January 20, 2015 In his State of the Union address Tuesday, President Obama said he wants to “turn the page.” He should worry whether a large swath of the public heard “tax and spend” instead.
The biggest challenge Obama faces in the aftermath of the hour-long speech lies not in enacting the bulk of policy proposals he outlined; the White House already knows that isn’t likely to happen with this Congress. It’s convincing those middle-class and blue-collar voters who have been most resistant to joining his electoral coalition that this president has their best interests at heart—and that he’s not taking advantage of the economic recovery, the end of wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and his own modest rebound in popularity to push unabashedly liberal priorities in his final two years in office.
It’s not that the stakes in that regard are large for Obama. As he noted himself near the end of his speech, he’s on his way out. But for a Democratic Party now sharing coequal status with the GOP in Washington, it’s crucial that the pockets of America that have never taken to this president believe that his party, from Hillary Clinton on down, can correctly read the country’s cautiously optimistic mood and neither overreach nor fall back on recycled ideas that have no chance of success.