Weekly Address: President Obama – The State of American Politics

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, the President spoke from the place where his political career first began in the Illinois State Senate. Building on his State of the Union, the President discussed his time in the State Senate working in good faith across party lines with Democrats, Republicans and Independents to effectively govern as an example of proof that a better politics doesn’t mean we have to agree on everything. The President also built on his call to make it easier to vote, as well as the need to address the way we draw our congressional districts. Nine years after Barack Obama chose the steps of the Old State Capitol – where Abraham Lincoln once called on a divided house to stand together – he returned to ask Americans to join him in the unfinished business of perfecting our union. Because in the final year of his Presidency, it’s clear that he’s followed through and that, together, we’ve made real progress building a better future for the next generation.

(Note: Video and transcript of the Springfield speech can be found here.)

Transcript: WEEKLY ADDRESS: The State of American Politics

Remarks of President Barack Obama as Delivered
Weekly Address, The Illinois State Senate, February 13, 2016

Hi, everybody. I’m speaking to you today from Springfield, Illinois.

I spent eight years in the state senate here. It was a place where, for all our surface differences in a state as diverse as Illinois, my colleagues and I actually shared a lot in common. We fought for our principles, and voted against each other, but because we assumed the best in one another, not the worst, we found room for progress. We bridged differences to get things done.

In my travels through this state, I saw most Americans do the same. Folks know that issues are complicated, and that people with different ideas might have a point. It convinced me that if we just approached our politics the same way we approach our daily lives, with common sense, a commitment to fairness, and the belief that we’re all in this together, there’s nothing we can’t do.

That’s why I announced, right here, in Springfield that I was running for President. And my faith in the generosity and fundamental goodness of the American people is rewarded every day.

But I’ll be the first to admit that the tone of our politics hasn’t gotten better, but worse. Too many people feel like the system is rigged, and their voices don’t matter. And when good people are pushed away from participating in our public life, more powerful and extreme voices will fill the void. They’ll be the ones who gain control over decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic crisis, or roll back the rights that generations of Americans have fought to secure.

The good news is there’s also a lot we can do about this, from reducing the influence of money in our politics, to changing the way we draw congressional districts, to simply changing the way we treat each other. That’s what I came back here to talk about this week. And I hope you check out my full speech at WhiteHouse.gov.

One thing I focused on, for example, was how we can make voting easier, not harder, and modernize it for the way we live now. Here in Illinois, a new law allows citizens to register and vote at the polls on Election Day. It also expands early voting, which makes it much easier for working folks and busy parents. We’re also considering automatic voter registration for every citizen when they apply for a driver’s license. And I’m calling on more states to adopt steps like these. Because when more of us vote, the less captive our politics will be to narrow interests – and the better our democracy will be for our children.

Nine years after I first announced for this office, I still believe in a politics of hope. And for all the challenges of a changing world; for all the imperfections of our democracy; choosing a politics of hope is something that’s entirely up to each of us.

Thanks, everybody.

Bolding added.




  1. President Obama:

    … when good people are pushed away from participating in our public life, more powerful and extreme voices will fill the void. They’ll be the ones who gain control over decisions that could send a young soldier to war, or allow another economic crisis, or roll back the rights that generations of Americans have fought to secure.

    Please, don’t let this happen.

  2. The President, in an interview after the speech, said that racial animus is not the driver but obstructionism is simply the nature of our politics:

    While discussing congressional Republicans’ fierce opposition to his agenda on Wednesday, President Obama downplayed the idea that they are motivated primarily by racial animus. He suggested instead that it was merely hardball politics, because if things in Washington, D.C. aren’t working, it’s bad for incumbent president.

    “Although there’s no doubt that there are pockets of the country where some dog whistles blow and there’s underlying racial fears that may be exploited, overall, what’s more the case, I think, is just the straight hardball politics of running against an incumbent and beating the heck out of him and softening him up,” Obama said. “Because if a whole bunch of stuff gets done, he’s going to get the credit.”

    There is certainly some truth to that. The Republican Congress was not very kind to white President Bill Clinton. Republicans win by keeping Democratic presidents from making people’s lives better and then saying “Look, Democrats wrecked your lives!!”.

    That interview included this hopeful comment:

    Obama also see less racism among younger Americans.

    “You got a whole generation of kids growing up where the first president they’ve known is an African American,” he continued. “Even if they’re hearing their parents say; ‘He’s terrible,’ it kind of seeps in that it’s not a crazy thing. So that sometime later, if there’s a Hispanic, or a woman or another African American, that won’t seem as exceptional. These things change over time.”

    I hope the change comes sooner rather than later.

  3. In the News: Obama Designates Three New National Monuments In The California Desert

    President Obama has permanently protected three new national monuments in the California desert. This move will preserve over 1.8 million acres of land as monuments, helping to safeguard wildlife and communities from climate change and guaranteeing continued public access to these places for generations to come.

    “The California desert is a cherished and irreplaceable resource for the people of southern California,” said Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in a statement. “It is an oasis of nature’s quiet beauty just outside two of our nation’s largest metropolitan areas.”

    Mojave Trails, Sand to Snow, and Castle Mountains are the 20th, 21st, and 22nd national monuments that have been created or expanded under President Obama, adding up to a total of 3.5 million acres of new protections for public lands. Both Democratic and Republican presidents have used their authority under the Antiquities Act to designate national monuments, many of which have later become some of America’s most iconic national parks, including the Grand Canyon, Petrified Forest, and Zion National Park. This being Obama’s largest designation to date is a meaningful moment in the National Park’s centennial year.

