I mean both the speech and the actual state. Amanda Marcotte wrote something that resonated with me:
But we’re a nation that’s given up. At the end of the day, we’re a country where people will circle a parking lot for 15 minutes to avoid 2 more minutes of walking. Facing up to that sort of thing while making public policy requires spine, and that’s something we’ve got on short supply. So, instead we concede the argument and let the worst instincts of the country take over, while kicking the hippies that have the nerve to want something better.
Sometimes I feel like America is just in a holding pattern. We’re basically waiting for all the people who are still bitter about modernity to pass away in large enough numbers that those of us willing to move into the future can actually capture the electorate. I never felt that so keenly as listening to Obama speak last night. It’s like living in a house where a cantankerous patriarch won’t let you fix anything up or clean anything, and you’re sitting around watching the house fall apart while waiting for him to die. (Vague memories of “The Secret Garden” surface.) And that’s pretty much exactly what’s going on, right down to our crumbling infrastructure and cannibalistic economy. The problem with this is that not cleaning up the house means that we’re seeping poison into the air, and that may not be something we can clean up when we get the signal to go ahead and actually start fixing things.
It encapsulates my general frustration that many of the solutions to our problems are pretty straightforward, not to mention obvious, but our political system is utterly incapable of dealing with them. One reason is that the best–or at least the slight better–lack intensity (italics mine):
I sat in on a briefing yesterday where various “senior administration officials” explained the theory behind the State of the Union. When they were asked about shifting their focus to the future when the economy was so bad in the present, they explained that they got pretty much everything they thought they could get — and, in fact, more than they thought they could get — in the tax-cut deal, and it was time to let that work. Left unsaid is that they can’t get anything more out of a Republican House, and so there’s little point in begging.
It’s not clear to me, at this point, what exactly the administration has to lose by not fighting. Are we still ‘keeping the powder dry‘? Digby offers one explanation for why the Administration refuses to fight:
From what I can tell this is working for the President. I would guess that the country is sick of bad news and just wants more than anything to believe that the President can end all this and that we can get back to the way things were. But psychologically we are starting to adjust to this new normal and that new normal is not good for the middle and working class of this country. (The poor are so screwed they don’t even merit discussion.) In fact, it’s devastating and it’s all happening to benefit the ever more powerful top two percent.
That was my emotional take on the State of the Union address: people just wanted a ‘feel good’ speech, the political equivalent of a summertime feel-good movie. It’s as if people are so shellshocked by the economy and the rightwing strategy of demonization that they just want soothing noises.
So much for the can-do nation. Welcome to the 21st century version of malaise.