Dan Glickman is VP and executive director of the Aspen Institute’s Congressional Program.
Last night President Obama delivered a powerful State of the Union address. He was respectful but forceful in his agenda for both international and domestic issues and appeared very presidential in his delivery. He used this moment to lay out his agenda on immigration, voting rights, deficits and taxes, and promoting job growth.
A common criticism of President Obama is that he has not done enough to engage with Congress. This speech, however, was a bold and direct challenge to Congress to act on his proposals. Not all of the policy ideas he laid out last night are viable in a divided and very partisan Congress, but his clear goal was to challenge Congress to take up legislation that stands some chance of being enacted into law either because it is popular with the voters or is moderate enough that it could attract some Republican support. The tone of the speech told Congress, “let’s get to work.”
The trick will be whether or not he takes the lesson of the movie “Lincoln” and really works with Congress. Passing his policies will be difficult in this era of fiscal constraints and unbridled partisanship. But if this speech is an indication of his newfound willingness to roll up his sleeves and actively engage Congress, then I am encouraged that our system of government may begin to function better.