
- Is the country headed in the right direction?
- Has President Obama proven himself to be a creditable leader?
Party affiliation shouldn’t decide Presidential elections. As we have seen in the last few national elections, due to the growing number of those who self-identify as independent, being Democrat or Republican alone will not assure victory. That’s OK; we need to be willing to ask ourselves, and our politicians, tough questions on the economy and other issues. Who we select to serve the next four years as President should depend on how each voter and politician honestly answers. At present a fierce battle is raging for the Republican Presidential Nomination. Once one of the gentlemen acquires enough delegates to secure the nomination the party will coalesce around their nominee. Early glimpses of the campaign’s rhetoric and fundraising tend to point to a long, hard and nasty campaign.
Alas, it may appear to be a horrible way to run a government, but take a look around. With all its flaws, our system is still one of the best forms of government on earth. Because it is one where what you decide to do with your vote matters.