This past Tuesday, Obama appeared before a joint session of Congress to deliver his State of the Union address. Normally such fanfare is a clear indication of the priorities of the administration for that coming year. In 2009 and 2010, we heard Obama talk about bringing the economy from the brink and passing universal health care reform. In 2011 and 2012 we saw Obama strike a more conciliatory reform about the devastating defeat in the midterm elections as he looked for ways to work with Congress on bipartisan concepts like deficit reduction.
But after his decisive victory Nov. 6, Obama walked into Congress and gave what were probably his more forceful defense and rationale for a progressive and liberal government — and it was a welcome sight to see.
From concepts like infrastructure spending and minimum wage increase to climate change legislation and gun control legislation, Obama pressed Congress to take up popular, center-left concepts to better this nation.
Over the past two years, we have continuously listened to Obama talk about the threat of the deficit and how we needed to cut spending and create a “grand bargain” in order to tame it. But in this speech, he mainly focused on how we need to protect and improve our entitlements and grow our economy before we go about cutting massive amounts of government spending.
The reason this is significant is because ever since President Clinton declared the “era of big government is over,” Democrats have been too fearful to make the case that government spending is beneficial to the economy and higher taxes on the well-off isn’t a bad thing for growth and wealth of a nation. Democrats were once too fearful to make the case that used to define their party and this nation during the 30s through the late 70s. But now Obama and Democrats are making a winning argument according to public polls; the average citizen wants a government that works and provides more than simply national defense.
The significance of this is because instead of Democrats fighting on Republican turf, trying to out do the other with how much they can cut the deficit or who the biggest hawk on foreign policy is, they are shifting the battle toward Democratic issues. They are pushing issues the public supports them on: stricter gun laws, minimum wage increases, infrastructure, and education investment–and other center-left policies that the majority supports. The best part in my opinion about the SOTU was the fact Obama made the forceful defense for not only helping middle class families, but the “working poor” who desperately need help in this tough economy.
The president, who stepped up to the podium this past Tuesday was the president I voted for in November. He is fundamentally trying to shift the nation back to where it once stood, as a nation that cared for and worked for the majority of Americans and not the various corporate and wealthy interests that have dominated D.C. for too long. He seemed prepared to fight for equality not just in the eyes of the law but in a general economic fairness that is so refreshing to see from a Democratic president. There is no guarantee this will last, but one can only hope this Obama is here to stay.
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