Obama’s speech is different. To some extent it exposes people to new ideas. But to a greater extent, perhaps, it shows how movements which only a few years ago were thought to be on the run have, in at least one major party, carried the day. This is not a small thing.
Update: Interesting commentary from across the pond at The Guardian.
Update: Charles Pierce approves.
The speech was a bold refutation of almost everything the Republican party has stood for over the past 40 years. It was a loud — and, for this president, damned near derisive — denouncement of all the mindless, reactionary bunkum that the Republicans have come to stand for in 2013; you could hear the sound of the punch he landed on the subject of global warming halfway to Annapolis. But the meat of the speech was a brave assertion of the power of government, not as an alien entity, but as an instrument of the collective will and desires of a self-governing people.
Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law, for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal, as well.Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity, until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm. That is our generation’s task, to make these works, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.
We are not free because we are individuals, the president told them, daring them to hold two ideas in their heads at a time without their brains leaking out of their ears. We are free because, as individuals we work together in the creative act of self-government to produce a viable political commonwealth in which that freedom can thrive and prosper, and the primary instrument of that commonwealth is the government we devise out of it. That government must be allowed to function. That government must be allowed to operate for this freedom to be generally achieved.
Progress does not compel us to settle century’s long debates about the role of government for all time, but it does require us to act in our time. For now, decisions are upon us and we cannot afford delay. We cannot mistake absolutism for principle or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.