President Barack Obama’s State of the Union address on Tuesday evening touched on a variety of themes, many of which were welcomed by Democrats. While many of the policies were already proposed or had leaked before the speech, one of the more surprising, yet overwhelmingly supported by Democrats, was the suggested increase of the federal minimum wage to $9.00. Three issues the Young Democrats and I found particularly relevant include climate change, gun control and the President’s relationship with Congress.
Obama’s focus on climate change was a welcome diversion from the usual assessment that taking action to preserve our environment can be pushed aside for other concerns. Economic security is directly tied to clean energy and innovation.
Restoring our aging and inefficient infrastructure will increase America’s attractiveness as a place to do business. It is also up to Americans not to waste energy and make choices that not only save money, but also help us move toward a more sustainable future.
The gun debate is one that has tragically been pushed to the forefront. Obama admitted that there is no way to stop every violent crime in America. However, the victims of these crimes deserve some justice and some assurance that these horrific crimes will not happen again.
Obama’s repeated, “They deserve a vote,” referencing specific mass shootings during his time as President, made this section of his speech emotional to many viewers, as it should have. The sad reality of gun violence in America is an embarrassment for a country that so often has taken the responsibility of stepping into other countries to stop widespread violence.
Obama made clear in his State of the Union that it is the responsibility of the government to govern. Republicans in Congress have stood in the way of numerous bills, refusing to even discuss topics with which they do not agree. The President often told Congress that if they did not act, he would.
With Congress’ abysmal approval rating, their inability to get anything done is certainly a frustration for the American people. Obama challenged the Republicans to vote “no” on gun legislation, asking that there at least be a vote for those who were affected by this epidemic. Obama made it clear that he is in Washington to get work done for the American people; it is only reasonable for him to ask the same of Congress.
The Barack Obama who delivered this speech was not the listless Obama from the first debate in the 2012 presidential election. This President resembles much more the candidate voters swarmed around in 2008. He was articulate. He was strong. He made Americans feel as if these goals were within their grasp, for the benefit of the people and not so unreasonable.
The likelihood of movement on these issues is yet to be seen, but this Obama seems disinclined to allow Congress to dictate his administration’s agenda. While the progressive tone of this speech may have irritated some, Obama is finally the President for whom his supporters campaigned and voted.
Ally Blanck is President of the UMW Young Democrats.