George Lakoff has a column today describing what he would like to hear in tomorrow night’s State of the Union address. If you don’t like the real speech, read Lakoff’s vision to feel better.
I too would like Obama to say all this tomorrow night, and like Lakoff, know he won’t say much, if any, of it. The reason I would like to hear him say this stuff is Lakoff’s main point, that only by saying it over and over does it get into the public conversation and consciousness.
No, it is not a list of things that are remotely doable in the RealPolitik of the present (at least not only that). The point is these things will never become possible if they aren’t talked about, and talked about from the top. And they are things that have to be done for the future strength and success of the country (and if you think they aren’t, right wing, you shouldn’t be afraid of the conversation). At least that’s my take.
He even has a line for you, Jim, on species preservation! “Species Are Us! We are part of the continuum of life with all species. Bees matter. Don’t let them die off. Songbirds matter. Frogs matter. Salmon matter.”
This is from Bob Reich’s latest column:
“When asked if they believe government will do the right thing most of the time, fewer than 20 percent of Americans agree. Fifty years ago, when that question was first asked on standard surveys, more than 75 percent agreed.” This is perhaps the crux of most of our problems. No one believes anything politicians say, because we (rightly) don’t see them as telling the truth. If Obama gave a speech like the one Lakoff wants, it would not likely lead to a lot of short term policy changes, and it would shock and surprise a lot of people, and for many young people especially, it would feel like the first time a politician had said something honest.
Of course it won’t happen, and not just because it’s not who Obama is. The system is so rigged that no one who would give such a speech will ever be allowed near the money required to run for office and get elected. So the best we can hope for is nicely phrased platitudes about how America is wonderful and our best days are ahead of us, which at best will make us feel a little better for the next 24 hour news cycle and may give the president a temporary boost of a couple points on his approval rating. And in the end, the speech doesn’t really matter. It has become so choreographed and boring there are as few surprises as their are at the conventions. So fewer and fewer watch every year. One more reason that what we really need is a SOTU like the one Lakoff describes to wake us up out of our doldrums.
Alas, I fear we will awake on Wednesday morning still lacking what we need.
Happy New Year!
Keep warm (I write from Chicago).