The State Of Our Union In 1:12
For the simplest of points to be made, this has taken all day to say, mostly because of the varied expletives that needed replacing.
So here it is.
Last night, during the President’s first State of the Union speech of his second term, there came a moment toward the end where he acknowledged a 102 year old Florida woman – Desiline Victor – who, on Election Day 2012, stood in line at her precinct for over three hours (she was first told it could take up to six, yet she insisted). All for the “privilege” to vote. The President asked us to follow Ms. Victor’s example. I think that’s a fantastic idea. Let’s follow her example of courage, persistence, grace, fortitude, patriotism and of a life well lived.
Except…….no citizen of this country should ever, ever, ever – in any circumstance – spend more than 30 minutes, tops, waiting in line to vote. We have seen, with the last 3-4 elections now, an alarming trend on Election Day. The unforgiving lines, endless roadblocks in the form of identification and other requirements, scaled back voting hours, and so on. In fact, a recent analysis by MIT found that, “nationwide, minorities waited nearly twice as long to cast their ballots than their white counterparts” in November’s election.
A one-hundred-and-two-year-old woman stood in line for over 3 hours in order to be able to cast her vote.
As the President told us of her ordeal – make no mistake, what she went through is an ordeal, and it is shameful – most of the Chamber erupted in applause and gratitude and just plain awe. It doesn’t get much more inspiring than seeing that. Both for the courage and mere presence of Ms. Victor and for a House divided that seemed to, in one brief moment, unify.
That is, until the camera cut back to the President. To his right, Vice President Biden – on his feet, a broad smile enveloping him. The Chamber still roused, Senators and Congressmen and Women and their guests craning their necks to get a peek at Desiline Victor, herself applauding as if the whole thing were for someone else.
But just to the President’s left, our esteemed Speaker of the House, John A. Boehner (R-OH), couldn’t be bothered to get out of his damn seat. In fact, he barely was able to put his two hands together for a brief, perfunctory clap.
In this moment, I felt such a terrible and deep pang for our country. One of doubt and extreme disappointment that detracted from what was an otherwise hopeful night. How is a moment like this politicized? How? The answer is: I have no idea – none.
I do know, though, that right there, in a matter of one minute and twelve seconds, we saw everything wrong with the Republican party. It was not just about Boehner. It is about his party, and he is their leader in Congress. Everything we need to know, right there, in that moment.
That is the true state of our union.
A bitterly divided and fractious government. A Senate that sometimes does the people’s work, but is run by two dinosaurs. A vain and excessively destructive House, run by a man who cannot get to his feet to show a modicum of respect for a century-plus-old woman, lauded in the Chamber of her Congress, where our nation’s first African American President was giving voice to her travails. I’m sure an unthinkable scenario to Ms. Victor, right up until the moment she took her seat for last night’s speech.
This should not have been a moment in time that divided us down ideological lines. Would Boehner have leapt to his feet if Ms. Victor had been Caucasian? Or, from his home state of Ohio? I don’t know the answer. I venture “NO”. Because the Speaker and his party have done nothing but say NO. He said no last night, in what I believe is now the most iconic and embarrassing moment in an iconic and embarrassing period in the history of our politics and two-party system.
Really? You can’t show a little respect – or gratitude – for a 102 year old whose tired and frail bones withstood over 3 hours in line to vote? Do you know what this woman, a former farm worker, must have gone through in the Jim Crow era? Do you know what her family’s history with oppression might be? What a disgrace, Mr. Boehner. Simply a disgrace, nothing else.
Lest the Speaker forget: his party has now lost two Presidential elections by comfortable margins. Elections have consequences. Major ones. The Democrats know this all-too-well and need look no further than Mr. Boehner and his House to see the fruits of GOP gains from the mid-terms of 2010.
But the last two Presidential elections do not matter to John Boehner or his party. The mandate of We, The People, does not matter. Do you know the first thing the Speaker did this morning? No – a big fat no – to the Minimum Wage increase called for by the President last night. Does he want to live in a banana republic? Because that’s what the GOP are creating. How much more empirical, hard evidence do you need, how many more economists have to say it: you cannot grow our economy by shafting the poor and propping up the wealthy. Why do you think the Clinton era was such a ball? How do you think we came to run a surplus then? My god.
What John Boehner accomplished last night was one certain thing:
Operation Take Back The House. Operation We Intend To Get Shit Done.
Midterms 2014. It’s on.
[feature image credit: globalnews.com]
[other image credit: yahoo news]