Crossing the Moat for The State of The Union
If we really cared about the 1% and the 99%, we would not draw a line between the rich and the rest. Instead, we’d focus on the self-important who are “inside” a circle known as the beltway and the serfs and peasants on the “outside” who are pejoratively referred to by the insiders as the “American People.” Or sometimes, “folks.”
The Washington beltway has evolved into a moat with water replaced by traffic. Few groups of Mandarins in all of history have achieved this pinnacle of self-importance. Even Versailles had no moat.
Unfortunately, self-importance is of little value without the feeling of self-importance so, from time to time, the Mandarins must allow the serfs and peasants a glimpse at the inner workings of their government. One such occasion is the President’s State of the Union Address. Technically, it takes place on Tuesday night January 28, but it has been happening for about a week though leaks and the festival of televised self-importance on Sunday mornings. It will continue until overwhelmed by Super Bowl promotions.
George Will refers to the State of the Union, as a puerile spectacle. “As undignified as it is unedifying and unnecessary, the vulgar State of the Union circus is again at our throats. The document that the Constitutional Convention sent forth from Philadelphia for ratification in 1787 was just 4543 words long, but this was 17 too many. America would be a sweeter place if the Framers had not included this laconic provision pertaining to the president: ‘He shall from time to time give to the Congress information of the state of the union.’”
Years ago, there was at least a moment of drama when House Doorkeeper William L. “Fishbait” Miller would throw open the door of the chamber and shout “Ladies and Gentlemen, the President of the United States,” but he is long dead. The Congress was a better place – or at least more fun – when there were people called Fishbait instead of today’s flock of blow-dries.
Fishbait’s bland replacement will do his best with no success and the leader of the free world will move slowly toward the podium between the rows of huggers, backslappers and air kissers who will have staked out their aisle seats early that morning. These elected officials drew a day’s salary for this endeavor.
The speech itself will have nearly nothing to do with the state of the union, which will be described as “good” and everything to do with turning out Democratic voters in November. This is called banging the base drum. Musicians will be offended by the spelling of bass but there are fewer musicians than fishermen. This is how words are chosen for the State of the Union.
Actually most of the words will have been sold to various lobbyists and coveted campaign donors. Beleaguered speech writers were long ago tasked with turning the dog’s breakfast that resulted into at least some sentences that could reasonably be placed next to each other. Like Fishbait’s replacement, they will do their best with no success.
A few serfs and peasants will be invited to sit with Michelle Obama to serve as props for one cause or another. Their struggles will be described and hugs and waves will follow.
In 2009, Congressman Joe Miller, a Republican from South Carolina shouted, “you lie” at some statement or other. He is remembered – not fondly in some circles but remembered nonetheless.
Well fellow serfs and peasants, name anything else you can remember about a State of the Union address.