Most State of the Union addresses are laundry lists—dry run-throughs of proposals that a president would like to see enacted, or, at the very least, would like to be seen calling for.
Tonight's State of the Union will be President Obama's last, leading into a final presidential year that is unlikely to produce any major legislative action. And so, as multiple news outlets have reported, the speech won't be a laundry list. Instead it will be more of a description of the sorts of outfits that he would like to see America wear.
Tonight's speech is expected to be "non-traditional," CNN reported yesterday, noting that "Obama will be talking about himself, not asking Congress for a long list of items he knows he'll never get." According to The New York Times, which cites top presidential aides, the speech will "not be the usual litany of legislative priorities but would instead be a grander call to arms on the major challenges facing the nation."
This doesn't necessarily mean that tonight will be utterly free of policy discussion. Obama will almost certainly discuss some of the policies he's already put in place, and will likely nod to the sort of policies he'd like to see in the future, building off what he's already done.
But significant new legislative changes won't be on the agenda for tonight. As a report from RealClearPolitics describes it: "Gone in Obama's eighth year are sweeping legislative ambitions. In their place: political storytelling aimed at a hoped-for Democratic successor and a Democratic Senate in 2017; maneuvers to protect seven years of governance; and lofty rhetorical riffs for the history books."
Doesn't that sound exciting? Thrilling? Riveting? Yeah, okay, maybe not so much. Even the White House appears to be a little bit worried about whether anyone will actually pay attention. Lofty rhetoric in defense of a presidency in its home stretch is perhaps not the best formula for must-watch primetime television.
Which brings us to the point of this post: Reason's 2016 State of the Union drinking game—the very last under SOTU drinking game under president Obama! It's the end of an era, folks. Drink up!
Specifically, take a drink, and click a link, any time Obama…
- Uses any variation on "fair shot" or "fair share" or everyone "playing by the same set of rules."
- Talks about "nation-building at home," or investing in infrastructure to create jobs.
- Calls for immigration reform or defends his own court-frustrated efforts to grant legal status to millions. Take an extra shot if he fails to mention his administration's recent raids on immigrant homes.
- Mentions the LGBT Equality Act.
- References Kentucky clerk Kim Davis, implicitly or by name (extra shot if the camera cuts to her—she'll be in attendance).
- Touts statistics about gun control or violence.
- Names any of the special guests in the audience.
- Mentions income inequality.
- Defends his record on criminal justice reform.
- Notes that his administration maintained a kill list—sorry, a "disposition matrix."
- Promises, yet again, to finally close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay (take an extra shot if he fails to mention that he signed an executive order saying it would be closed within a year in 2009).
- Declares that this country "used to do big things!"
- Says "that's not who we are."
Finally, tonight's address will be streamed live over the Internet by Amazon.com, so be ready to consume your entire liquor cabinet and anything left at the local liquor store if Obama ends his speech by suggesting you buy something off of your wishlist. The Kindle edition of The Audacity of Hope is just $9.99!
Alternatively, you could just have a couple of glasses of wine during dinner and then gently pass out during the speech. That's what Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg apparently did last year.
The staff of Reason will live tweeting the address and following up with reaction tonight and throughout the day tomorrow, so make sure to check back in at 9 p.m. ET this evening, when this definitely-not-a-laundry-list event starts.
Start your day with Reason. Get a daily brief of the most important stories and trends every weekday morning when you subscribe to Reason Roundup.