State of the Union: No More Mr. Nice President
Obama needs to go beyond doubling down on his progressive agenda and take a stab at boldly defining the nation's political narrative.
—By David Corn
| Tue Jan. 28, 2014 3:00 AM GMT
A year ago, President Barack Obama delivered two speeches that sent a clear signal: His second term would be much devoted to a progressive agenda. In his second inaugural speech, he reaffirmed the progressive tradition of the nation, celebrating the value of "collective action," defending the social safety net, and challenging the tea party's core message. (Government programs, he said, "do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.") The policy matters he raised were left-of-center priorities: protecting Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security, addressing climate change, ensuring equal pay for women, promoting marriage equality, ending the wars he inherited, securing immigration reform, opposing restrictive voter identification programs, and building infrastructure. Three weeks later, in a State of the Union address, Obama reiterated that he would pursue a distinctly progressive to-do list that included universal preschool, boosting the minimum wage, and passing gun safety legislation in the wake of the horrific massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Yet the fifth year of his presidency turned out not to be a grand time of progressive achievement, and in the State of the Union speech he will deliver Tuesday night, Obama faces a challenge: how to advance this progressive agenda in a way that it doesn't seem doomed.
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