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A really different State of the Union speech

Posted: January 31, 2014 1:08 p.m.
Updated: February 3, 2014 5:00 a.m.

If none of this makes sense, my apologies -- I’m writing this in a Type A Flu-induced fugue. Also, please know that I did not watch, read or listen to the president’s State of the Union speech the other night. Yes, I voted for Mr. Obama, twice, but I realized something as I began seeing dribs and drabs about the speech online: while the specifics may be different from year to year, we’ve heard most of what is contained in such speeches, decade after decade, regardless of who’s in the Oval Office.

So, I thought about (at least I think I thought; maybe I dreamed) what it would be like if someone truly different ended up in the White House. An independent? Someone coming out of former Democratic Superintendent of Education Jim Rex and Republican Dr. Oscar Underwood’s nascent American Party? What if the American people finally rejected the hard right and hard left and elected someone that truly represents the core of the American populace: a true moderate, willing to cooperate with both major parties to get things done in Washington the way we expect?

What would their State of the Union speech look like? To be honest, I have no clue, but I’m going to try making up some "excerpts" that might give us an idea.

"Well, that’s a subdued welcome. I guess that’s to be expected. You don’t know what to make of me. Despite the campaign and the election, I’m an unknown, a wild card. To be honest, my being here in front of you tonight is as much a surprise to me as it is to you. Nonetheless, here I am. Now, I could say that we’re just going to have to make the best of it for the next four years, but that’s not good enough. We’re going to have to do better than ‘just the best of it.’ What we have to do is our very best -- every day -- to work not for ourselves, but all of the American people who elected us.

"….and as I said during the campaign, I do not and will not cater to partisan politics. Naïve? Perhaps, but here’s what I really mean by that: there are things that are good about the Democratic Party’s position on certain issues and there are good things about the Republican Party’s position on others. I truly feel that there must be a way to take the best from both sides of the aisle -- and from other viewpoints as well -- and combine them into excellent policies and programs that everyone can be proud of and that truly benefit the American people.

"….but as I pointed out often during the last year, both the Democratic and Republican parties ended up being hijacked during the last decade by those with extreme, unrealistic and -- unfortunately -- unbending points of view. Republicans, you must admit that such extremism appeared more prominently on your side with the rise of the ‘tea party’ and even residual elements of ultra-conservatism that I feel never had a viable place in American politics. By the same token, Democrats, there have been those in your party who insist that every social program must be fully funded even if that eviscerates the bottom line this government must protect in order to be fiscally responsible. Neither vision is realistic.

"….tell you my vision. Democrats, I think, basically, you want to protect every American’s ability to reach the American Dream. You want to make available a helping hand where it is needed so that no child, mother, father, senior citizen, disabled person, is left behind. That is admirable and I agree that the American government should play a role in that vision. Republicans, I think, basically want to ensure the fiscal soundness and might of our country. You want to make sure that we do not spend irresponsibly, that we don’t sacrifice the bottom line for ‘feel good,’ potentially unnecessary programs. That is an admirable vision as well. Now, that’s a simplistic take on just one set of differences between the two parties, but I think it sets up many of the things I feel the two parties actually have in common: a desire to do what’s right for the American people, our country and our allies.

"….and so I believe there must be a way to balance what Democrats want as far as programs and what Republicans want as far as defense and fiscal security. There is no reason not to cooperate. We all want the same basic thing: a strong America and a strong American people. I ask Democrats to steer clear of hard left feelings that every program is sacred. I ask Republicans to throw off the shackles placed on you by ‘tea party’ foolishness and understand that fiscal responsibility doesn’t mean closed-mindedness. There are moderates in both parties -- those of you who feel that while you may not agree with everything the other side stands for, you are willing to work together, to stand up for your principles while not forgetting that true, mature compromise benefits everyone.

"….with all of these ideas, I must now come to one of the stickier divides between not only the two major parties, but even among individual Americans. With all my talk of compromise, this is something on which I cannot compromise: the equal, respectful and humane treatment of all Americans regardless of race, gender, religion, creed, and, yes, sexual preference. Republicans, forgive me, but I’m going to put you on the spot. You cannot say that none of you have any sons or daughters that are not homosexual or lesbian. After all, one of the most prominent Republicans of the last 20 years has a lesbian daughter. A number of states have recognized that ‘marriage’ is not limited to the joining of a man and a woman. They have recognized that a marriage between any two people who love and are committed to each other is something to celebrate, recognize and support. By the same token, Democrats, you cannot tell me that none of you are made uneasy at the prospect that your next-door neighbors might be a homosexual or lesbian couple. My point is that, in the past, parts of our society felt uncomfortable with a black man and white woman marrying, or a Hispanic woman marrying a Native American. We have felt uncomfortable with the idea of same sex marriage. But our country wasn’t founded on what was comfortable. It was founded on what was right. I’m asking all of you -- everyone one of you in this chamber -- to immediately pass legislation fully repealing the Defense of Marriage Act. What the Supreme Court did in 2013 was a good, first step and I applaud that, but we can do better. There should never be legislation that, in effect, persecutes any of our citizens because of who they are or who they love. Repeal DOMA now."

Well, I warned you I was in a bit of a fugue. How much of this makes sense and would make you think there was really someone different in Washington is up to you. Me? I’d love for someone to, essentially, stand up to Congress and stand up for the American people. Perhaps it’s time for someone really, truly different to become President of the United States.

No Ross Perots need apply.

(Martin L. Cahn is the editor of the Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C. Email responses to mcahn@chronicle-independent.com.)

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