To the extent that there are more have-nots than haves, it might well be a smart political path. To the extent that voters are disappointed or fed up with Obama, he might be judged more on product than promise.
It is, for example, one thing to pledge tax fairness for all at some distant point in time. It's quite another to convince America that prosperity is just around the corner. Ask one-term President Herbert Hoover.
Still, last night Obama tried.
"The state of the union is getting stronger," he said, as he pushed for programs to create "an America built to last." (Last year it was "win the future.")
It was a good speech with good rhetoric, also no surprise.
"Think about the America within our reach," he said, "a country that leads the world in educating its people . . . that attracts a new generation of high-tech manufacturing and high-paying jobs . . . where hard work pays off and responsibility is rewarded."
Then he got into the quasi-occupy thing: "We can either settle for a country where a shrinking number of people do really well while a growing number of Americans barely get by, or we can restore an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share and everyone plays by the same rules."
He touted new job creation, and said that manufacturers are "hiring again" and that "the American auto industry is back."
(In a piece of nice timing, the Labor Department yesterday issued an "economic news release" noting that 46 states show decreased unemployment since a year ago. Pennsylvania is among them: The rate fell from 8.5 percent in December 2010 to its current 7.6 percent.)
He delivered obligatory nods to fixing stuff like the tax code, education, infrastructure, immigration and energy policy, and did the thing about billionaire Warren Buffett paying a lower tax rate than his secretary.
This is all familiar ground, plowed before, and largely reliant on a recalcitrant Congress for action.
In fact, Obama said that many watching were thinking that nothing is going to get done because Washington is broken.
"Can you blame them for feeling a little cynical?" he asked.
No, sir, I cannot.
But then, this was all about the campaign.
There is, for the president, the following argument: Economy's improving; unemployment's dropping; there was no second Great Depression; killed bin Laden; ended a misguided war in Iraq.
Beyond that, it was just a speech. It won't get anybody a job. It won't allay a family's fears in what is still a stalled economy. It won't, if recent history is a guide, much bump the president's approval rating.
(Gallup has him at 44 percent; it was 48 percent a year ago.)
For me, it was another reason to revere Thomas Jefferson.
Although George Washington delivered spoken State of the Union messages, Jefferson did not. Said it too much resembled British monarchs issuing mandates to Parliament.
And, for you history buffs, while the Constitution requires that presidents "from time to time" give Congress information on the state of the union, more presidents did written reports than speeches - 24, actually (Jefferson through William Taft . . . oh, and Hoover).
I regret that the practice ended. Written reports don't get inane, robotic, repeated applause - like State of the Union (or campaign) speeches do.
For recent columns, go to
philly.com/JohnBaer. Read his blog at www.philly.com/ BaerGrowls.