Obama State of the Union 2013: LIVE Stream and Updates

Tonight, President Barack Obama will deliver the first State of the Union address in his second term. During this address, the president will outline his plan for the next four years of his administration – and emphasize that the union remains strong, but much work needs to be done.  After much ado, clapping, and ceremony, the first shots of the 2016 presidential campaign will be fired across the Democratic Party’s brow by GOP Senator Marco Rubio of Florida and Tea Party favorite Senator Rand Paul.

Is this speech important? Despite what fellow PolicyMic editor Mike Luciano describes as “an evening full of clichés and BS,” absolutely – but not for the reasons you think. The State of the Union has evolved over the years from mere pageantry to an elaborate signaling ceremony, replete with hints and indications as to the president’s mindset, strategy, and plan. Similarly, the reaction to tonight’s address – especially the speeches given by Rubio and Paul – will show what the new leaders of the GOP, and two of their most prominent contenders for 2016, are thinking.

Does this speech change anything? From a policy standpoint, that seems very unlikely. What you’ll glean from tonight’s address is a look into why the State of the Union is essentially a giant, meaningless soapbox: which interest groups each speaker is trying to steal, which organizations or platforms are losing favor, which voting bloc needs to be massaged or put at arm’s length. The dueling GOP speeches will highlight the really important political event going on right now: the civil war brewing in the Republican Party between "moderate" Republicans desperate to avoid being voted out in the next election and Tea Party hardliners determined to use their majority in the House to grind Obama's second term to a halt. That dispute will prove more critical to the future of the country – and 2016 – than anything the president says tonight.

Expect the president to put forth a forceful, legacy-setting agenda for his second term; similarly, expect that agenda to likely fall to the mire that engulfed his first term, unless the GOP manages to accelerate its imminent self-destruction by resorting to civil war over ideological purity and political theater.

How likely are you to make Mic your go-to news source?

Tom McKay

Tom is a staff writer at Mic, covering national politics, media, policing and the war on drugs. He is based in New York and can be reached at tmckay@mic.com.

MORE FROM

'Hot Mic' podcast: Tropical Storm Cindy, Housing for Grenfell fire survivors, Uber CEO steps down

The important stories to get you caught up for Thursday.

EPA committee told that "climate change will be de-emphasized" by Trump administration

A key advisory committee has been "totally decimated" ex-members say.

O.J. Simpson's parole hearing will be held in Nevada on July 20

The former NFL player is serving a minimum 9-year sentence for armed robbery, kidnapping and other charges related to a 2007 confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers

Your favorite coffee could be going extinct thanks to climate change

Your caramel mocha frappuccino is in peril.

'Wall Street Journal' reporter fired over ethical violations

The reporter was allegedly part of a potential business deal with a source.

Sex crime advocates say 2 underage girls forced into sex during robbery are victims, not criminals

Prosecutors are charging the teen girls as adults for their involvement in an alleged robbery.

'Hot Mic' podcast: Tropical Storm Cindy, Housing for Grenfell fire survivors, Uber CEO steps down

The important stories to get you caught up for Thursday.

EPA committee told that "climate change will be de-emphasized" by Trump administration

A key advisory committee has been "totally decimated" ex-members say.

O.J. Simpson's parole hearing will be held in Nevada on July 20

The former NFL player is serving a minimum 9-year sentence for armed robbery, kidnapping and other charges related to a 2007 confrontation with two sports memorabilia dealers

Your favorite coffee could be going extinct thanks to climate change

Your caramel mocha frappuccino is in peril.

'Wall Street Journal' reporter fired over ethical violations

The reporter was allegedly part of a potential business deal with a source.

Sex crime advocates say 2 underage girls forced into sex during robbery are victims, not criminals

Prosecutors are charging the teen girls as adults for their involvement in an alleged robbery.