Monday, January 21, 2013

Act 2, Take 2, Term 2

So it happened. President Obama has been inaugurated into his second term. And in his speech today, he made clear how he plans to use that second term.

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There was much that the President accomplished in his first term. He brought back the economy from the brink of depression and let it heal. He did what no other President could do before in overhauling the nation's health care system and expanding access to a record number of Americans. He caught Osama bin Laden and crippled al-Qaeda. And he ended the Iraq War while putting in motion the conclusion to the Afghanistan War.

However, there's still more to do. And Mr. President will have the chance to do that in his second term. And Mr. President took a much more aggressive tone, and a much more progressive tone, today in outlining his second term agenda.

How progressive was this speech? The first specific policy matter Obama brought up was combating climate change.

How progressive was this speech? The president offered a not-so-subtle rebuke to the ideology he defeated in last year's election: "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."

How progressive was this speech? Looking abroad, Obama said we "must be a source of hope to the poor, the sick, the marginalized, the victims of prejudice --not out of mere charity, but because peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice."

How progressive was this speech? It was the first inaugural address to specifically support gay rights. Obama also told the nation, "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; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth."

How progressive was this speech? The inaugural address also decried long voting lines, demanded immigration reform, and referenced the need to reduce gun violence.

If Obama's speech today is indicative of how and where he intends to lead the nation over the next four years, there's reason for optimism. The president could have pursued a more modest, narrow course, but he instead chose an ambitious defense of progressive ideals.

So President Obama's words today cheered many progressives. However, they will still be looking for action to match these words. They want to see a rigorous defense of America's social safety net. They want to see America take the offense on climate protection. They want to see a renewed commitment to championing equality for all. And they want to see a continuing push for gun safety reform.

Yet now, progressives are encouraged going forward. And most Americans demand action on these matters, just as they still demand action on furthering economic recovery & growth.

President Obama is ready to act. However, he can't act alone. He needs for Congress to act as well. Is Harry Reid prepared to move the Senate into action? And can John Boehner finally get past the "tea party" and its knee-jerk opposition to anything & everything proposed by President Obama so that the House can finally function as the other house of Congress?

President Obama's second term has officially begun. He now has a second chance to address issues that didn't get enough attention in his first term. And he has a chance to build on all the successes he achieved in his first term. Now it's time for Congress to join with him in action. This is a second chance for them, too.

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