Starting with examining the Republican rebuttal and working backwards, a close examination of the Republican response (written before the State of the Union address) helps provide a framework for both the president’s speech and the partisanship in Congress.
In his response, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) was acting as a spokesman for the Republican Party in his rebuttal and in doing so had to hammer home some cornerstones of their policy: Lower taxes; Reduce the deficit; Lessen government.
He also tried to reconfigure some new issues and put a Republican spin on them. He mentioned middle class repeatedly and pointedly said that "The Republican Party is not the party of rich white guys."
He also cited his own working class parents and heritage in bringing about a more identifiable persona. He recorded the same speech in Spanish to reach out to the Hispanic population.
Even Republican Joe Scarborough said it sounded more like a speech he himself gave while he was running for Congress for the first time in 1994. It offered up no new ideas or messages and was the same speech Republicans have been giving for 20 years. Clearly, the party is trying to rebrand itself after Mitt Romney's recent defeat. However, they're still defending the same policies that got us embroiled in the financial crisis to begin with. As opinions editor Andrew Rosenthal wrote in the New York Times:
"The Republicans don’t intend to respond constructively to Mr. Obama’s call for a new direction in Washington. And they don’t intend to move beyond their failed, 1980s-vintage economic policies."
The New York Times' Paul Krugman went even further to say that not only are Republicans defending their policies but they’re actually trying to change the script. “Faced with overwhelming, catastrophic evidence that their faith in unregulated financial markets was wrong, they have responded by rewriting history to defend their prejudices.”
Failed budget talks and sequestration delays are not helping a stalled Congress. Speculation is already brewing that Obama is positioning Nancy Pelosi to take over for John Boehner in 2014 as speaker of the house. Clearly, Obama is taking the opportunity of the mid-term and his re-election as a mandate to pass legislation.
Obama drove home several key policy points in his 60 minute + speech. He is taking a hard course towards increasing productivity and economic development at home. Obama pushed hard for U.S. manufacturing jobs as well as promoting development of U.S. energy at home. Obama called for an increased minimum wage so those living below the poverty line can have the opportunity to have a family and provide for their children.
Most resoundingly, Obama's 2013 State of the Union called in-directly for a vote on the assault weapons ban and other gun control measures.
As Hadiya Pendleton’s parents stood next to First Lady Michelle Obama, in addition to former Congresswoman Gabby Giffords and parents of the children who were tragically killed at Sandy Hook Elementary, there was a palpable call to reform.
The State of the Union was a reminder that ultimately we are all American citizens, as President Obama remarked in his conclusion.
Although judging from the subsequent rebuttals and fodder that followed, within Congress’s chambers it may be every citizen for himself.