I thought the President did well by making it a thematic speech — he has the State of the Union in three weeks for policy. This speech was a meditation on who we are, what we believe and stand for, and sets the tone for addressing our specific problems next month.
He reminded us how far we have come from four years ago — “My fellow Americans, we are made for this moment.” Can you imagine his saying that in January 2009, when it would have sounded cruel and sadistic, given that our collective fortunes were still in a downward spiral and we had no clue where the bottom was?
He also reminded us how low we have sunk — “We cannot…treat name-calling as reasoned debate.”
And he effectively turned the tables on those who call him an exotic extremist, by affirming that we as a country have reached a consensus about what was achieved in the New Deal and the Great Society, and we are not going back. He showed who the real extremists are.
And he called on us to stop that extreme minority who don’t represent our values:
“You and I, as citizens, have the power to set this country’s course. You and I, as citizens, have the obligation to shape the debates of our time — not only with the votes we cast, but with the voices we lift in defense of our most ancient values and enduring ideals.”
The crazies in Congress are a minority of their majority in the House and a minority of their minority in the Senate. The President said that we can’t let these people set and control our agenda, that it wasn’t enough to re-elect him, we have to help him with phone calls and petitions, with marches and money.
To me, this is a time to forge new winning coalitions. Those who don’t have or want a gun must join with those who want their guns only for hunting, personal protection, and recreational range shooting because there are many more of us than those who want to stockpile military-style weapons and ammunition. This isn’t about urban/suburban Americans versus rural Americans, it is about the non-paranoid many against the paranoid few.
The great divide right now is not between Democrats and Republicans, but between rational Republicans and irrational ones. It is up to reasonable people of both parties to undertake the “common effort and common purpose” the President summoned us to, so we may “carry into an uncertain future that precious light of freedom.”