I didn't watch the State of the Union speech. Watching Barack Obama is too painful. So many had such hopes for him, for change. And so little has changed. Worse, I fear that when he's out of office, I'll remember him as the most sympathetic Democratic party president of my lifetime, for all the many-faceted disappointments of seeing a path-breaking figure get chewed up by his own instinct to placate and the inertia of empire.
Charles Blow encapsulated that sadness today:
Peter Beinart, who has learned a thing or two himself, points out the terrible hollowness of the President's failure to own up to the crimes he inherited and is leaving behind.
And don't get me started on Obama's dumb drone war, the NSA, and Guantanamo.
Then Obama proceeded to use a mutilated veteran as a prop and all the Congresscritters jumped to attention. James Fallows is on fire about this.
In preparation for the speech, a slew of progressive advocacy outfits did their job, sending out laundry lists of what they (we?) wanted the Prez to talk about. These filled our mailboxes, hoping we'd be convinced that somebody, somewhere, was sticking up for all that Washington seems unable to accomplish. There were so many examples of the genre that a friend and I started passing them back and forth, critiquing and noting which ones seemed most adept at including the most comprehensive agenda. We chuckled at the occasional awkwardness or incongruity with past positions.
But this activity is neither just funny, nor futile. As has always been the case, the Obama trajectory shows that what this country becomes can't be left to politicians. Progressive infrastructure at all levels matters, even when it can seem only weak and silly. We never quite know where some vital initiative is going to take off, so build we must.