OPINION: Let’s Ditch Congress: The State of the Union And Its Holes
BY JAMES MAZARAKIS It is difficult for even an avid Obama supporter like I to watch President Obama's State of the Union (SOTU) address and agree that it was in any way innovative – after all, over and over again Obama pushed for the same ideals, promoted the better parts of his presidency, and attributed Congress to recent problems in spite of recent blunders. But at the end of the night, as I watched the Republican Representative’s desperate remarks that followed, I realized: Can we blame him? Let us get a few things straight. Firstly, there is no accepted goal for the SOTU – in fact, it is not even required to be done. It is essentially a tradition for the United States president to make a speech to cover all grounds and inspire the American people about the coming year. It is something that serves more of a rhetorical purpose than a logistical one – rather, it is not 'supposed' to be giving us new information; it gives the President the opportunity to speak his mind to America. Anyone who watched the address expecting to hear all Afghanistan troops were home or that the economy had completely fixed itself set him or herself up for disappointment. That is not to say he did not give promising words. He discussed the improving economy and environmental consciousness that gives the United States some honor. While he did not recite his own failures - which exist - he did mention pending initiatives that he brought under his wing, like gun control and immigration reform, that have thus far been failing. Secondly, this is not an issue of Democrats and Republicans - a philosophy I share with our President. We have seen over and over again that our government representatives are hitting bump after bump regardless of the color of their tie. And after a government shutdown, a near-economic-death experience at the fiscal cliff, and virtually no instances of social, political, or economic progress, it is clear that it is not the party, but an entire branch of government. The Supreme Court struck down SOPA, an obstacle for same-sex couples around the country from receiving identical benefits to other-sex couples. The President has started initiatives to make us one of the most eco-friendly nations on Earth. And what of Congress? They recently passed a budget. And it threatened global economic stability to make it happen. Although there is changing continuity through his speech about what needs to be done about our Congress (which currently has an approval rating of 9%) he reiterates the need for a more comprehensive, active government system. He addresses that many movements “require Congressional action” and that Congress has the ability to make great things happen. He also urges Congress, the White House, and businesses from Wall Street to “come together” in 2014 and make progress. Yet he also implies that Congress has reached an extreme which calls for the complete overruling of their power. “If this Congress wants to help,” he says, he will guide the nation through reform. Nearly twenty times, Obama mentions Congress's inability to act on issues. At one point, he says he will try to stop gun tragedies “with or without Congress.” Obama: “I say, you don’t have to wait for Congress to act; Americans will support you if you take this on.” It is risky business to be pushing legislation without consent of the legislative branch. But the fact remains that this sect of the government has literally threatened the fabric of our society, discredited all attempts of justice in nearly any form, and has refused to carry out the most basic needs of the American people. This is not just immaturity - it is treason. Yes, I would feel – as many people do – very uncomfortable with this notion of overlooking Congress, but - not less than half, but less than a tenth of Americans believe that, whether or not they are making good decisions, but that they are doing a “good job.” Desperate times call for desperate measures. If Obama has to pull some sketchy tricks out of a hat to make our government work, I would stand behind him. I do not think, however, that Obama should be implementing programs that permanently allow this shift of power, because that would essentially prevent Congress from working, ever. Rather, we need to make do with what we have until Congress begins to resemble a population representative of the United States. I believe Obama needs to make a radical step to make his name in presidential history. He needs to lay down the hammer on Congress. If he could step on that podium, lose his temper, and state in plain words exactly what Congress is doing wrong - which I am sure he has done on his own time alone - I believe it will be a wake-up call for not only the House, but America too. We need to end the notion that Obama is “blaming” Congress and make sure all parts of the government are communicating effectively. It’s all about trust. Not everyone can agree with Obama's policies, but it is pretty clear that primary functions of the government need to be fixed. If there is anything to take out of the SOTU Address, that would be the most vital, not only to our government, but to our future.