It’s that time of year again when the president gets a few hours to make promises, apologize, and brag for the pitfalls and victories of the previous year. This is an important State of the Union for President Barack Obama as he enters year six of his presidency and attempts to set up the Democrats for a strong midterm election and, further into the future, the 2016 presidential debate.
With an approval rating around 42 percent, Obama will need to face the hard truths that have lost him, and the government, much of America’s trust. I predict trusting the government will be a major theme of tonight’s speech, especially considering the ongoing NSA revelations and the botched ObamaCare rollout. Obama will have his work cut out for him as he attempts to smooth the feathers of untrusting constituents around the country.
Here are the top topics you can expect from tonight’s State of the Union address:
1. Income Inequality
Following the progressive thread that got him elected twice, many predict Barack Obama will focus a good portion of his speech on income inequality. From the election of progressive New York City mayor Bill De Blasio, to massive Walmart strikes, to the renewed discussion about LBJ’s “War on Poverty,” economic inequality is clearly on the minds of Americans and therefore, will hopefully on the president’s agenda.
A new Pew Poll finds that if 65 percent of voters think that income inequality gap is too large, then that is an issue that cannot be ignored in an election year.
In addition to that poll, Pew finds that 73 percent of those polled believe in raising the federal minimum wage and 63 percent support a one-year extension of unemployment benefits.
One of President Obama’s major tasks will be explaining why is flagship healthcare law, the Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare, is good for this country. After a media blitz that pit one biased and incomprehensible argument against another, the American people are trying to understand just what ObamaCare is, what what it will do for the country.
The numbers are stacked against the president as he goes into this speech. According to Pew research polls, 54 percent of Americans disapprove of his healthcare reform and 48 percent think that America’s healthcare situation will get worse in the long run.
3. NSA Reform
Continuing the expected message about trusting the government, and given Obama’s recent “mea culpa” about massive NSA metadata collection, you can be assured he will bring out the promise of reforms tonight.
During a recent speech, President Obama promised to transition data collection and storage to the private communications companies and out of the hands of the government. Recent Pew research polls find that 53 percent of American disapprove of the government’s telephone and metadata collection programs.
Obama’s rehashing of this objective tonight will most likely come with a promise we’ve all heard before: moving America away from a wartime mindset. This will include renewed promises that he made initially all the way back in 2008, closing the prison at Guantanamo Bay and finally getting our troops out of Iraq and Afghanistan.
4. LGBT Rights
On the topic of LGBT rights and gay marriage, expect the president to do a little bit of gloating. Obama is staying home from the Sochi Olympics and sending gay athletes in his stead in order to protest Russia’s treatment of the LGBT community, his administration started the ball rolling for gay marriage to be recognized in key conservative states, and under his watch Don’t Ask Don’t Tell was repealed last year.
However, the fate of the Employment Non-Discriminatin Act is still in jeopardy. The senate officially passed the bill, which would seek to outlaw employer discrimination based on sexual orientation, but it seems fated to a harsh battle in the Republican-dominated house. Speaker John Boehner has declared that he is prepared to block the bill as it is slated to get a vote by the end of 2014.
5. Gun Control
My prediction is that the numbers alone will force President Obama to talk about gun control during his speech tonight. In the year since the shooting that claimed 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, Mother Jones approximates that 194 children have been shot. Shootings with multiple victims or in public places seem to be occurring on an almost daily basis including high profile shootings at the Columbia Mall in Maryland, the Purdue University Shooting, and the Arapahoe High School Shooting. Considering the ongoing media speculation as to the causes of these shootings, I would expect Obama to propose some sort of ill-fated legislative fix that will die in the house sometime in the next two years.