×

President Obama is the 'invisible candidate'

In his last State of the Union speech, President Barack Obama used sophisticated language to disguise his strategy of agreeable common sense measures, while invoking notes of "hope" and "change" of campaigns past, through the well placed word choice of "optimism." He had a way of using real-life story lines to make both sides applaud without realizing they were creating sounds of unity.






President Barack Obama delivers his final State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington January 12, 2016.
Evan Vucci | Pool | Reuters
President Barack Obama delivers his final State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress in Washington January 12, 2016.

Obama mused: "I see it in the American who served his time, and dreams of starting over — and the business owner who gives him that second chance. The protester determined to prove that justice matters, and the young cop walking the beat, treating everybody with respect, doing the brave, quiet work of keeping us safe," addressing recidivism, small business, the Black Lives Matter movement, and improved community policing in one brief scenario without saying these words that prove to be catnip for tone-deaf reactions.

The president breezed through a standard democratic platform of ideals to remind us what American democracy is and the potential of what we can be, juxtaposed to the current campaign rhetoric that seems to state otherwise. This was not only a conversation to Congress and the American people, but the president using this moment to insert himself into the current presidential debate, as the invisible candidate.


No, we are not a perfect union. Progress still needs to be made. The unemployed need to see the widening of industries for opportunity. The middle class needs to be assured of retirement security. The next generation needs the economic barrier of college tuition to be cracked. And the south side of Chicago, along with every similar neighborhood, needs gun violence reduced. But the union can make strides toward perfection, as when President Obama invoked Speaker Ryan's shared interest of "tackling poverty." By realizing that "Food Stamp recipients didn't cause the financial crisis; recklessness on Wall Street did," we are on our way.

It is my hope, my optimism, that America will use this realization to cease the victimization of the victim. That it will seek to understand the root of the issue – that wealth and a lack of access to education has unbalanced the American Dream; that the fight for civil rights and equality will no longer be made up of segregated slogans, but rather written into political policies. With this acknowledged understanding we can begin to move towards a healthy debate for desired outcomes in our shared union.

The unexpected takeaway of the speech was "we the people." When President Obama spoke these three words, I recognized that it was more actionable than metaphorical. He challenged us to take the shared vision of things we all can agree on and turn it into a shared responsibility to achieve outcomes vis-à-vis speaking up for the vulnerable, voting, or taking congress back from the influence of outside money. We were left with the feeling that we all play a part in this union.

"That's the America I know. That's the country we love. Clear-eyed. Big-hearted. Optimistic that unarmed truth and unconditional love will have the final word," the president said. This too is the America I want to know, Mr. President.

Commentary by Mike Muse, co-founder of Muse Recordings. Muse has served on President Barack Obama's National Finance Committee as well as finance committees of Sens. Cory Booker and Kirsten Gillibrand and Mayor Bill de Blasio. He is currently serving on the Democratic National Finance Committee and Hillary Clinton's Finance Committee. He was recently appointed by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio to serve on the Board of Advisors for the Mayors Fund to Advance New York City. Follow him on Twitter @IamMikeMuse.

For more insight from CNBC contributors, follow @CNBCopinion on Twitter.