January 13, 2016

2016 State of the Union Response

Cary Gibson, Mitch Vakerics

Democratic Response- Cary Gibson

Last night in his final State of the Union address, President Obama returned to the themes of his Presidential campaigns, hope and change, and laid out a sweeping vision for America.  Rather than outline a road map for the rest of the year, the speech hewed to the President’s aspirations for America and highlighted broader goals rather than specific proposals.  During his address, the President talked about an America that can cure Cancer, lead in the development of clean energy, and provide opportunity and security for everyone.  Most importantly, the President implored Congress and Americans to “ . . . make our politics reflect the best in us, and not the worst.”

Although he tried to dispute it, the direction of the President’s speech last night was an acknowledgement that there’s probably not much he can accomplish in the remaining days of his administration.  However, it’s clear the President gave the speech with his legacy in mind.  He left a “to do” list for his successor and also used the opportunity to highlight his accomplishments and answer his critics.  The most striking part of the address was the message the President delivered on the current tone of American politics and the acknowledgement that most Members of Congress are essentially trapped by the politics of their base.  It’s not a message most politicians would deliver.  The reforms the President proposed, such as redistricting reform, are absolutely necessary to return to a more bipartisan era.


Republican Response-Mitchell Vakerics

In a political environment that changes daily, often hourly, the utility of an address delivered annually seems almost obsolete. Yet the State of the Union address continues to be a vital opportunity for a U.S. president to communicate his or her objectives and policy goals for the coming year to Congress and the nation. In his final State of the Union address, President Barack Obama presented a number of his priorities for an upcoming year that serves as his last chance while in office to shape the legacy of his presidency. He also, however, exhibited great trepidation regarding the future of his signature achievements and seemed resigned to the realities of what is and isn’t achievable. He revealed more in terms of what he didn’t say during the course of his delivery than what he did. Missing from the narrative were specific objectives and issues portrayed in prior State of the Union addresses; instead, he focused on the much broader picture of the outcomes of his work.

The results of the 2016 presidential and Senate elections will have a tremendous impact on the President’s greatest achievements and could do much to determine his legacy. Should the Democrats retain the White House and or retake the Senate, the President’s policy achievements in the areas of energy, immigration and health care likely will be sustained.

On the other hand, Republican victories in November will lead to a sustained effort to rollback much of the Obama legacy.  A GOP White House and Senate will work hard to address rising health care costs; eliminate existing or future immigration proposals that include amnesty; and protect the rights of gun owners, while pushing for tax reform and a full host of trade and commerce issues certain to either help or hinder the marketplace.

Like the State of the Union itself, major changes for any given industry will happen no more than once a year. As a result, no matter where you stand, there is plenty of work to be done.