- State of the Union addresses used to be no-frills affairs—in 1790, George Washington delivered one that was probably around 6 minutes long to a joint session of Congress in New York City, leaving him plenty of time to swill a couple mugs of cider with his boys and get to bed at a reasonable hour.Thomas Jefferson hated public speaking, so he did away with the addressing Congress bit and just sent the gentlemen a letter—presidents did this until Woodrow Wilson decided in 1913 that he'd reclaim the podium.
- The modern predidency is pretty damn enamored of the speech, though. It's the ultimate big-swinging-dick moment in politics, where members of Congress, Supreme Court Justices, activists, and the American public must sit and listen without interrupting to what the president has to say, for, in the case of President Obama, an average of 1 hour. As the speech has gotten longer and more formalized over the years, so has the hype surrounding it, along with the theater of the main event. And everyone's buying into it, from the White House, to the press corps, to watering holes looking to capitalize on this nerd high holiday.
- This morning, the White House released a behind-the-scenes video of the president and his speechwriters saying insightful, breathless things like, "I think the tone is right, I think the framework's right," presumably in an effort to get us all super-stoked about the more-than-60 minutes of policy talk, platitudes, and clapping.
- CNN's Candy Crowley is getting her audience psyched by trying to make the hashtag #flatcandy happen on Twitter and Instagram—it's how viewers are being instructed to tag any pics taken with their Crowley cutout doll, which is apparently the network's mascot for tonight's coverage. Only rule? "Have fun, but keep it clean folks."
- There is in fact a whole State of the Union cottage industry that pops up every year. In addition to analyzing policy points, opinons abound over what fashion choices mean—was Michelle Obama's sleeveless Jason Wu dress from last year a "bipartisan overture"? Was the same meant of President Obama's 2011 choice of a lavender tie? (Robert Yoon delves delightfully into the tie question, among others, here.)
- There are of course the watch parties to consider, what with Washington, D.C., being a certain kind of hellscape with warped notions of fun has lots of bars that are acting as if the State of the Union were a latter-day Saturnalia. Any D.C.-centric publication worth its salt has published a list of spots where you can nosh and josh with the dorkiest.
- Organizing for Action is making a big push for Obama supporters across the country to host watch parties in their living rooms ... while the Koch Brothers' Americans for Prosperity group is organizing conservatives to do the same. Their invitations charmingly feature an Obama-as-Stalin image.
- And then there is the main event. In order to differentiate from all the other speeches he has to give, during the State of the Union, the president gets to point to people in the audience he's invited for the evening who serve in some way to illustrate points he's trying to make. It is among the highest of explotative honors in this nation. This year, lucky presidential guests include Governor Steve Beshear of Kentucky (who's actually good at making Obamacare work); a single mother saddled with thousands of dollars of student loans; the teenager who created the "extreme marshmallow cannon"; Jason Collins, the first openly gay NBA player; and Boston Marathon bombing survivors Carlos Arredondo and Jeff Bauman.
- Not to be outdone, certain members of Congress will also be bringing guests, including Duck Dynasty star Willie Robertson, who will be attending the speech on the arm of Representative Vance McAllister. Don't expect any presidential shoutouts there.
- Perhaps the greatest indication of the overblown theater surrounding the State of the Union?This year there will be four separate Republican responses to the President's speech, though likely none will be as dripping with Southern charm and the misguided aesthetics of 1980s television sets as Bill Clinton's 1985 response to then-President Reagan.
- Oh, and there's going to be lots of clapping. There's just going to be an awful amount of clapping. Emphasis on "awful."
- Happy spectating!
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