So as we report on the political implications of the State of the Union address, let’s also remember to bear in mind those outside the academy—the popcorn-munchers who have to sit through the movie—and focus our reporting on just how they might be impacted by the president’s plans, regardless of their political shrewdness. The State of the Union, in one sense, is an appropriately theatrical launch to that most outrageously theatrical, shallowly reported, hyperventilating, draining, and fascinating quadrennial (sort of) event: the presidential election campaign. It would be worth a bipartisan standing ovation if we kicked it off in the right thoughtful style.

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Joel Meares is a former CJR assistant editor.