    (Mojave Trails, Castle Mountains, Sand to Snow National Monuments)

  4. Thanks for this, Jan. I wish I could believe the Rethugs’ obstructionism is due to something other than racism. When I look at them I just see a gaggle of mean, grade-school bullies who want to keep all the cookies for themselves.

    I hate the way their obstructionism and meanness damage people’s lives. Just look at Flint. I know it’s the state, not the U.S. Congress, who’s responsible for that, but they’re part of the same mindset.

    • The president, of course, will always be diplomatic. His political enemies would like nothing better than to say “Look!!! He hates whites!!!!” if he were to attribute any of the animus to race. He does not want to give them any weapons.

      I suspect that he hopes (to paraphrase) that we are not black America and white America, but that we are collectively the American people.

  5. In the News: Flint knew of the potential for water quality problems before they switched sources …

    State officials warned of potential health problems if Flint were to switch to the Flint River as its drinking water source, but the move went ahead with the state’s blessing despite the concerns, according to emails released by the Michigan’s governor’s office Friday morning.

    Stephen Busch, with the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality’s drinking water division, told other DEQ officials in a March 26, 2013, email that the use of the river could lead to multiple problems, including increased disinfectant by-products and microbials in the water, which could put the public’s health at risk.

    According to Busch’s email, continuous use of the river could pose an increased microbial risk and risk of potentially cancer-causing disinfection by-products.

  6. Time to count your birds!! Ready, Set, Watch: The Great Backyard Bird Count Starts Today

    The annual event invites bird-watchers of all levels to count the birds in their backyards, wherever that may be, and submit the data to the Cornell Lab of Ornithology and the National Audubon Society, which launched the project in 1998.

    This year, the four-day event runs from Feb. 12 to Feb. 15. To participate, sign up online and then tally the numbers and kinds of birds you see for at least 15 minutes on one or more days of the count, the GBBC website instructs.

    More than 100,000 people from all across the world participate in the event, which the website says is “the first online citizen-science project to collect data on wild birds and to display results in near real-time.” Last year, it says, participants in more than 100 countries counted 5,090 species of birds.

  7. In the News: Ferguson digging in their heels on Justice Department lawsuit …

    “If they (Ferguson) go to court, they will lose,’’ University of Pittsburgh law professor David Harris said. “There is one way Ferguson doesn’t end up paying and that is if the town goes out of business.’’

    The professor’s assessment is harsh, but it is a sentiment shared by many analysts, including some policing advocates, who believe that the millions of dollars it will likely cost to mount a legal challenge would be better spent on reforming the operations of the troubled police agency. […]

    James Pasco, executive director of the Fraternal Order of Police, the nation’s largest police union, said that it’s generally in the “best interests” of troubled police departments to seek an agreement short of a lawsuit.

    “Justice can keep this going in court for years,” Pasco said, referring to the enormous legal fees Ferguson will likely face in pursing such a challenge. “You would have to be in serious denial to say that this course Ferguson is taking is the result of good advice.”

    But they may be hoping for a Republican Justice Department to let them off the hook:

    Harris also raised the prospect that by inviting the lawsuit Ferguson may be gambling that within a year a new administration in the White House may be more sympathetic to the city’s plight.

    One political party supports the rule of law and one supports the politicization of the Justice Department. It should come as no surprise that a city government whose main source of revenue is from the result of unconstitutional police practices would want to kick this into 2017. The constitution is “fluid” when justice is drowned.

  8. David Goodman, brother of Andrew Goodman, on Voting Rights: When it comes to voting rights, North Carolina the new Selma

    In the summer of 1964, the Ku Klux Klan murdered my brother, Andrew Goodman, along with fellow civil rights advocates James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, for having the temerity to try to register black voters in Mississippi. One year later, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act to protect voting rights, once and for all. Case closed. Right?

    Unfortunately, the case is not closed.

    Today, Rev. William Barber III, the president of the North Carolina NAACP, says his state is the new Selma. In 1965, nine months after my brother was murdered, Martin Luther King Jr. chose Selma as the crucible that would bring racial hatred into the limelight. By bringing to light the connection between disenfranchising African-Americans and Jim Crow, MLK exposed the ugly face of white supremacy in America.

    In a stunning reversal three years ago, in Shelby County vs. Holder, John Roberts’ Supreme Court found that it was no longer necessary to monitor states with a long history of targeting and disenfranchising African-Americans. After the ruling, these states wasted no time in imposing new, restrictive and untraditional voting requirements. The protections that voters were once afforded, protections that would have prevented these restrictive requirements, no longer existed because the Voting Rights Act was gutted.

  9. Global Warning … Circa 1958!!

    Watch The 1958 Frank Capra Film That Warns Of Global Warming

    On February 12, 1958, the American public saw the first televised warning about the dangers of carbon dioxide, global warming, and sea level rise. That warning came from The Bell Laboratory Science Series, which aired its fourth TV episode, “Unchained Goddess,” written and produced by three-time Oscar winner Frank Capra.

    Capra is famous for classic films like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” and not so famous for having a degree in chemical engineering. In this film, Dr. Research (Dr. Frank Baxter) explains to The Writer (Richard Carlson) that unrestricted carbon dioxide emissions could lead to a world where “Tourists in glass bottom boats would be viewing the drowned towers of Miami”.

  10. That’s interesting that as far back as 1958 people knew where carbon dioxide emissions, and consequently global warming, could lead.

    Ever read Edgar Cayce’s predictions? He predicted that the East Coast, especially New York City, would be underwater one day. He predicted this in the 1920s, I think.

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