Friday, January 25, 2013

From "Government is the Problem" to "We the People"



Following President Obama's inaugural address, that clip from an interview with then-candidate Barack Obama in January 2008 is stirring up a lot of conversation from pundits across the ideological spectrum.  The question is whether or not President Obama is changing the trajectory of our politics in the way Reagan did.

Just to give you an idea about how much attention is being paid to that question, here are some of the pundits who have written a response (in no particular order).

E.J. Dionne

Michael Tomasky

Greg Sargent

Charles Krauthammer

Jonathan Bernstein

Matthew Continetti

Philip Klein

Ross Douthat

Paul Waldman

Xpostfactoid

Those are just the ones I found - perhaps there are others. But its clear there is a meme developing here. The question is whether or not it is simply the hive mind type of groupthink we often see from the press or does it have some validity.

The answer of course is that we can't know right now. It is a question that can only be answered by future historians.

What we can know is that it is clearly President Obama's intention to try to change that trajectory. Its the one that can be summed up by the words of Reagan in his first inaugural...that government isn't the solution, it's the problem. As Obama said in the video clip above - Americans were ready for that message in 1980. So much so that the very liberal notion of effective government became anathema and even Bill Clinton affirmed that "the era of big government is over."

And now - as we see the very underpinnings of the social safety net under attack - it is clear that for Republicans the pendulum has swung too far in that direction. Obama saw - back in 2008 - that Americans were ready to challenge that trajectory.

The one fallacy of some of the liberals addressing this question (ie, Greg Sargent) is to think that this notion of changing the trajectory is something new that President Obama initiated in his inaugural address. Xpostfactoid has done great work in digging up previous speeches that indicate he's been at this all along (more here and here).

As the President has done so often, he grounded his inaugural address in our founding and history as a country.
What makes us exceptional -- what makes us American -- is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Today we continue a never-ending journey to bridge the meaning of those words with the realities of our time. For history tells us that while these truths may be self-evident, they’ve never been self-executing; that while freedom is a gift from God, it must be secured by His people here on Earth.
And then he pointed out that it is only through working together that "we the people" can address the challenges we face today to those self-evident truths.
But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action...Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people... 
For we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it... 
We, the people, still believe that every citizen deserves a basic measure of security and dignity... 
We, the people, still believe that our obligations as Americans are not just to ourselves, but to all posterity... 
We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war. 
We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall.
Our government is the vehicle through which we the people join together to address the challenges to the self-evident truths on which this country was founded. As Americans hear and embrace that message, we set our course going FORWARD.

1 comment:

  1. My God, this post is so fabulous!! I will share it everywhere.
    THANK YOU!

    Smilingl8dy

    ReplyDelete