The New York Times called the SOTU “making the case for government,” but it was in fact the unveiling of gridlock, the opening of the era of Big Gridlock.
Nothing the president wants as a piece of legislation will emerge from the Congress. Unlike President Reagan in 1981, President Obama doesn’t have a single great demand but a dozen little ones. Thus there will be no marshaling of forces and arm-twisting etc. culminating in a bill of consequence passing on any subject of import.
The House will just say no.
Gridlock ahead, bad appointees, and finger-pointing.
The good news is that this is such a sham that it will not move the country much, if at all, and the 2014 elections will at worse be a wash for the GOP.
The GOP can produce a package of immigration reform bills, but that will be slow work, and not the sort of practical law-crafting that appeals to the president.
No, he will be off to slash the nuclear arsenal soon and call that a win, and to issue executive orders which will annoy but not genuinely change much.
And the consequences of Obamacare will accumulate.
The job of the opposition for the next four years is to stop as much bad law as possible, to point out the consequences of the first wave of bad Obama legislation, and to argue for an increased majority in the House in 2014 and more Republican senators in 2014.
The good news is that every eighth grader you know will go to college under a president not named Obama.
The interesting question will be how the era of Big Gridlock impacts voters. I think they are already tired of the president, and especially of the grandiosity. Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute argued in the The Corner last night that the speech was remarkable for its lack of modesty about government's abilities. He was right, and the American ear is very finely tuned to braggadocio unsupported by ability. They don't like it much.
The president promised lots and lots. He will get very little save Senator Hagel and that only because of John McCain's odd way of fighting for the truth about Benghazi.
The president will spend a ton of money we don't have, destroy a bunch of weapons and capabilities we do, and issue a near constant stream of job-killing executive orders. The GOP and conservative media will be obliged to point this out every day, and the courts to strike down the unconstitutional excesses, such as the HHS regulations on employers with religious scruples about providing the morning-after pill.
Michael Barone a few years back thought we were entering the era of open field politics, and perhaps we did, for a time. But now it is back to the trenches, and the conservatives had better hold theirs.
Learning how to say no well, and to do so every day, in fact a few times a day, in a persuasive fashion for principled reasons is the task of the House GOP. Senator Rubio made a good start of it last night, but every day on every platform the Republicans with skill have to explain why they won't be doing what the president wants them to do and why the country needs to check the president's wants and hopes now and in 2014.
The president is already a lame duck, because the chances of him winning a renewing majority in 2014 are so low. But they are not non-existent and have to be reduced further every day.
Photo courtesy Daniel Borman / Flickr