Just a quick post on my thoughts on President Obama’s second inaugural address.
Like many liberals, I enjoyed the President’s speech a lot. I loved hearing Obama explicitly say he wants to take on climate change. I loved the explicit comment on LGBT couples and equal rights. I loved the focus on economic inequality and the need to promote free, fair markets.
In the end though, the speech did not say much new and it doesn’t change the congressional obstruction the President faces. Republicans aren’t going to agree to cap-and-trade because Obama mentioned climate change in his inaugural address (see his 2009 inaugural address). So, the only thing I’m left with in the end is that the speech doesn’t matter.
How many of the President’s speeches have truly mattered? The bully pulpit is a lot less powerful than people think, especially when you’re facing an opponent (the Tea Party) who won’t be swayed by changes in public opinion. The more Obama promotes ideas the Tea Party doesn’t agree with (even if the public supports those ideas), the more Tea Party Congressmen will attempt to block all legislation. The only thing that works against such an opponent is leverage, as seen in the final fiscal cliff deal and the House Republican’s new willingness to pass a three-month debt ceiling increase.
On the opposite side, liberals were certainly happy with the ideas and values the President outlined. Hearing those ideas in such an important, public address reignites hope they will become the major accomplishments of Obama’s second term. But the political realities are the same and no speech is going to change anything. If anything, it’s only going to anger Republicans more and increase their obstructionism. Thinking of this speech as a major turning point in Obama’s time in office or the moment where Republicans will finally come around to working with the President is naive. Obstructionism will reign once again. In just a few short months, Democrats and Republicans will be bickering over a new continuing resolution to fund the government and we will risk a government shutdown. That was true yesterday and it’s true today. It’s true tomorrow as well and no speech is going to change that. (Image via)