Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Obama fights back

Posted By on Wed, Jan 23, 2013 at 9:00 AM

Inauguration Day has always been a holiday for me in a way others celebrate the Super Bowl or another big event. This year was no different. I had the day off work and ate a delicious breakfast before settling in to watch it all on TV.

It was an important day for America, even the 47 percent of the electorate that didn't vote for Barack Hussein Obama in November. It marks the official recognition of the will of the people. Elections have consequences. Obama now has the chance to finish the job he started, with much more fanfare, four years ago.

The ceremonies were moving and the music and speeches were excellent. Most stirring of all was the speech by the president. In terms that should be clear and convincing to all, he outlined a progressive agenda for the nation along the lines he promised during the 2012 campaign.

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It was an historic speech, one, which despite its initial mixed reviews by TV pundits, will resonate for many decades after he leaves office in 2017. "Preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action," he said, attempting to draw an end to the era of Ronald Reagan's "you're on your own" policy of governing.

It was a line that many commentators overlooked during their instant analyses, but its importance is difficult to overstate. For more than 30 years, Reagan and his successors have tried to convince Americans that government action is always a problem instead of a solution to any given crisis.

Even Bill Clinton famously declared that the "era of big government is over." Of course, neither Reagan nor Clinton nor any other president in the last 80 years actually believed that line of nonsense. Reagan fought tirelessly to destroy the labor movement through government action. He also used the power of the government to redistribute wealth from the lower and middle economic classes to the richest Americans.

What Obama promised, both in his campaign and his second inaugural address, was to use the power of the presidency to enact laws to right economic wrongs, to level the playing field and give every American the opportunities guaranteed in the Constitution.

When equality is denied to any American, it diminishes our entire nation. So the president quite pointedly included gay and lesbian Americans among those whose rights must be protected. He spoke of the needs of the elderly, who worked their entire lives in good faith under the assumption that Social Security would be around when they needed it.

He addressed the ongoing injustice in our electoral system. No citizen should have to overcome unreasonable obstacles or wait endlessly in line just to vote. That these problems still exist almost a half-century after the passage of the Voting Rights Act is ludicrous. He is correct that these issues must be addressed.

He acknowledged that today's extreme partisan climate is not an excuse for inaction.

"We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate," he said, in a comment directly aimed at those whose only purpose is to obstruct progress.

After the speech was over, Fox News pundits were in shock at what they saw as a combative tone from Obama. It was only combative in the sense that this president, aided by his loyal vice president, intends to act aggressively to preserve peace abroad and usher in a new prosperity at home.

That prosperity is coming. For some of us, it's almost here. The economy will continue to expand and grow. Politically, the president will use every ounce of political capital to further a progressive, inclusive agenda. He will have successes and he will have failures.

But, and this is what conservatives should fear the most, this president will have the support of a majority of Americans behind him. The coalition that re-elected him last year — young people, Latinos and African-Americans — will back him all the way. There is no home for them in the Republican Party. They are unwelcome in the Tea Party movement, which by this time has been exposed as the ignorant, gun-waving hillbillies they are.

To the extent that the president's speech was a rebuke of the Reagan philosophy, conservative Americans have every right to be alarmed. They have run the show and dictated terms of engagement for far too long.

Obama tried in his first term to accomplish the dismantling of the Reagan-Bush legacy. He achieved this only in part. During the next four years, with the backing of a solid majority of the public, he intends to be more successful.

This is bad news for the conservative movement but great news for America. I'm confident that the president will get it done. There is too much at stake for him to fail.

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