A Million On The Mall: Our President’s Progressive Pivot-Point?

Before the election reporters and pundits were saying that not so many people would turn out this time, that it would be close at best. But on election day it turned out that it wasn’t even close. The people did turn out, some waiting in lines four, five, six hours to vote, many using provisional ballots because their states were trying to stop them. We, the People had a clear choice in front of us and We, the People made a clear choice.

Then, immediately after the election the “Very Serious People” tried to force through continued tax breaks for the wealthy paid for by cuts in the things the American people do to make each other’s lives better. People got involved and organized and it didn’t work out quite the way the one-percenters and their Very Serious spokespeople wanted it to work out.

For President Obama’s second inaugural the reporters were saying that not so many people would show up on the Mall this time. (“Assignment editor” Drudge had that up so that’s what much of the career media were repeating.) But from the inauguration stage at the Capitol Barack Obama looked out and saw as many as a million people on the National Mall cheering him on. People did show up.


This inaugural speech was a speech by a man who had heard his own words in the campaign, heard what his opponent was saying, and heard what We, the People showed up to clearly state our choice on Election Day. This was a solidly progressive speech and it reflected what the American people had voted for.

…we, the people, understand that our country cannot succeed when a shrinking few do very well and a growing many barely make it. We believe that America’s prosperity must rest upon the broad shoulders of a rising middle class. We know that America thrives when every person can find independence and pride in their work; when the wages of honest labor liberate families from the brink of hardship. We are true to our creed when a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else, because she is an American; she is free, and she is equal, not just in the eyes of God but also in our own.

… we reject the belief that America must choose between caring for the generation that built this country and investing in the generation that will build its future. (Applause.) For we remember the lessons of our past, when twilight years were spent in poverty and parents of a child with a disability had nowhere to turn.

We do not believe that in this country freedom is reserved for the lucky, or happiness for the few. We recognize that no matter how responsibly we live our lives, any one of us at any time may face a job loss, or a sudden illness, or a home swept away in a terrible storm. The commitments we make to each other through Medicare and Medicaid and Social Security, these things do not sap our initiative, they strengthen us. They do not make us a nation of takers; they free us to take the risks that make this country great.

… We, the people, declare today that the most evident of truths –- that all of us are created equal –- is the star that guides us still; just as it guided our forebears through Seneca Falls, and Selma, and Stonewall; just as it guided all those men and women, sung and unsung, who left footprints along this great Mall, to hear a preacher say that we cannot walk alone; to hear a King proclaim that our individual freedom is inextricably bound to the freedom of every soul on Earth.

It is now our generation’s task to carry on what those pioneers began. For our journey is not complete until our wives, our mothers and daughters can earn a living equal to their efforts. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law –- (applause) — for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until we find a better way to welcome the striving, hopeful immigrants who still see America as a land of opportunity — (applause) — until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. (Applause.) Our journey is not complete until all our children, from the streets of Detroit to the hills of Appalachia, to the quiet lanes of Newtown, know that they are cared for and cherished and always safe from harm.

That is our generation’s task — to make these words, these rights, these values of life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness real for every American.

And one more thing:

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.

All you have to do is show up.

Was this a progressive pivot-point for our president? Has he learned that We, the People will have his back if he pushes for things that We, the People want and need?

We will see. But it sure sounded like it.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America’s Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.
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