In a historic moment, Obama’s second inauguration speech was unapologetically liberal with numerous references to core Democratic ideals.
On a day celebrating Dr. Martin Luther’s King’s legacy, Obama acknowledged the civil rights struggles of women, blacks, and gays. He reminded Americans that equality is good for a civilized society, and that inequality invites repression and violence.
He also reminded us that we are not a culture of takers and freeloaders, and that we should aspire to being a culture of caretakers. We are judged by how well we treat seniors, the disabled, veterans, and the poor — and Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid are representations of a humanistic rather than a socialist society.
Some of these values are counter to the conservative movement that began with Ronald Reagan. But Obama’s speech also confirmed that the majority of Americans embrace his leadership and path forward. Obama won in spite of four years of bitter distractions from the likes of birthers, race baiters, and Donald Trump.
The American tapestry has changed demographically from the Reagan era, and some of the values that embodied that period of time have changed, too. This transformation isn’t recognizable to some conservatives and the anger toward this president is regularly heard on radio and television.
Their anxiety is understandable, and it may be the reason Obama placed so much emphasis on unity and working together on the country’s problems.
But to address these problems,Obama will have to convince more Americans that the decline of the middle class is directly linked to education, health, and economic inequalities that have grown worse over the last three decades.
And he’ll have to convince the leaders of both parties that voters won’t reward them for sitting on solutions when there’s plenty of common ground.