President Barack Obama will deliver his sixth State of the Union address Tuesday night, threatening to ignore Congress through a series of executive actions designed to do an end-run around the legislative branch of government.
When he uncorks the evening’s carefully manicured rhetoric, it will be a history-dripping stemwinder delivered in a setting that boasts all the pageantry of a royal funeral. But in the age of tweets and 90-second cable news interviews, fewer and fewer Americans pay attention to lengthy policy speeches.
While the drama that follows Obama’s demands may be interesting, the speech itself promises little but campaign-style bluster likely designed as a preface to the campaigner-in-chief’s next populist swing through friendly political climes and their fawning audiences.
Only 41 per cent of Democrats polled by Fox News last week said they planned to ‘watch or listen to the speech carefully,’ and that’s Obama’s high water mark.
Barely half as many Republicans – 22 per cent – told pollsters they intend to tune in, along with 29 per cent of political independents.
It’s just as well, since a Gallup poll released Monday found that the issue Americans most want to see addressed in Tuesday’s speech is their overall dissatisfaction with government in Washington.
And the words Obama speaks – a laundry list of wishes spanning the governmental universe from health care and gun control to U.S. policy on Iran and the minimum wage – will tell less of the story than the gamesmanship behind them.