President Barack Obama admitted Tuesday during his final State of the Union address that he was unable to accomplish everything he wanted during his presidency, and that one of his few regrets was that the “rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better.”
“But democracy does require basic bonds of trust between its citizens. It doesn’t work if we think the people who disagree with us are all motivated by malice, or that our political opponents are unpatriotic. Democracy grinds to a halt without a willingness to compromise; or when even basic facts are contested, and we listen only to those who agree with us. Our public life withers when only the most extreme voices get attention. Most of all, democracy breaks down when the average person feels their voice doesn’t matter; that the system is rigged in favor of the rich or the powerful or some narrow interest.
Too many Americans feel that way right now. It’s one of the few regrets of my presidency — that the rancor and suspicion between the parties has gotten worse instead of better. There’s no doubt a president with the gifts of Lincoln or Roosevelt might have better bridged the divide, and I guarantee I’ll keep trying to be better so long as I hold this office.
His message to the American people and a Republican-controlled Congress was that they can help bridge the divide.
“There are a whole lot of folks in this chamber who would like to see more cooperation, a more elevated debate in Washington, but feel trapped by the demands of getting elected,” Obama said. “I know; you’ve told me. And if we want a better politics, it’s not enough to just change a Congressman or a Senator or even a President; we have to change the system to reflect our better selves.”
Obama said campaign reform and making “voting easier, not harder” will be on his agenda as he travels the country over the next year.
U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney said the president’s remarks echoed those of Thomas Jefferson’s First Inaugural Address in 1801, when he said “every difference of opinion is not a difference of principle.”
Courtney said he was glad Obama “used the occasion of his final State of the Union as a call to ‘fix our politics’ and recognizing that we ‘don’t have to agree on everything’ to get something done.”
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy also attended the speech and was seated one chair away from First Lady Michelle Obama.
“Tonight, President Obama delivered a powerful message — we are at our strongest when we work together,” Malloy said. “When we put common sense and the best interests of people first, we thrive.”
Malloy said he was proud to stand with the president, who used his final State of the Union address to highlight the progress the county has made since 2009.
“I am proud to stand with the President tonight because our state has an amazing story to tell over the past several years,” Malloy said. “. . . We are acting when other states are not, and we are on the cutting edge of emerging policy trends. We have embraced much of President Obama’s agenda — and we have been successful as a result.”
The Connecticut Republican Party said it’s no surprise the Obamas invited Malloy to be their guest. The fundraising email goes on to call Malloy “a perfect example of poor Democrat leadership in government.”
“America is ready for new leadership and a new direction,” the Connecticut Republican Party said in a statement prior to the speech.