The most memorable line in President Barack Obama’s January State of the Union address wasn’t part of his prepared remarks. It was a quick-on-his-feet wisecrack at the expense of congressional Republicans. When he said, as an entreaty to cooperate in a less politicized environment, “I have no more campaigns to run,” a Republican contingent laughed and applauded. But rather than let them sneak one past him, Obama returned serve: “I know, ‘cause I won both of ‘em.”
The quip became a metonym for the full address, which was among the most combative of Obama’s presidency. But as an expression of defiance, it had precious little to do with the combative idea around which he constructed the speech itself.
At every step, we were told our goals were misguided or too ambitious; that we would crush jobs and explode deficits. Instead, we’ve seen the fastest economic growth in over a decade, our deficits cut by two-thirds, a stock market that has doubled, and health care inflation at its lowest rate in fifty years. So the verdict is clear. Middle-class economics works.
As a theme, this riff should have struck a chord with the conservative movement’s myriad Reaganologists. In his farewell address to the country in 1989, the 40th president scolded critics in a similar fashion.