Was the President Divisive?

Our podcast The Ohio Revolt (two Ohioans and two Ohio ex-pats argue politics) usually records on Sunday nights, but with the Super Bowl coming, there is no way in hell anybody is going to be around to do that this weekend. So we decided to record Thursday night this week, a couple nights after the State of the Union and its rebuttal. I knew we'd be coming in late to weigh in on the SOTU speech, but as it turned out I didn't have to worry about relevance, because just as I was going through the motions of making fun of the GOP rebuttals, all 20 of them or whatever (didn't one Congressman use finger puppets and bad ventriloquism to mock Obamacare, or did I dream it? My SOTU rebuttal drinking game left me past out on the couch, in any case), fellow podcaster and conservative Ian King interrupted me to criticize the President for being divisive.

From my point of view, the historical facts bear out any need for discussion on this. Income inequality is widening. Social mobility, that vital ideal of the American Dream, is steeply down. People who are in the have-not side of the fence have every right to be angry. Why shouldn't we discuss these facts openly?

Ian doesn't share my opinions. To him, Obama's role is to be a leader for everyone, which means not saying anything during the SOTU that divides people. "Why is it," he said, "when I mention income inequality, does Phil always have to use examples of the bottom 1% instead of recognizing that what I am trying to illustrate is a leader should never segregate one group of people from the rest."

Co-podcaster Haki Crisden joined me to take issue with the attack on Obama's leadership. "It is impossible to lead people who do not want to be led, and I think in the case of Obama, much of America simply does not want him to lead them anywhere and they will oppose any idea he has simply because it's his."

And Bob Lang, the other conservative podcaster in the group? He was pretty silent tonight, having just gotten in from work. He looked exhausted, and through the Internet I think I could still smell the sweat on his shirt. Probably for the best (his silence, not his shirt, I mean). I think if we had added any more voices to the argument, I would have woken up my six-year-old with all the shouting I was doing.

It took a few minutes for us to settle down after we turned off the record button on the video conference, but of course we did. We're all friends who go back two decades, so no political argument is going to keep us from joking around afterward. Still, I think I got a pretty strong taste of what 2016's political debates are going to look like.