The Sovereign Mind

Free thought on politics and real life

Obama: Changing the Tone of Our Politics

with 4 comments

There were a lot of things to like about President Obama’s State of the Union address. But I’d like to focus on this part for now:

But what frustrates the American people is a Washington where every day is Election Day. We can’t wage a perpetual campaign where the only goal is to see who can get the most embarrassing headlines about the other side -– a belief that if you lose, I win. Neither party should delay or obstruct every single bill just because they can. The confirmation of — (applause) — I’m speaking to both parties now. The confirmation of well-qualified public servants shouldn’t be held hostage to the pet projects or grudges of a few individual senators. (Applause.)

Washington may think that saying anything about the other side, no matter how false, no matter how malicious, is just part of the game. But it’s precisely such politics that has stopped either party from helping the American people. Worse yet, it’s sowing further division among our citizens, further distrust in our government.

So, no, I will not give up on trying to change the tone of our politics. I know it’s an election year. And after last week, it’s clear that campaign fever has come even earlier than usual. But we still need to govern.

Right on, Mr. President. This is something I can get behind. We really do need to change the tone of our politics.

We want to debate the issues respectfully and listen to opposing views with an open mind:

And we need to stop taking cheap-shots on the opposition. Intelligent people often disagree, so we shouldn’t be belittling people’s character or intelligence:

And we certainly shouldn’t be criticizing our opponents because of their age or disabilities, particularly when those disabilities are due to war injuries. That would just downright dirty politics:

Despite all of your efforts, Mr. President, the tone of our politics hasn’t changed much. But keep up the good work. Your consistent example is appreciated and is sure to bring about the change we hoped for eventually.


Written by Mike

January 28, 2010 at 12:16 am

4 Responses

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  1. [ . . . the way to fight them is not to take away the rights of the people in those organizations–it’s to exercise ours. ]

    That’s a terrific point and very precisely stated. And I agree with you entirely, in theory. But I fear such ‘exercise’ may be beaten down by that constitutional money

    Like the Book Guy, count me as one who sees this as a frightening expansion of corporate ‘rights’.

    Did the Court not nullify McCain Feingold? If they did, how will future efforts to contain corporate speech fare?

    I do understand the intellectual argument, but I think it’s also within the Court’s own purview to consider the ‘health of the Republic’ in their decisions. And a world where Exxon can spend twenty times what the Sierra Club can, constitutional or not, is not a world that’s good for people and other living things.

    (My own preference is to make the issue moot – let’s turn to public financing of political campaigns. That’s the ultimate power of the citizenry.


    January 29, 2010 at 9:08 am

  2. Hi Moe,

    It looks like you meant to comment on my previous post (, but thanks for the comment and the complement anyway.

    I have mixed feelings about public financing of elections, but in any case it would not make this a moot issue. The decision did not strike down existing campaign finance laws. This issue is regarding whether corporations and other groups can use their own money to buy broadcast time for their own sake, which they would be able to do even if there was public financing.

    Regarding the court’s obligation to consider what is good for the country, I may be in over my head. Glenn Greenwald notes that the dissenters may have a point when they point to a “compelling state interest” to restrict this form of speech. I’m in over my head to try to comment on that from a legal perspective, but it seems to me that there’s quite a bit of ambiguity in that phrase. Restricting this form of speech may or may not qualify, depending on your perspective. On the one hand, certainly you can argue that it is in the state’s interest to restrict corporate interests in elections. On the other hand, if you use the “compelling state interests” argument too broadly, then you’ve effectively nullified the constitution if any right can be superseded by a state interest.

    So, I can certainly see that there can be some disagreement on that issue. My main point though is that from a strict freedom of speech perspective, the court’s decision holds up in my opinion.


    January 29, 2010 at 6:05 pm

  3. Your point that they could still spend on campaigns even if we had public financing is one I hadn’t even thought of. And it depresses me.

    Up until this decision, I held continued to hope we might be able to shake the money out of politics (under the old rules) by freeing candidates from the endless money chase. Idealistic, I know, and vulnerable like everything else to abuse.

    But now, by cutting the corporate money – er, speech – free of the campaign superstructure imperfect as it is, we’ll always have their money in the process whether we reform the basic system or not.

    I’ve read Greenwald and Jonathan Turley on this and they both seem to feel it’s solid law. Or at least solid constitutionally.

    Even so, I am deeply worried and feel we need to find a way to work civic good into our processes. We really need to do that, or we lose our civic life altogether.


    January 29, 2010 at 9:34 pm

  4. Oh, and yeah, Mike, I was commenting in the wrong thread! Damned if I know how that happened.


    January 29, 2010 at 9:35 pm

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