- Obama inauguration: the President starts his second term with a declaration of class war (Telegraph; Jan 21, 2013):
It was like watching the woman you love marrying the wrong man.
Obama’s second inaugural was far from the unifying speech that we were promised but instead a declaration of (continued) war on the conservative movement and a rallying cry for liberals. Does the President not realise that he won the 2012 election and doesn’t have to carry on campaigning? Or did someone load up an old draft of his convention speech in to the autocue by mistake? “O, what the heck. I’ll read it anyway…”
First the bipartisan bit. It was fortuitous that the second inauguration of America’s first black president coincided with Martin Luther King Day – which leant a civil rights theme to the procedings. So Myrlie Evers-Williams, wife of a slaughtered civil rights hero, gave a moving invocation about how far America has come, and even Lamar Alexander referenced Alex Haley (author of Roots). The choir sang Battle Hymn of the Republic in a reminder of that ol’ “separation of church and state” that liberals are always banging on about, and even Joe Biden was sworn in without an anticipated hitch (although someone will have to break it to him that he’s not president now).
So everything was going great until …. Obama took to the stand. It was speculated that he would try to “bring us together”, but instead he laid out a philosophical vision that will have conservatives spitting blood. His refrain was “We the people” and he noted that the promise of equality whilst “self evident” was not “self executing.” Indeed, the republic could not stand if dominated by a “privileged few” (read folks making over $250,000 a year) and only “collective action” could preserve “individual freedoms.” You can see where all this is leading. It begins with an “s” and ends with “ism”.
“Together” Americans had learned through their history that they need government to build “highways” and “railways” and that the safety net of welfare “frees us to take the risks that make this country great.” If all this had been said by a European politician, he might be called a “Christian Democrat” or a “wet Tory”. But coming from a US politician, the only phrase that seems adequate is “social democrat” – and that, my friends, is uncommon in American history. Obama said that he wants “A nation that rewards the effort and determination of every American.” Is it up to the nation to do that? Ordinarily, rewards flow from the free market or the community of individuals that make up the states.
The overall message is that the republic needs to change to survive. And by evolving the language of “rights” from those associated with liberty to those associated with welfare, Obama’s rhetoric injects a class war radicalism in to US politics not seen since the 1960s. Whether or not it extends to foreign affairs remains to be seen, but it’s interesting to hear the President describe the US’s role in the War on Terror as that of an “anchor” rather than a battleship.
This is all that we could have expected of the man who campaigned as a liberal and now obviously intends to govern as one. What this means for the next four years is, presumably, an absence of compromise and a willingness to take the fight to the Right. Gun control, tax hikes, immigration reform – anything is possible. I could accept all that if the President didn’t insist on trying to mislead us about his partisan approach – and if the mainstream media didn’t so readily assist. One laughter line that will be quoted ad infinitum was this: “We cannot substitute spectacle for politics or name calling for reasoned debate.” Ha! This from the man who built a career on spectacle and who won re-election by painting his opponent as an over-wealthy, out of touch religious conservative with a penchant for strapping dogs to the roof of his car. All credit to Obama: the man has chutzpah.