President Obama has given a rhetorically flourished SOU address, setting forth much of his legislative agenda for the next year, a year in which he has been reelected under a considerable mandate, both in electoral and popular votes. His message included an appeal for education and tax reform, asking the Congress to create a high tech infrastructure, a report on the troops coming home soon, an appeal to cut expenditures, and for smarter Medicare and even gun control. Many ideas were not new; but still quite necessarily overdue. John Boehner sat stone faced next to an animated Joe Biden, Boehner deciding when and when not to applaud. It was a sort of surreal experience.
Time was when the President sent his State of the Union message to the Congress in written form, the live delivery of which did not begin until Woodrow Wilson, and really not annually until FDR began a tradition of a speech to both houses of Congress.
Republicans, through some highly creative gerrymandering, have retained control of the House of Representatives, albeit with somewhat less puissance than in the last congress. They are now scrambling to reinvent themselves to a demographically metamorphosized electorate consisting of more young, Latino and African-American voters who do not buy Republican theories of less government, less health care, more military spending and low taxes on super wealthy "job creators," many of whom collect dividends and do nothing in particular to create anything except an unusual amount of bloviation. That left of center demographic grew dramatically between 2008 and 2012. Even people like Newt Gingrich applauded the competence of the democratic campaign for its efficiency and delivery of its message.
Following the President's speech, a visibly nervous, hyperactive and perspiring Marco Rubio pleaded for an agenda that sounded like a retread of Mitt Romney's campaign stump speeches. Aggressively accusing the President of trying to wreck Social Security, the National defense and pleading the standard rightist arguments for less government, he excoriated a lack of free choice under Obamacare, unfettered support for the second amendment, and various other shopworn Republican trickle-down bromides. Leaning over for a drink of water as his rapid fire speech patterns betrayed a bit of stage fright, this being his first nationally televised appearance, he seemed, as a CBS commentator said, looked like a light fixture had fallen on his head.
In all fairness to young Rubio, who is only 41, and anointed on the cover of Time Magazine as the "Republican Savior" on its most recent cover, he was alone in a room and competing with the President who received a standing ovation every other sentence, and spoke for an hour. Rubio's appeal to prayer and to God is becoming less and less believable to voters as America increasingly secularizes.
Marco Rubio, nevertheless, seemingly tone-deaf delivered a message that had been repudiated by the electorate just two months ago.
If Rubio is counting on the electorate to move back to the right in 2016, he should do some real hard thinking about that prospect. Telling the story of his humble origins only goes so far.
One could reasonably extrapolate that in another 4 years, the electorate will be even less receptive to Rubio's message than it was to Mitt Romney's this time around.
The idea that America is polarized is true, but one side of the polarity growing, whilst the other is shrinking. So if Republicans want to win another election they will have to continue to suppress voter rights, keep brainy immigrants out, or send out a different message. Protecting special interests and wealthy donors cannot be part of that message. All of the Super PAC candidates lost despite the efforts of Carl Rove, Sheldon Adelson, the Koch brothers, and others of their ilk.
If you watch a rerun of the SOU speech please note that John Boehner did not applaud when the President asked for a law to make it easier for people to vote; he was fearful of not keeping his tea party minions as large a plurality.