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The most important sentence in Obama's 2015 State of the Union

1) The most striking sentence in President Obama's 2015 State of the Union came near the start: "Tonight, we turn the page."

2) It is the seventh year of Obama's presidency. But it's the first in which the economy is no longer in crisis. And so it's the first in which Obama's State of the Union proposals no longer reeked of crisis.

3) Obama's first address to a Joint Session of Congress — which was, basically, a stand-in State of the Union — came in February 2009; the unemployment rate was 8.3 percent. During the next State of the Union, it was 9.8 percent, then 9.2 percent, then 8.3 percent, then 8 percent, and then 6.6 percent.

Obama sotu unemployment

4) We don't yet have unemployment data for January 2015. But according to the early numbers for December, the unemployment rate fell to 5.6 percent. And it's not just unemployment: the economy grew last quarter at a 5 percent annualized rate, and a gallon of gas is less than $2 in much of the country. The deficit is down, too.

5) Imagine if Mitt Romney was giving the State of the Union address amidst these economic numbers. The cheering wouldn't stop long enough to let him speak.

6) The "turn the page" line wasn't just rhetoric. It was policy, too. In every State of the Union since Obama took office, he has offered policy built for an emergency. It's been huge plans to rescue the financial sector or pump stimulus into a failing economy or deal with an unemployment crisis or beat back a rising tide of red ink.

7) But not this time. The tax increases Obama proposed in Tuesday's speech are simply there to pay for tax cuts for the middle class. It's a plan, and an agenda, that would have fit neatly into Bill Clinton's presidency — which is to say, it's the kind of plan Democrats offer when the economy is doing well rather than when it's doing poorly.

8) If there is a deeper crisis that the Obama administration is responding to, it's the crisis of labor-force participation. One reason unemployment is down to 5.6 percent is that millions of people have dropped out of the labor force — they've stopped looking for work, at least so far as the government can tell. That may be because they can't find it, or it may be because the work they can find simply doesn't pay enough.

9) The particular tax cuts Obama's proposing make work pay more. The government is basically subsidizing low-wage jobs. He's also trying to raise the minimum wage. Obama is also proposing to make college — particularly community college — cheaper, which is to say, he's trying to get more people to upgrade their skills so they can get better-paying jobs.

10) What's notable, too, is what wasn't in the speech: there was little about Obamacare. The omission was particularly notable given that open enrollment for Obamacare is ongoing, and the State of the Union offers President Obama the largest audience he's likely to have for a while. He could have directed people to the (smoothly functioning) marketplaces and bragged about how many have already enrolled. The absence of any serious discussion of Obamacare was clearly intentional — and fit a speech in which Obama seemed intent on looking forward to new problems and policies rather than backwards to older ones.

11) Even on foreign policy, Obama seemed freed from the shackles of past emergencies. While America still has some troops overseas, the Iraq and Afghanistan wars are largely over. Russia's currency has collapsed, allowing Obama to declare a kind of victory against Vladimir Putin's various provocations in 2014, and Ebola has been beaten back from America's shores. There's even a thaw with Cuba.

12) There was one place, though, where Obama couldn't turn the page, and he knew it — American politics. Towards the end of his address, he revisited the promises of his 2004 speech at the Democratic National Convention, where he dismissed America's political divisions, and his 2008 campaign, where he promised to heal them.

13) "Our politics seems more divided than ever," he admitted on Tuesday. "It's held up as proof not just of my own flaws — of which there are many — but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, and naïve, and that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it. I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong."

14) But unlike in the economy, where Obama could point to the falling unemployment rate, and unlike in foreign policy, where he could point to Putin's economic troubles or the new relationship with Cuba, here Obama couldn't turn the page. He could only hope that the page would, someday, be turned.