Obama to America: Now Is the Time to Stop Being Such Unapologetic Dicks:
Yesterday, President Barack Obama used his second inaugural address not merely to appeal to the better angels of Americans. No, he was more explicit. In essence, instead of conjuring the spirit of bipartisanship and unity, he said that it was time we all stop acting like such dicks, that we needed to toss the dicks and douchebags aside and get some shit done.
In one of the first lines of the speech, Obama told us who the biggest dicks among us are: "The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed." Now, putting aside that, yeah, a good many of the patriots of 1776 did kind of envision rule by white male landowners, what Obama was clearly doing was jabbing his finger in the eyes of both the wealthy oligarchy-mongers, like the Kochs, and the Tea Party, whose numbers are dwindling, but who have enough pitchforks and torches to fuck up the joint for the rest of us.
Obama's second inaugural was, as many in the commentariat have pointed out, one of the most genuinely liberal speeches he has given, with enough in there to make conservatives shit blood while progressives taste a moment of victory. The President offered a critique of the driving philosophy of modern conservatism, the isolationist individualism offered by the GOP. "[F]idelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action," Obama said. In other words, understand the government is the people, not the enemy of the people, and it's time to start acting like the federal government ain't the problem. It's the idiots who believe it is who are. "While the means will change, our purpose endures," he said, "a nation that rewards the effort and determination of every single American."
And the way to secure that, truly, is through the support of the very government that the conservatives scorn. Obama drew clear lines between the progress of the nation and progressivism. Indeed, the history he laid out was one where America advances only through the achievements of liberalism. In a final "Fuck you" to Mitt Romney and his crass critique of the poor as craven materialists, Obama said, "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."
More importantly, when Obama said, "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," it wasn't just that he was giving a shout-out to rights for women, blacks, and gays. It was that he was approving of the radical action and civil disobedience that are the means through which progress occurs. Yeah, it was awesome that he gave such full-throated support to gay marriage, but don't lose the larger historical meaning: Fuck shit up, if you have to, in order to ensure equality.
Unlike the Obama of 2009, who was caught up in the belief that we could all get along, this 2013 Obama is sick of the right's bullshit. He laid out the current progressive agenda - climate change, voter's rights, gun control, and more - in generic terms, but as part of the larger sweep of the advancement of the nation, the liberalizing of the country that has always kept us moving forward, except when the dicks stick out their stupid feet and try to trip us. And he asked us to work with him again to shove the dicks aside, to shove aside our own latent dickishness, inculcated in us by years of right-wing rhetoric. Let's hope he doesn't abandon us to try to do it all on his own, as he did in much of his first term.
We have a long, long way to go. The Rude Pundit is aware of the drone war that hangs over everything that Obama promises and accomplishes, casting a bloody pall on the presidency, making Obama seem more like LBJ than FDR. He is aware that the Obama administration has gone after some of the dissenters, like Bradley Manning and Aaron Swartz, among others. He is aware that it's all well and good to make the noble goals in the noble speech on the notable occasion.
It is something else entirely to follow through on the vision of a United States that is able to move out of the GOP-induced torpor into one that does something about the problems that afflict us. The Rude Pundit has said that we are a nation of selfish assholes, a distinctly American egotism. That needs to be transformed into national activism in order to leave the joint in better shape than we got it.
Four years ago, the Rude Pundit was in DC, in the Arctic chill with a couple of million people, listening to the new president. We were younger and drunk with hope. This year, he watched on TV from his warm living room. He saw an older president, but one who seems ready to fight. Let us hope that his follow through is as good as his punch.