And The Gloves Come Off: Welcome to Obama 2.0

Waving “hello!” to the second term

With the sacred oath of office and the conclusion of the inaugural address, we have officially entered the second term of Barack Obama’s presidency. Presidential inaugurations are typically very formulaic: left hand on the Bible, right hand up in the air; a nod to equality here, a toast to freedom there. But this year’s address has left all of us aflutter for one reason or another.

Being a liberal and having voted for Mr. Obama twice now, I found myself surprised by how moving a basic legal ceremony could be. We’re at a turning point: we’ve spent the last four years watching our President strive to quash partisanship and cultivate a more inclusive society, and hitting wall after wall in the process. In an effort to stay above the fray, his manner and speech have been extremely even-keel and accommodating, respectful to the very end. I respect this about our President, but I have to admit I’ve been waiting for the gloves to come off on some matters, and I think many of you are with me on this. This inauguration was a refreshing change, a turning point in and of itself, and a fabulous opportunity to witness the extremely conservative squirm.

The Republicans cry over a “liberal agenda” that breeds partisanship, dragging our country along a path less and less recognizable to them. They have stated a need for the President to bend and mold to what are ultimately their needs, to extend yet another olive branch out to the Republican Party.

Obama is a leader who is able to learn from the past and adapt to shape the future. He has seen, as we have all seen that the last four years (or the last twelve years, for that matter) that one side keeps giving and appeasing, while the other side piles on greater and more ludicrous demands. He has seen that this strategy has not borne fruit. This time the answer seems clear: we are going to work together, Republicans with Democrats whether Republicans like it or not, and this togetherness will strengthen our nation and recognize those issues the conservative media outlets view as too liberal, even socialist.

Top spots on the coveted list of dangerous liberal goals go to preventing climate change, ensuring equal rights for gay Americans, and easing the passage to citizenship and legal employment for immigrant populations. These are not new goals, nor are they new ideas. Going back to Obama’s 2009 presidential inauguration speech, these ideas are all present; they are simply wrapped in more poetic clothing. This time the poetic gloves are off, and these important issues are out, loud and proud, where everyone can see them.

The President is showing comparatively liberal teeth at the start of his second term. There were innumerable references to the collective identity of America, of the need to recognize and understand our interconnectedness, as seen through the framework of our founding principles. Rhetorical though it may be, this perspective can be seen as an attempt at bringing us all together at a time when it is most necessary.

Call it a liberal agenda if you want; hell, call it a Socialist agenda, but please do us all a favor and go look up the definition of Socialism before you go flinging it around. If you call it lop-sided and partisan, can you justify your claims? By stating clearly and explicitly the intention to fight for the future of our children through environmental stewardship, for equal treatment of Americans of any sexual orientation, and for the chance to continue to grow and cultivate our culture through friendlier immigration policies, Obama is if anything acting in a very non-partisan manner. These are issues that transcend Party and affect everyone. If you want to argue that a decent quality of life for all Americans, both living and not yet born, is unimportant, be prepared to justify that position. President Obama said it very well, and I think it applies here: absolutism is not the same as principle, name calling should not be regarded as well-ordered debate, and our country must carry on without resorting to the use of mob tactics or petty coups, and we are all being held to this standard.

 

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Image source: Chicago Sun Times