So much for compromise!
An energetic Barak Obama, buoyed by high approval ratings and free from the prospect of another election, bounded to the podium last night and laid out a very ambitious agenda for his second term. The president, clearly riding the winds of his re-election victory, challenged congress to act on a long laundry list of initiatives that are certain to send small government conservatives reeling.
The president spoke about immigration reform, entitlement reform, tax reform, deficit reduction, climate change, clean energy, voting rights, equal pay for equal work and gay rights; all within the framework of how government can play a large part in bringing about these reforms.
The president also wagged his finger at North Korea over their recent nuclear test and repeated his long standing admonition about Iran’s nuclear program. But this was a night for domestic policy.
While the president spent most of his time repeating the same things that he has been saying for the past four years there, were some new proposals as well.
The president called for an increase in the minimum wage to $9.00 saying: “In the richest country in the world, people who work hard 40 hours a week should not live in poverty.” And he called for universal pre-school all four year olds saying that studies show that the sooner that kids begin to learn the more likely they are to graduate high school, get a higher education and become successful.
But the high point of the night was when the president touched on gun control. He spoke about the parents of Hadiya Pendleton who were sitting in the gallery next to Mrs. Obama. Their daughter had been accidentally shot by gang members when the person she was with was mistaken for a rival. The incident occurred mere blocks from the president’s Chicago home. Hadiya had performed in the president’s inauguration only a few short weeks before.
The president challenged congress to bring his gun control proposals to the floor for an up or down vote. Referring to the Pendletons he said: “They deserve a vote. Gabby Giffords deserves a vote. The families of Newtown deserve a vote. The families of Aurora, and Oak Creek, and Tucson, and Blacksburg…they deserve a vote.” Legislators erupted in applause and cheers as the president’s words filled the chamber.
The president is well aware of his high approval ratings and of the dismal approval ratings of his opponents in congress. It was clear to us that he intended to use that information to his advantage. We didn’t hear “compromise” in the president’s tone. We heard “confrontation.”
Watching the president speak, we couldn’t help but feel like he was burning his bridges with the current congress. It was as if he was lecturing them on how they should do their job because he knows full well that this group has no intention of passing his progressive agenda. We felt like he was talking directly to the American people, saying: ‘This is what we need to do. And if you return control of the House to Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats we will get these things done.”
This is the progressive Barak Obama that liberals have been waiting for since he was first elected. This is the progressive Barak Obama that conservatives have long feared would someday step out from the political shadows.
Let the battle begin.