2013 might have been the worst year yet of Barack Obama's presidency. Tuesday night's State Of The Union address was his chance to promise things could, and would, turn around. In his same speech a year ago, the president laid out an array of goals: In the 12 months since, most have been stalled, deadlocked, or seen little improvement. The major exception was the launch of the Affordable Care Act, which was plagued by a mortifyingly botchy rollout.
On Tuesday night, Obama laid out many of the same goals he described last year, but with a renewed commitment to executive action and solving the issue of income inequality — and the necessity of dodging Republican opposition in order to keep his promises.
After an inability to compromise shut down the federal government last September, Obama wasn't shy about blaming the Republican Party for gridlocking Washington, D.C.. And he still isn't.
In short? Obama's saying: The Republican Party destroyed your trust in the government and shut everything down, simply because they flat-out refused to compromise — the most fundamental criteria of a working democracy.
On economic opportunity
Obama listed some positive economic gains: "The lowest unemployment rate in over five years. A rebounding housing market. A manufacturing sector that’s adding jobs for the first time since the 1990s. Our deficits – cut by more than half." He added that America remained full of opportunity, and that opportunity is only increasing.
But, as the Guardian points out, a key theme in Obama's address was that there are forces pulling back that growth of opportunity. To that end, Obama stressed that he'd be pushing executive action if necessary.
On John Boehner
Sitting behind Obama, the House Speaker got his own shout-out.
On climate change
Once and for all, said Obama, the "debate" over humans causing global warming is over. And now that we know that, and have accepted it, we need to figure out what to do about it.
On women's rights
This part of the speech was met with huge applause, and so it should be. Obama called for greater gender equality in the workplace, and a renewed focus on women's rights in general. (Of course, there were no details on how that will happen.)
On the minimum wage
Obama isn't asking Congress anymore — he's telling them. Soon, he'll issue an Executive Order to raise the minimum wage for all federal contractors.
Except he does, actually, need Congress to raise the minimum wage for all workers. So he implored: