President Barack Obama accepted the Democratic nomination on Thursday night with a powerful speech that plainly laid out the stark choice facing voters on November 6. With America at a crossroads, Obama delivered a roadmap for how, together as one nation, we can travel forward.
His speech hinged on the same basic principle that has guided his entire campaign: Voters must see the 2012 election not as a referendum on Obama’s first term, but as “a choice between two fundamentally different visions for the future.”
Obama went on to vividly paint the contrast between his and Romney’s visions. While Republicans call for trillions of dollars in tax breaks for the wealthy, Obama called for a return to Clinton-era tax rates for those who make over $250,000 a year. “I refuse to go along with that,” Obama said of the GOP tax plan. “And as long as I’m president, I never will.”
While Republicans lobby for massive oil subsidies and openly mock climate change, Obama called for investment in clean energy and warned that “climate change is not a hoax” but “a threat to our children’s future.”
While Republicans call for “voucherizing” Medicare, Obama declared that “no American should ever have to spend their golden years at the mercy of insurance companies.”
“Yes, we will reform and strenghten Medicare for the long haul,” Obama said, ” but we’ll do it by reducing health care costs — not by asking seniors to pay thousands of dollars more.”
He laid out a particularly sharp contrast on foreign policy. “My opponent and his running mate are new to foreign policy, but from all that we’ve seen and heard, they want to take us back to an era of blustering and blundering that cost America so dearly,” he said. “After all, you don’t call Russia our number one enemy – and not al Qaeda – unless you’re still stuck in a Cold War time warp. You might not be ready for diplomacy with Beijing if you can’t visit the Olympics without insulting our closest ally.”
The joke reinforced what Wonkblog’s Ezra Klein has called the “policy gap:” Throughout the campaign, Romney’s proposals have plainly lacked the seriousness expected from a presidential candidate.
“They want your vote, but they don’t want you to know their plan. And that’s because all they have to offer is the same prescription they’ve had for the last thirty years,” the president mocked. “Have a surplus? Try a tax cut. Deficit too high? Try another. Feel a cold coming on? Take two tax cuts, roll back some regulations, and call us in the morning!”
Crucially, Obama’s vision is collective as well as individual. “We also believe in something called citizenship – a word at the very heart of our founding, at the very essence of our democracy; the idea that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another, and to future generation,” he said.
“We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defense,” the president later added.
This is how he intends to reclaim his mantle of hope — by reminding voters that they themselves are the agents of change and that “this democracy is ours.”
“We don’t think government can solve all our problems,” Obama declared,”But we don’t think that government is the source of all our problems – any more than are welfare recipients, or corporations, or unions, or immigrants, or gays, or any other group we’re told to blame for our troubles.”
As Obama left the stage to rapturous applause and cheers — as his wife Michelle and Bill Clinton did before him — it was clear that the Democrats had won the battle of the conventions decisively. By combining Clinton and Obama to eviscerate Mitt Romney’s policies and worldview, the more pressing question is whether the Democrats just won the whole thing.
Photo Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite