On February 12, President Barack Obama will look to lead the nation into a bright second term with the State of the Union address. As he mentioned in his inaugural speech recently, the president will attempt to focus on civil rights and the environment to win back the support of Democrats dissatisfied with his signing of the NDAA, the so-called kill list, a continued drone warfare, etc. He will also be working on immigration reform — an ideal way to show bipartisanship after the fiery fiscal cliff negotiations.
This strategy will ultimately be effective. With the Congressional Republicans in a bad spot following the game of chicken over the fiscal cliff, the president will look benevolent in extending an olive branch to work toward immigration reform. This show of bipartisanship will help him appeal to Republicans as well as centrists. Middle America, the so-called "independent/undecided" voter of November, is disillusioned with the bickering and inability of congress to achieve anything resembling progress. Meanwhile, the Republicans will have to realize that immigration reform is their path to redemption in the eyes of the American public, and submit to the president's leadership on the issue. Of course, if Obama fails to continue work with and support the Senate's Bipartisan Framework for Immigration Reform he risks exacerbating the divide between Republicans and Democrats.
Far from the seats of Republicans and their leaders, Obama will use gay rights reform to win back unsatisfied Democrats, specifically millennials. With the Supreme Court's ruling on The Defense of Marriage Act (signed into law under President Clinton) approaching in March, President Obama will vocally support or condemn the ruling to regain support of the younger constituents who voted for a second term with the faintest glimmer of the hope and change promised in 2008. This looks like a safe issue for the White House, as even Fox News is agreeing with the president on gay rights.
In the end, the president must deliver a great speech to inspire the people. This is Obama's opportunity to clearly outline his plans for the next four years, and set the tone for the coming discourse on the postponed fiscal cliff talks. Democrats will be looking for a return to the liberal values they elected (ignoring the aspects of the past four years that left a sour taste in many liberal mouths), while Republicans will be forced to keep straight faces through whatever the president may propose — be it immigration reform, gay marriage, or gay immigrants getting married. But as for the executive branch's true priorities, with the conflicts in the Middle East heating up and North Korea making nuclear gestures, expect social issues to take the back burner. In this State of the Union Address, America will be looking for leadership and a change in the rhetoric but, for the most part, take what she is offered.