Grand Gestures Instead of a Grand Bargain
In his State of the Union address, Barack Obama offered some unexpectedly reasonable and bi-partisan language on deficits, spending, economic growth, tax reform, education, and immigration. The question for Republicans will be whether or not the president will truly offer meaningful chances for cooperation, or revert to his old strategy of dismissing and discrediting the opposition party.
The emotional highlight of his speech provided no grounds for reassurance: the presidential performance reached its passionate crescendo when Obama spoke of gun control and invoked victims of gun violence, but the only specific change he endorsed centered on the relatively uncontroversial step of enhanced background checks. To apply such fervor and intensity to a such a minor regulatory change suggests a politics of grand, empty gestures but no substance, and signals continuing gridlock when it comes to more meaningful reforms.