Obama’s Hope And Change 2.0September 7th, 2012 3:00 pm E. J. Dionne
“If you turn away now — if you buy into the cynicism that the change we fought for isn’t possible, well, change will not happen,” the president said. “If you give up on the idea that your voice can make a difference, then other voices will fill the void: lobbyists and special interests; the people with the $10 million checks who are trying to buy this election and those who are trying to make it harder for you to vote.”
Of course, this is an election, not a philosophical exercise, so Obama was concrete about his differences with Mitt Romney and the Republicans’ quest for a spare government that would ask even less of the already successful. He criticized his foes on Medicare and Social Security, on their refusal to accept any deficit plans that included higher taxes on the wealthy, on education spending and tuition aid.
“Over and over, we have been told by our opponents that bigger tax cuts and fewer regulations are the only way; that since government can’t do everything, it should do almost nothing,” he said. “If you can’t afford health insurance, hope that you don’t get sick. If a company releases toxic pollution into the air your children breathe, well, that’s the price of progress.”
And he mocked the GOP’s diagnosis of more tax cuts in all economic circumstances: “Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!”
In sketching an itinerary for “moving forward,” Obama spoke more of goals than of policies, highlighting an expansion of manufacturing, energy independence, education and job training, and climate change, an issue that has largely been absent from the public discussion since 2010.
Politicians usually run campaigns based on what they will do, or have done, for voters. Obama will certainly do his share of this, and did some of it Thursday.
Yet his heart seems not to lie in transactional politics. He prefers challenges to promises, obligations to privileges, reason to emotion. “The path we offer may be harder,” he said, “but it leads to a better place.” This is not a typical campaign pledge. It implies neither ease nor comfort but burdens worth bearing and responsibilities worth shouldering. It is still a form of hope, but one that requires far more than going to rallies and cheering.
Photo Credit: AP/Jae C. Hong
E.J. Dionne’s email address is email@example.com.