Brian Beutler-January 21, 2013, 2:53 PM3175
In the days following his re-election, in a manner reminiscent of his candidacy in 2008, President Obama called publicly for an end to divisive politics. But he’s governed much more aggressively in the past months than he did in early 2009 — battle hardened by two years of trench warfare with his adversaries in the GOP — securing the first progressive income tax increase in nearly two decades, and using the power of presidential persuasion to tame angry Republicans before they could threaten his second term with more dangerous brinksmanship.
His second inaugural address captured that spirit of muscular liberalism to a much greater extent than it resorted to bromides about the end of partisanship. In addition to being the most progressive speech of his national political career, it also characterized liberal goals and ideals as more than political ambitions but as essential requirements of American citizenship.
“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,” Obama said, referring to defining moments in the suffrage, civil rights, and gay rights movements of the past century.
“[O]ur 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.”
Obama thus used his inaugural address to cast ongoing fights for pay equity, equal rights, immigration reform, and gun restrictions, and against voter disenfranchisement, not just as his goals for the next four years but as essential to the perfection of the union.
To make headway on those goals, President Obama will have to confront in his second term the same opposition he’s faced for four years, bruised by a failed effort to thwart his re-election. And he used the occasion to remind his political nemeses that the election settled a host of disagreements, for the time being at least, and thus cleared the way for the two parties to address different challenges.