Magazine article The Progressive

The Speech We Needed

Magazine article The Progressive

The Speech We Needed

Article excerpt

The skies were over-cast and the temperature was a chilly forty degrees in Washington when President Obama began his Inaugural Address. Given his own cool reserve and his first-term penchant for pursuing a tepid, middle-right governing agenda, I didn't expect to get much warmth from him this go 'round.

I was surprised. In these major speechifying moments, Obama's rhetoric has always soared, but this time his agenda and political resolve did, for he seemed to have reached deep within himself and showed some FDR, jut-jawed, presidential flair. Unabashedly rooting his l address in America's solid progressive values, he issued a call for the great majority of our people the middle class and the poor to join him in a nationwide campaign to rebuild our country's infrastructure, our ladder of upward mobility, and (most importantly) our sense of shared purpose.

Gone from this year's expression of his Presidential intent were the bouquets of appeasement, concession, and even surrender that he tossed out four years ago in a futile effort to woo recalcitrant, rightwing Republican leaders into bipartisanship. Again and again, he saw that they negotiated by hissy fit. So it has finally gotten through to him that the GOP is in the iron grip of ideological absolutists out to disembowel the U.S. government and disown any commitment to the common good. Rather than continue a fruitless effort to "fix Washington," the President made clear that he's going to the people themselves to rally them for the kind of sensible changes that America so desperately needs.

Predictably, rightwing pundits and defenders of the corporate order decried his address as a leftist screed and rudely partisan. And, of course, they rolled out that old chestnut: "socialist." But, in fact, the best word to characterize the speech is simply "American." It was a straightforward restatement of the grassroots principles that the Founders first articulated and that, over two centuries, has held this sprawling, sometimes brawling country together. …

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