President Obama to Conservatives: We Are Continuing the Revolution!

by George Kennedy on January 23, 2013

Inauguration 2013

Inauguration 2013

President Obama threw down the gauntlet to his conservative critics during his second inaugural address.  With an eye on the long arc of history, Mr. Obama served notice to the Republicans the “small ball” politics underlying their unyielding opposition to his policies are unworthy of them and do disservice to the soul and aspirations of the American people.

A reasonably safe assumption is that Mr. Obama’s intent was to signal a bold shift in his approach to mastering his presidency.  Early signs are that he has succeeded.  There is now a “buzz” permeating the blogosphere; an excitement that seems to have ignited Progressives like Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Lawrence O’Donnell and the guests they host on air.

Mr. Obama, while speaking to a crowd of supporters estimated to have exceeded 800,000, said we are made for the moment to make this a better, more inclusive, and perfect union.  “Our journey to a better future is not complete”, he noted.  The President went on to say that he and the American people will continue to make the journey they launched four years ago – together.  Mr. Obama’s critics were on notice:  work with us or answer to the American people.

The tone of the President’s remarks in his 18-minute speech was not strident, rather it reflected an awareness that you make America better through social movements.  He invoked the historical significance of  Seneca Falls, Selma, and Stonewall.  Absent from Mr. Obama’s oratory, noted Richard Stevenson of the New York Times, was “the vision of a new kind of high-minded politics, the constraint of a future re-election campaign and the weight of unrealistic expectations.  In their place was an unapologetic argument that modern liberalism was perfectly consistent with the spirit of the founders and a notice that, with no immediate crisis facing the nation, Mr. Obama intended to use the full powers of his office for progressive values.”  This is the awakening of a new President; a President for which Mr. Obama’s supporters have long awaited.

A reflective and noticeably grayer Mr. Obama, girding for the inevitable Republican push-back, has enlisted the support of the largest, most well-organized, and technologically savvy field organization ever assembled by an American politician.  Americans For Action (OFA), his new organization, will lay the groundwork to take Mr. Obama’s message of “We Must Act!” into the homes of tens of millions of Americans in the days ahead.  This is uncharted territory for a newly-reelected President and the progress achieved by this effort will undoubtedly provide fodder for countless debates among Washington’s famed punditry class and invite more recrimination from the GOP.

Mr. Obama is more effective when he slips the bonds of the Washington Beltway and talks directly to the American people.  This election proved Americans like and trust the President, poll numbers on the future direction of the country notwithstanding.  More than half the electorate gave him credit for fulfilling two of their highest priorities:  ending the War in Iraq and ridding the world of Osama Bin Laden, the real architect of the 9-ll assault on America.

Mr. Obama spoke of his priorities over the coming months:  tackling the deficit; protecting health reform (the Affordable Care Act), Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.  On the topic of our social safety net, the President was unequivocal:  “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.”  He added to his list of priorities advancing gay rights and protecting the environment for our children and future generations.  With brilliant clarity, Mr. Obama said, “Progress does not compel us to settle centuries-old debates about the role of government for all time – but it does require us to act in our time.”

Mr. Obama issued a call to action and the country appears ready to join him.  Let’s all stay tuned.

George Kennedy

George Kennedy is a retired senior Foreign Service officer with extensive international experience. He holds a B.A. from the University of Oregon and two graduate degrees from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, D.C. Mr. Kennedy was a political advisor to state and federal officials and has authored strategy pieces for Members of Congress and presidential candidates. He serves on the Advisory Board for the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences at the University of Arizona.

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