The Soft Bigotry of Low Expectations for State of the Union Addresses Has Got to Stop

I’m as guilty as the worst offender of treating
annual State of the Union as beneath
instantly forgettable
, and

It was George W. Bush – whose SOTUs were uniformly awful and
misguided (cough, cough,
Axis of Evil
) – who talked about battling the “soft bigotry of
low expectations” for minority kids in K-12 education.

But the same standard should apply to State of the Union
addresses. Everyone fully expects them to be useless laundry lists
of barely connected guaranteed-applause-getters (GAGS) punctuated
with shout-outs to jes’ plain folks who magically appear in the
gallery for this one special night (when is a billionaire prankster
in the tradition of Terry Southern’s Guy Grand in The Magic
going to get a president to note Dick Hertz in one
of these things?).

This has got to stop. I’m fond of saying that the tragicomedy of
America is that we get the government we deserve.

And we deserve better.

There’s nothing stopping a president from actually giving a
substantive speech for the State of the Union (or even forgoing a
performed speech altogether) rather than clearing out his office
closet for every rag-tag idea that’s been gathering dust. And stop
with the least-convincing soft-feature anecdotes this side of an
NBC Olympics broadcast. 

President Obama’s speech last night was genuinely terrible,
with empty boasts, fantasy policy prescriptions, and outright
. That doesn’t make it stand out as a State of the
Union address, it just makes it the same as all the other ones we
struggle to recall from years and presidents past. If Obama really
wanted to lead in a positive way, he could use the next three SOTUs
to actually start a discussion about a single issue or topic –
immigration, foreign policy, whatever – and then follow that up by
trying to build a consensus in Congress and across the country.
That sort of speech would not only be worth turning on but actually
worth listening to.

Until that happens, Cafe Hayek’s Don Boudreaux is right to
characterize SOTUs as “political
and, I fear, to tune out from such

from Hit & Run

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