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Wednesday, November 07, 2012

Obama claims victory for his "United States"

Obama thrilled the country at the 2004 DNC when for the first time on the national stage he decried the division of the country into red states and blue states, asserting "there's not a liberal America and a conservative America; there's the United States of America."  Conversely, when he told the country's citizens at the 2012 DNC  that the election in 2008 "wasn't about me...you were the change," some viewed that as a cop-out of sorts: I failed to change Washington, so you do it. Gone were the promises to bridge the red-blue divide himself with the GOP Congress; he wrote them off as dead-enders, and effectively asked the electorate to change Congress by expression of popular will.

Obama's victory speech last night further elaborated the connection between the national unity he has always asserted and the political "change" he seeks. The heart of it came at the end. After telling the tale of a couple whose daughter's leukemia would have cost them everything had Obamacare not kicked in, he said, describing a crowd listening to the father tell his story:

every parent in that room had tears in their eyes, because we knew that little girl could be our own.

And I know that every American wants her future to be just as bright. That’s who we are. That’s the country I’m so proud to lead as your president.

"That little girl could be our own."  That's the link between asserting national unity and insisting that change comes from the bottom up.

Obama's whole career has been a bid to move the center left to correct its rightward lurch since 1980.  His pitch is based on an historical argument that the country has thrived because it has continually committed itself  to shared prosperity, investment in the common good, that is, in human capital and the closest we can get to equal opportunity and general security. That commitment has been extended  in ever-widening circles (which conservatives would call ever-expanding government).  That's what "a more perfect union" means to him: he sees unity in commitment, ratified in legislation, to the common good. That's why, after four years of unrelenting  partisan combat that he tried all too long and too hard to short-circuit, he was able, last night, to come full circle at the close:
America, I believe we can build on the progress we’ve made and continue to fight for new jobs and new opportunity and new security for the middle class. I believe we can keep the promise of our founders, the idea that if you’re willing to work hard, it doesn’t matter who you are or where you come from or what you look like or where you love. It doesn’t matter whether you’re black or white or Hispanic or Asian or Native American or young or old or rich or poor, able, disabled, gay or straight, you can make it here in America if you’re willing to try.

I believe we can seize this future together because we are not as divided as our politics suggests. We’re not as cynical as the pundits believe. We are greater than the sum of our individual ambitions, and we remain more than a collection of red states and blue states. We are and forever will be the United States of America.
He was effectively saying, I won this argument.

Related:
How's that 'more perfect union' working out?
Obama's theory of change
Obama maintains hope, but not in comity

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