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Sunday, January 20, 2019

Obama’s Inaugural Address: Progressive And Presidential

Obama’s Inaugural Address: Progressive And Presidential

Skies were overcast, and the temperature was a chilly 40 degrees in Washington on Monday when President Barack Obama took the oath of office and 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 as well, for he seemed to have reached deep within himself and found an FDR-ish hotspot. (A brief digression for this historical tidbit: Roosevelt was sworn in as president four times, and Obama has now tied that record. In 2009, Chief Justice John Roberts botched the words of the oath of office at Obama’s inaugural event, so they had to redo it the next day. This year, since the formal day for taking office fell on Sunday, Roberts quietly swore him in that morning, then did it again at Monday’s public ceremony.)

Such trivia aside, in this year’s address, Obama showed some FDR, jut-jawed, presidential flair. Unabashedly rooting his 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 right-wing 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 in this inaugural address that he’s going to the people themselves to rally them for the kind of sensible changes that America so desperately needs.

Predictably, right-wing 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. It’s no accident that his most-used phrase (five times) was “We the people” — the opening words of the remarkably progressive preamble to our nation’s founding document.

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22 responses to “Obama’s Inaugural Address: Progressive And Presidential”

  1. dtgraham says:

    That part of the speech where he mentions that “Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us”…..caught my ear. The reason it did is because that sentence reminded me so much of something said in a speech by John F Kennedy at Madison Square Garden one time.

    Kennedy said that some CEO’s had flown in to talk to him when he was proposing raising the minimum wage and bringing in overtime- time and a half pay- largely because it was common at that time for “gas station attendants” (his words) to have to work 60 hours per week at straight time. Kennedy remarked, “these men all walked in with straw hats and they wanted me to know that what we were planning on doing would sap their self reliance (the workers).” He went on to say, “let me tell you something.” “The only thing that saps somebody’s self reliance is working straight time at 90 cents or 95 cents or a dollar an hour.” ‘That’s what saps someone’s self reliance.” (to much applause)

    One time Kennedy aide and counsel Ted Sorenson once remarked that Barack Obama reminded him more of JFK than any other politician that he’d seen at that level. I think he may have been referring to general style, but perhaps Obama’s line from that inaugural address was another small window into why he thought that.

    • jellis says:

      Minimum wage and overtime aren’t bad things, but they do sometimes result in bad outcomes. How many “gas station attendants” do you see now? Maybe they would have been replaced with automation any how but their cost to the station certainly helped drive the innovation of selfserve.
      Is no job better than a low paying job? Only if someone else will put food on the table.

      • dtgraham says:

        What he was referring to was a situation where wages were so low that a person wouldn’t be self reliant despite the fact that they were working full time. In the case of these “gas station attendants” they were working, in effect, more than one full time job, in terms of hours, just to survive. Most Americans today that receive Medicaid and food stamps, or use a food bank, are fully employed. They’ve had their self reliance sapped, in JFK’s words.

        I think if you eliminate the minimum (and it’s too low as it is), overtime pay, stat holiday pay, and whatever else, you’re going to end up with a grapes of wrath economy where lower and semi skilled workers will be competing with one another for such ridiculously low wages that they may as well have no job in your words. Corporations will off load much of their employee’s existence onto the state in the form of various social programs, as they’re increasingly doing now. Take that away, as the political right wants to do, and you’re left with charity……for full time workers. We seem to be shooting for Charles Dicken’s England or the third world as a model.

  2. What I liked the most about President Obama’s second inaugural address was the message of hope and confidence that he conveyed, and his focus on equality for all.

    • lana ward says:

      Equality at the bottom of the barrel. We will all have to depend on Gov. to survive. No middle class. Just rich and poor. That’s what omuslim is doing

      • Speak for yourself. I worked 44 years, paid taxes all my life, and I am a member of the middle class. The GOP efforts to put in place policies that benefit the elite and our highest earners, often at the expense of the middle class and the poor, had a tremendous impact on 98% of Americans. Fortunately, the policies and deeds of the Obama administration have already turned the economy around and will soon produce the level of prosperity we need to maintain our standard of living, regardless of how hard the GOP tries to obstruct progress.
        53% of Americans recognize the achievements of the past 4 years, remember where we were 4 years ago, and support President Obama’s policies.

      • bandrulz says:

        I like how olana blames income inequity on President Obama. lol olana, lol.

      • elw says:

        I would like to know what inequities you are talking about?

        • bandrulz says:

          The inequities of upper incomes rising at much faster rates than those of the working classes. The inequity of CEOs pulling out vast wealth while laying off workers. The inequity of a tax code that puts a lower tax rate on those whose earnings are only based on capital gains.

          • elw says:

            lana ward is one confused puppy if she is blaming that on President Obama. I was really hoping she/he would answer, I doubt she/he has any understanding of what she/he is talking about.

  3. lana ward says:

    You’re not going to like the transformation omuslim has in store for America, unless you are a communist!!

  4. jellis says:

    And it is those beliefs, not the man, that are the problem.
    Obama the man is inconsequential. He could be black, white, male, female, old or young it doesn’t matter.
    What his 2nd inaugural address did, was to actually ‘put out there’ the beliefs many conservatives already knew he had. Up to now he has kept them hidden from plain view with only little hints here and there of what he believes in. Always careful to keep them just below the surface so as not to scare away too many middle of the road Americans, but open enough to keep his progressive base from totally deserting him.
    Now, he is finally becoming the ‘transparent’ president he promised and a lot of middle Americans are asking Who Is This Guy? That’s What Not We Voted For.

    • bandrulz says:

      I think for most of us, it is EXACTLY what we voted for. Probably some voted for him to get away from the crazy GOP.

    • latebloomingrandma says:

      It was not a surprise. If you have read anything about Obama (NOT the tabloidy books) and read or heard his speeches, I got a sense all along what his philosphy was. That was why I voted for him.

  5. latebloomingrandma says:

    Poor Mitch McConnell. He laments that Obama’s speech means that the era of liberalism is back. It’s about time. We had the conservative era since 1980, and it’s time for the pendulum to swing the other way for a while. That ‘s the way our country works best. I think Ronald Reagan’s declaration that “Gov’t is not the solution, gov’t is the problem” sent us to a decade of overt mistrust and hatred of our gov’t. I understand pushing back and questioning our elected officials, and I understand fiscal restraint. But our government—put in place by our Founders who worked on this for YEARS—means that it mattered to them. It has a function and purpose, as outlined in the, yes, progressive mission statement of the preamble. For those screaming socialism,( or to the delusional, communism), you will not find the words socialism nor capitalism in the Constitution, just as the word God isn’t in there. Obama laid down his vision and markers. If the Repubs want to play ball, they need to come to him this time. He learned the hard way during the first term and isn’t going to be smacked down again.

  6. onedonewong says:

    Yep his speech was all quota set asides and taxes and spending

  7. bchrista says:

    Hey guys that person (Lana Ward) is such a stupid and vocabulary reduced writer that if you took the word omuslin away from she/he they would be devoid of anything to say, you notice that the gist of the conversation is contained engulfed around the word omuslin and not one statement provides pertinant information it’s an endless rambling of words that provides nothing new, just taking space.

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