From the beginning of our Union until present day, each President has given the heavily publicized and often polarizing State of the Union address. Each President’s address reflects the issues of the time: the agenda for the year to come, the passion of the President, and often-fiery political rhetoric.
This year marks President Obama’s third State of the Union address. Much of the address should remain similar to years past, and many expect the President to focus his speech on jobs and the economy. However, this year will introduce significantly different features than years past. Not only will the President be speaking to a congress with divided chambers, but members will also do something that would have seemed simply incomprehensible even two years ago: sit with members of the opposing party.
For as long as is recorded, the different parties in congress have seated themselves in opposing sides of the chamber. The Republicans occupy one side, and the Democrats occupy the other. This division marks the stark polarization that has plagued our political scene in recent years. Violent and divisive rhetoric threatens our political landscape, and the recent shootings in Arizona remind us that the words we use to convey our thoughts are more important than ever. While rhetoric is probably not the cause for the shooting, the way that pundits and representatives speak needs to change. And let us remind ourselves that Republicans such as Sarah Palin are not the only figures to blame for our political landscape. Not only did Keith Olberman refer to Fox News as “worse than Al Qaeida”, he also commented on his twitter account that “Fox News is 100% bullsh**” and “Rush Limbaugh is 100% Pigeonsh**”. While far-right conservatives share some of the blame for today’s polarized political climate, far-left liberals are also to blame. Now is the time for both sides to admit mistakes, reconcile differences, and move forward- and it appears they might.
Over the last week, numerous spokespeople on both sides of the aisle have come together to denounce divisive and violent political rhetoric and call for more unity and bi-partisanship in congress. In fact, both Democrats and Republicans will intermingle at the upcoming State of the Union address, with the unlikely duo of Senators Tom Coburn (R-OK) and Charles Schumer (D-NY) at the helm. While these Senators, along with many others, disagree on many issues, the love they share for their country will bring them together for this one night. With luck, this small act of unity will lead to a more collaborative and bi-partisan style of government. With the State of our Union in the balance, it remains important today more than ever that both Conservatives and Liberals alike to condemn violent rhetoric and realize that we are all working toward a brighter and greater future for our country.