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Bruce St. James and Pamela Hughes

The president’s challenge

Tuesday night, President Obama will gather the government and the nation together to deliver the 2014 version of the State of the Union.

By a lot of key metrics, America is doing rather well. The Dow closed Monday just shy of 16,000, (in 2008 it was just under 9,000), home values are up, nearly back to predrop levels, and the unemployment number has been steadily declining. Yet, according to the latest polling data, the majority of Americans aren’t feeling any better or believe they are participating in the recovery. So what gives?

I think we give presidents WAY too much credit, exceeded only by the blame heaped upon them. So as President Obama attempts to take credit for all the good in the world, an argument can be made that the “do-nothing Congress” and Republican/Tea Party obstructionists have prevented the president from getting what he wants. For every yin, there is a yang and the balance of power our Founding Fathers envisioned just might be working.

Still, as Obama talks about the economy during his speech, Americans will filter his remarks through their own lens, the economy of their bank account, job security or investments. And by that measure, the president doesn’t seem to be doing very well, possibly proving how divided we are as a country.

Ask yourself this: if Mitt Romney had won the election just over a year ago, would the pessimists feel the same about the economic news of the day? And would those who cheered for President Obama during his first term think we were going to hell in a handbasket regardless of what the numbers are saying? I have little use for people whose convictions and beliefs are swayed by whether the president has an “R” or a “D” next to his name.

Admittedly, I find this political theater frustrating and tiresome, and for all the good news, there is little argument that President Obama has failed on one of the few metrics I think a president can actually control, instilling a sense of confidence in population. So as the president takes to the airwaves to tout his accomplishments, he would be better served trying to unite the American people as opposed to inciting another political riot.

I won’t hold my breath.


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