Was this a turning point? Is he finally going to believe his own words, “This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make or break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class.” not just for the middle class but for himself? I don’t know. He certainly has disappointed before. What is different this time is that he laid out the argument for why the Republican answers for our economy are bankrupt. It would seem that once you do that, it would be hard to go back and try to compromise and accommodate failed ideas (a theme of mine for the last four years). But he has disappointed before. The real question is can he now start hammering them because that is what is going to take to remind America of where we have been and how the Republicans got us there.
Wait, you say. Americans want Washington to work together and stop this partisan bickering and get something done. How can that happen if the President goes on the attack. Well, my first reaction is you have misread Americans. If they wanted everyone to work together they would not have done what they did in 2010 electing a room full of know-nothings. Second they don’t give a rat’s rather Congress works together or not, they want the economy to get better. My argument is and has been that for this Congress to work together, that would require total capitulation by Democrats to what the President has so eloquently pointed out are failed ideas:
“After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that have stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for too many years. Their philosophy is simple: we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules. Well, I’m here to say they are wrong. I’m here to reaffirm my deep conviction that we are greater together than we are on our own….
‘The market will take care of everything,’ they tell us. If only we cut more regulations and cut more taxes – especially for the wealthy – our economy will grow stronger…It’s a simple theory – one that speaks to our rugged individualism and healthy skepticism of too much government. It fits well on a bumper sticker. Here’s the problem: It doesn’t work. It’s never worked. It didn’t work when it was tried in the decade before the Great Depression. It’s not what led to the incredible post-war boom of the 50s and 60s. And it didn’t work when we tried it during the last decade.”
So if you are an eternal optimist like I am, you think maybe this is it. Maybe he finally gets it that compromise and accommodation with failed policies simply won’t work. The Republicans have certainly made this quite clear to him since they won’t work with him anyway. So will he finally lay out a real program for our future and admit that this is a battle for our soul? He has definitely laid the ground work by laying out and reinforcing the vision of Teddy Roosevelt those 101 years ago when he said:
“But what hasn’t changed – what can never change – are the values that got us this far. We still have a stake in each other’s success. We still believe that this should be a place where you can make it if you try. And we still believe, in the words of the man (Teddy Roosevelt)who called for a New Nationalism all those years ago, ‘The fundamental rule in our national life – the rule which underlies all others – is that, on the whole, and in the long run, we shall go up or down together.’ “
This is the antithesis of Republican ideology. This is the argument for the role of government in our lives. Now he needs to take the battle into the lair of the beast. He needs to take on Mitch McConnell and the Republicans by name and start hammering home this message. If he does, there is still time to turn this ship of state around. Oh, and one last thought. It was the 99% who has focused this battle for us and I can just hope they get stronger and louder. We can argue about the solutions, but until we were focused on the real problem we were running in the wrong direction. Maybe leadership has finally taken hold.
Note: The full text of the speech is on the Washington Post Web Site.