Shall we call it the “I Still Believe” Speech?
Putting the traditional squabble over Michelle’s dress (who copied who? and does it matter?), the display of crippled heroes, and the incoherent, formulaic GOP response to the speech, I think it is Obama’s most important speech.
There some soundbites that were really good to hear on the environment and economic equality; the two biggest elephants in the room for decades now. The hug with Ginsburg; the general legislative and ideological offensive against the new, Republican House and Senate, these are very bright things. Finally, Americans got to see Obama as a truly liberal president, instead of being a Democrat.
This is important. Here’s why: it is a vivid illustration of the power of big money and big donors in politics. At the very least, it shows how far our political process has been captured by interest groups (both public and private). Second, Obama’s liberal offensive, seemingly at the moment of Republican triumph, will prove to be a gigantic political wedge in the long run-up to the 2016 presidential election.
Politics, and election campaigns require a lot of money, so much money in fact, that elections represent massive competing interests groups. This is especially true after “Citizens United,” perhaps the most heinous and disingenuous name in politics since the “Patriot Act”. As such, the Democratic Party (and the GOP as well) represent a gigantic bloc of interests groups that appeal to a largely manufactured set of ideological beliefs, “liberal” and “conservative”. Liberals vote for the Democrats as the lesser of two evils, and conservatives vote for the GOP using the same logic.
Any politician, the President included (as his campaign is by far the most expensive), is beholden to a web of powerful interests and donors. Thus, as long as Obama faces an election, be it his own or an election of the House and Senate, he actually must reflect the wants of his backers; the big backers of the Democratic party. We should find this very alarming. First, an elected official should do what is best for the country, and second, when the first case is unclear, which is usually is, he should follow his own good sense. What we currently have is the worse case scenario, where the politicians is beholden to private, unknown interests.
Now that this last election is over, Obama is free of his reliance on the Democratic Party and the Party’s backers. This is why Obama, on the defensive since the passing of the Affordable Health Care Act, has at last began a liberal offensive.
A look back at the record of Democrats in the White House will show a surprisingly moderate (on social issues), conservative (downright Hawkish, often; remember “Only Nixon Could Go to China”) series of administrations. A true liberal in the White House is actually very rare. Jimmy Carter was one; we will include Roosevelt, and Obama’s final years might count as well.
In the long run, the most important things Obama is doing is 1) holding back the conservative tide in the House and Senate through the veto; 2) making real progress on the environment (blocking Keystone XL, the cap on carbon immersions, the environmental deal with China (which is hopefully only a first step), and the declaration of the Defence Department that Global Warming is now a threat to national security); and 3) thwarting the pressures of big cable companies over gutting Net Neutrality.
The simple fact that his approval rating has soared since the “I still believe” offensive started, might just be the proof various persons and interests groups need to start shifting to the left. The GOP’s policy of energising the “wingnuts” has been proven to be a tactic of desperation, rather than a reflection of what Americans actually think and believe actually.
This State of the Union Address will go down as the key-note of these liberal initiatives. Meanwhile, the Republican House and Senate will thrash and fume; man-made global warming has been denied again in the Senate, representing another step back from taking the real action that needs to happen now.
Hopefully this liberal Obama lasts.