I missed the inaugural speech, but I just finished reading it (at the site of The Weekly Standard, of all places), and I agree with James Fallows:
This was the most sustainedly "progressive" statement Barack Obama has made in his decade on the national stage.It struck me as defiantly progressive. While it reached out to the vast majority of Americans, it was also a detailed rebuke of all the unproductive, divisive, infantile noise that's emerged from the right in recent years. Obama took on his haters -- and the haters of liberal and moderate ideas in general -- point by point, at every moment declaring those ideas to be fully in the American grain. It's hard to imagine him living up to this rhetoric in his second term, but I'm grateful in any case for the statement of principles.
I'm grateful that he insisted on the notion that change is true to our national principles, because right-wingers, when it suits them, argue otherwise:
Through blood drawn by lash and blood drawn by sword, we learned that no union founded on the principles of liberty and equality could survive half-slave and half-free. We made ourselves anew, and vowed to move forward together."Collective action"! That must have elicited howls in Wingnuttia.
Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.
Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.
Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.
.. we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action.
The following passage has already elicited howls at Power Line:
It is now our generation's task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers, and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law -- for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for, and cherished, and always safe from harm.Every point here is a slap in the face to right-wingers who deserve far worse; every point here is one that a clear majority of non-wingnut America can rally around.
Oh, and there's this:
But we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future.The notion that we're betraying the young unless we eviscerate Social Security and Medicare is a particular hobbyhorse of David Brooks. Congratulations, David: I think the president of the United States chose to dis you personally in an inaugural address.
I'm sure Maureen Dowd and Peggy Noonan are already hard at work writing denunciations of Obama's arrogance and hauteur. But if that's what the speech represents, he's entitled to it. He faces opponents who deny the way America has changed to survive, who defy the will of the people, and who continue to gum up the works and render this country all but ungovernable. They deserve every ounce of his contempt, and then some.