Part 1—Last night, Sean Hannity did: Last night, in his State of the Union Address, Barack Obama said the following. We will highlight one anodyne passage—one apparently anodyne passage:
OBAMA (1/24/12): My grandfather, a veteran of Patton's Army, got the chance to go to college on the G.I. Bill. My grandmother, who worked on a bomber assembly line, was part of a workforce that turned out the best products on Earth.(Anodyne: Not likely to provoke dissent or offense; uncontentious or inoffensive, often deliberately so.)
The two of them shared the optimism of a nation that had triumphed over a depression and fascism. They understood they were part of something larger, that they were contributing to a story of success that every American had a chance to share: the basic American promise that if you worked hard, you could do well enough to raise a family, own a home, send your kids to college, and put a little away for retirement.
The defining issue of our time is how to keep that promise alive. No challenge is more urgent. No debate is more important. We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well, while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.
What's at stake aren't Democratic values or Republican values, but American values. And we have to reclaim them.
Later in his address, Obama authored another anodyne passage—a seemingly anodyne passage:
OBAMA: Let's never forget: Millions of Americans who work hard and play by the rules every day deserve a government and a financial system that do the same. It's time to apply the same rules from top to bottom: no bailouts, no handouts, and no copouts. An America built to last insists on responsibility from everybody.No bailouts, no handouts, no copouts—and everyone plays by the same set of rules! This would seem like anodyne rhetoric—until you ask voters what they heard when Obama presented this prose.
Last night, Sean Hannity asked! With the help of his favorite wordsmith, Frank Luntz, he assembled a group of voters who watched, then discussed, the address. Eventually, these voters were asked what they thought of Obama’s anodyne comments.
We thought their reactions were striking—sobering, daunting, though perhaps unsurprising. But then, so were the statements by the three voters profiled in this front-page piece in Saturday’s Washington Post.
The Post’s Marc Fisher was in the Palmetto State before its recent primary. He profiled three South Carolina voters, one of whom was a Democrat—the vice chairman of his county’s Democratic Party, in fact. There are roughly two hundred million Americans of voting age. What do they see when they look at the world? Quite often, the results are sobering, striking—when someone actually asks.
Let’s be clear: On the simplest statistical basis, three voters in South Carolina can’t constitute a “representative sample” of the wider electorate. Neither can 27 voters assembled by Luntz, even if 15 of these people say they voted for Obama in 2008. But as a liberal world has begun to emerge in the wake of the war in Iraq, we liberals have developed very few forums through which we speak with average voters.
What do average voters think? Funny you should ask!
Tomorrow: The Palmetto State 3