Now don't get me wrong, I love my annual tradition of giving #SOTU the MST3K treetment on Twitter. As for policy, I got two goodies (a net neutrality shout out and a munibroadband shout out), but also got two stinkers (fast track authority for trade agreements like TTP and the Cybersecurity Bill, which still includes much suckage).
But overall, i enjoyed the speech and its general direction. It's also the most relaxed and authentic I've seen Obama in years. It's consistent with the idea that after the November mid-term he finally told the remaining centrists "guys, this 'centrist' thing is not working. We got nothing less to lose, and we certainly can't do worse following my instincts rather than following your advice."
And yes, it would have been nice to see Obama make that realization back in 2010, or even 2012. But I'd rather have it happen in 2015 than not at all.
The practical value of a #SOTU like this is two-fold. First, there are still plenty of "centrist" Ds that the President and the progressives need to hold in order to have bargaining power in Congress. For those looking for a historic analogy, you need to go back to Bush I, where Dems had a decent majority in both Houses and the President was a not terribly charismatic centrist Republican. The Bush I administration was marked by a ton of vetoes, only a few of which were over-ridden.
Second, it provides a good contrast with the goals and approaches of the two parties. This is especially important as Republicans tack to what are traditionally progressive issues. Obama reminding people that his policies are working overall and calling for a bunch of concrete things (affordable childcare, free community college, progressive tax reform) contrasts with Republic efforts to cast progressive policies as failures.
I'm not terribly interested in speculating about 2016 at this point. Lets talk 2015 instead. The critical point here is that the PResident is rallying the remaining Dems to fight very publicly for progressive values and to avoid caving to Republican legislative efforts in the name of "compromise." Hence the emphasis early in the speech on the power of his veto pen, but closing with an appeal to actually try to work together.
I will close by saying that I really liked Obama's closing on a lengthy plea to remember that we really are one country and we really should behave that way. It is much better to have ideals and fail then to not trouble ourselves with ideals at all. I would much rather we at least preserve the idea that our current state of partisan rancor and division is neither the natural order of things or inherently desirable than simply shrug and assume all those who disagree with me are swine and benave swinishly.
And yes, I say that as one who enjoys my snarking. I do not see this as inconsistent. As with many things in society, we seem to have lost the idea of moderation and reasonableness. Some snark every now and then is hardly the same as mean-spirited name calling. A thing that is useful for us all to remember.