SOTU: Your Thoughts

Ouch. My objection is to ribbons. It’s all inclusive. I hated and still hate red ribbons for AIDS, for example. The fact that we gays started this lame tradition truly saddens me. But I know it’s a lost battle. We are all ribboned now.  I just wonder how they keep coming up with new colors for new causes. Will they have to go to paint charts soon? Still, it was a moment of dyspepsia, I concede. But I regard a blog as a right to occasional dyspepsia. Another reader writes:

The Sandy Hook ribbons aren’t just ribbons in honor of it. And they’re not lame. They were originally made for the teachers and administrators to wear to the funerals so they could be identified. They were noticed, so they were made by folks at the school, one of whom is friend of mine. One day they made 700. They are selling them to raise money for the school. It’s called the Sandy Hook angel project. They are $3 each. I’ll get you one.

I won’t wear it. But I can sure see the point of identifying the teachers and administrators. That is a signifier I could happily endorse. Just not Joe Biden, please. Or every other grandstanding pol. Another:

Here in Shelby County, Alabama, my son’s elementary school now has an armed guard standing outside each morning. This doesn’t make me feel safer. It’s simply a reminder of Newtown. Today, a man entered a local middle school and held several students hostage. Today. No, he didn’t have an assault rifle. He had a pistol. But can you imagine being one of those students?

Andrew, Newtown changed me. I have two small children – a son, 8, and daughter, 3. I’m a conservative in the Bible Belt, yet I feel like a noose is tightening on our kids due to our gun culture. And I really don’t know how it stops. I emailed my senator (for whom I voted), Richard Shelby, asking him to support an assault weapons ban. Of course, I got the standard “Thanks for writing. Here’s why I don’t support a ban” letter. I think of Newtown every time I see that guard. And I wonder which school is next.

On the core question of banning assault weapons and universal background checks, and much more aggressive ATF funding and regulation, I’m with you all the way. But as you point out, even that won’t stop these horrifying events, using mere pistols, just minimize the carnage. Another quotes me:

The passion, the reason, the sincerity: this was an invigorated president, trying to shift the mood away from zero-sum partisanship to non-zero-sum citizenship. It’s what we always hoped from him, and I think it places the Republicans in a horrible bind.

How are the Republicans in a horrible bind?

The number of Republicans in the Senate is still 45 and there’s no risk of their changing for another two years.  None of the emotion and the meaning of Obama’s speeches matters a bit unless somehow 5 of those 40 have suddenly changed their mind based on this speech.  That would be a shocking turn of events to say the least.

Republicans engaged in a policy of deep, nihilistic intransigence for four years.  When they began that policy they had 41 Senators, and now they have 45 (after a brief climb up to 47).  They had 178 representatives and now have 234 (afte a brief climb up to 242).  So is there anything in our politics that would suggest to the average Republican that they should change couse?  The Republican party is like a collection of spoiled children and until they get a sense that there will be real and dire consequences for them, they will not change how they behave.

While there’s certainly some long-term concern among Republicans over the demographic trends of the country, Republicans believe the best answer to that is trying to convince conservative Latinos that the Republican party has something to offer.  Beyond that, the Republicans are still firmly wedded to zero-sum partisanship and there is nothing that Obama said tonight that will change that.

I don’t disagree, but politics change tectonically. What Obama was doing last night was what I saw him doing a long time ago:

This guy is a liberal. Make no mistake about that. He may, in fact, be the most effective liberal advocate I’ve heard in my lifetime. As a conservative, I think he could be absolutely lethal to what’s left of the tradition of individualism, self-reliance, and small government that I find myself quixotically attached to. And as a simple observer, I really don’t see what’s stopping him from becoming the next president…

I fear he could do to conservatism what Reagan did to liberalism. And just as liberals deserved a shellacking in 1980, so do “conservatives” today.

What makes this more interesting is that events have made his case stronger since. The collapse of the Wall Street casino, the relentless rise in inequality, our crumbling infrastructure, the crippling cost of policing the entire globe: these changes makes Obama’s core vision more reasonable to conservatives like me who suspect government but believe there are times when we truly, desperately need it. Another reader’s take:

That was a very strong SOTU. The President has honed his presentation of what activist government should look like in the 21st century, and, amazingly, it actually rings more conservative than the bullshit being peddled by the so-called conservatives in the chamber. And the last segment of the speech, on voting and then gun violence, was incredibly powerful. I had a tear in my eye. I can’t believe Boehner wasn’t bawling … well, then again, there’s no telling what will make the Speaker break out in tears.

Rubio, on the other hand, gave a speech that clearly had nothing to do with the SOTU address that preceded it, which made it very flat and tone deaf. It was alternately condescendingly partisan and incredibly defensive. Surprisingly weak. We know which of these two is the Alpha Male in American politics today.

What did Rubio say last night that could not have been said by a conservative Republican in 1980? It was a recitation of dogma, not a response to the actual contingent problems we face. Another notes:

The amusing thing about that Ted Nugent photo is who he was sitting next to: Thomas Lauderdale, the founder and band leader of Portland-based Pink Martini. Based on Nugent’s uncomfortable posture, I think he figured out that Lauderdale is also gay.