State of the Empire Union

I forget the details, but apparently when the Roman empire was in its decline, the Senate would do these creepy rituals where they’d get together and shout about how great the Emperor was, exhausting themselves repeating a single sentence dozens of times. I wonder if, centuries from now, the State of the Union will look the same way.

“When America was in its decline, once a year the Congress would do this creepy ritual where they’d get together to listen to a speech by the President and applaud every sentence, sometimes giving a standing ovation for the most banal talking points. Any congresscritter who failed to do so would have their loyalty questioned.”

I’m not even joking about that last sentence. I just saw someone on Facebook whining about how John Boehner failed to clap at certain times. Much as I deplore Boehner for his budgetary hostage taking, good for him doing his part to make the ritual slightly less absurd.

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  • smrnda

    These ‘state of the union’ addresses always seem full of the same meaningless platitudes and stock phrases, to the point where they could probably be automatically produced by a rather unintelligent AI program. Even if an important issue is discussed, it’s discussed in such a vague, obfuscating fashion so that nothing of any meaning is actually conveyed. I think the phrase about ‘standing at a cross-roads’ was eventually so mocked that people quit using it.

    Perhaps a problem is that people respond to sound-bytes that sound good better than facts that are true, or statements that are actually detailed enough to contain real information.

  • MNb

    Well, the Roman Senate survived the (western) Emperor with several ages …
    Be comforted, Dutch Speech from the Throne (Troonrede) is as hollow as the State of the Union, not to mention the Monarch’s Christmas speech. That’s simply not where it happens.

  • eric

    I believe the current practice has been going on for about 30 years. State of the Union addresses are required by law but at different historical periods Presidents have delivered them written or oral. Its gone back and forth.
    So, maybe we’re seeing the start of a negative trend. Or maybe its just going to be another tooth on a sawtooth-looking line. I would not read a whole lot into the last 30 years representing some sort of new direction in a 220-year practice. We’ve done this before, and gone back to written statements before too.