TEXT OF COMMENTARY
Kai Ryssdal: In his state of the union speech tonight, President Obama is going to try to appeal to a whole bunch of different constituencies. Interest groups both on the right and on the left of the political spectrum. Republicans and Democrats in Congress will no doubt be listening to the speech closely for things they will support or slam immediately afterward and in the days and weeks to come.
Commentator Robert Reich says there is one more group that Mr. Obama is going to be addressing, too.
ROBERT REICH: President Obama’s State of the Union address tonight will be shaped in part by the emergence of a new third political party in America. Call it the I’m-mad-as-hell party.
It’s a mistake to see the mad-as-hell party as just a right-wing phenomenon, the so-called Tea Partiers now storming the gates of the Republican Party. There are plenty of mad-as-hellers on the left as well, furious at Wall Street, health insurers, pharmaceutical manufacturers, and establishment Democrats.
Mad-as-hellers on the right don’t trust big government. Mad-as-hellers on the left don’t trust big business and finance. What unites them and gets both of them even madder is when big government gets too cozy with big business and Wall Street, and vice versa. Especially at a time like this, when Main Street is in shambles and millions of people are losing their jobs and homes.
First it was TARP, the giant bank bailout that seems to have made Wall Street flush again. Then came the stimulus package, with earmarks dispensing goodies to big companies. And then health care, which looked to some people like a backroom deal between government, the pharmaceutical industry, and health insurers.
To the mad-as-hell party, the biggest event last week wasn’t Scott Brown’s upset victory in Massachusetts. It was the Supreme Court’s decision, allowing corporations to spend whatever they want on political campaigns. True mad-as-hellers see this as opening even more collusion between private and public sectors.
With the mid-term elections months away, both Republicans and Democrats are scrambling to embrace the mad-as-hell party as their own. Republicans are hoping the mad-as-hellers forget the gushing corporate welfare of the Bush administration and the last Republican Congress. And many Democrats have become born-again economic populists, blaming the nation’s problems on the same “fat cat” bankers and corporate lobbyists they’ve been taking money from for years.
So listen tonight for how the president responds to the mad-as-hell party, and how the Republicans respond to his response. This will be the real news.
RYSSDAL: Robert Reich is a professor of public policy at the University of California, Berkeley.
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