Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Obama: Hey, Tea Party: My Crew Are Gonna Drink Us Some Coffee

Barack Obama making his case: only to his tribe? Maybe, but we get to draw the lines.

 Sampling some of the inside-the-beltway takes on Barack Obama's second inaugural address, it's easy to see how divided our nation is. The breakdown is stark, between the reactionaries, who see our nation's job as winding down the progressive movement that guided our nation from early in the 20th century until Ronald Reagan blamed it for our ills, and a new progressivism starkly called back into action by Barack Obama's fighting words. The dismal beltway words of David Ignatius and Dana Milbank contrasted with the more positive views of E.J. Dionne and Eugene Robinson. Robinson said it very well:
You’d think that steering the economy away from the abyss, passing landmark health-care reform, guaranteeing women equal pay for equal work, ending our nation’s shameful experiment with torture and ordering the raid that killed Osama bin Laden — for starters — would add up to a pretty impressive first-term résumé.
Voters clearly thought so, but a lot of my fellow pundits seem not to have noticed. Instead, they demand to know why Obama has not somehow charmed Republicans — who announced, you will recall, that their principal aim was making him a one-term president — into meek submission, I suppose through some combination of glad-handing and perhaps hypnosis.
The truth is that it will take many years to fully assess the Obama presidency. The verdict will depend on what he accomplishes in his second term — and how his initiatives pan out in the coming decades. On health care and the long-term debt, in particular, my hunch is that Obama is taking a much longer view than his critics realize.
A longer view indeed, than the pissy snit-fits of Ignatius and Milbank.

Washington mind-set: set in stone?

One theme I heard loud and clear was acting together to solve our nation's ills. It's no accident that Barack Obama is quietly converting his campaign troops from Organizing for America into an army for his second-term progressive causes called Organizing for Action. David Corn noticed this call for action in Obama's address. Corn's column was my favorite on Obama's well-crafted declaration of his second term's intentions:
Though the speech was certainly written for a wide audience, it targeted Obama's people. He paid homage to Seneca Falls (women's rights), Selma (civil rights), and Stonewall (gay rights). He spoke directly to those Americans attuned to those progressive struggles of the past and their present-day manifestations:
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.
Days after Obama's campaign outfit transformed itself into Organizing for Action, a permanent grassroots political machine that will whip up support for the president's initiatives, the president was communicating with his troops, seeking to rally them for the struggles that await him (and them) in his second term.
 Thus we see in stark relief Barack Obama's marching orders. We must work together for the common good to achieve individual goals. A clear statement of progressive ideals, that. For the Tea Partiers, he drew the lines:
The commitments we make to each other – through Medicare, and Medicaid, and Social Security – these things do not sap our initiative; they strengthen us.
They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.  We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity.
Some heard pugnacity in Obama's words and maybe rightly so. He's ready to fire up his own grassroots movement in support of his second-term agenda. Obama is, after all, an organizer; he expressed American ideals in his address and said they were worth fighting for. It's time to fill up the coffee thermoses and head to the barricades. It's not like there isn't an army on conservatives, libertarians, and beltway sourpusses waiting to take us on. But Obama is ready to drink coffee in a can and is, in fact, organizing for struggles ahead.

Let's get ready to rumble. The Republicans have been spoiling for a fight since Obama was first elected. Our president, finally, may be ready to bring his game.

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