President Obama traveled to the site of Teddy Roosevelt’s “New Nationalism” speech in order to deliver an address on the economy. The most striking thing about the President’s remarks was the extent to which they appear to have been influenced by the Occupy movement. Obama segued from one assertion of economic inequality to another as he insisted that “in America, we are greater together – when everyone engages in fair play, everyone gets a fair shot, everyone does their fair share.”
That is the call of the Occupiers in a nutshell. It is a campaign to restore fairness and justice and to take back control of the government from the wealthy special interests it has come to serve. If you missed the speech, I’ll save you twenty minutes by posting the one paragraph that summarizes the core of the message:
“Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that’s happened, after the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that have stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for too many years. Their philosophy is simple: we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.”
Indeed, the Collective Amnesia Ward is overflowing with patients who not only are suffering from the malady, they want to infect every American with the disease. In fact, the only way that they can prevail next November is to spread the amnesiac virus beyond the community of conservative Republicans who are most susceptible to it. And if that one message is effectively communicated by the Obama reelection committee, the President will serve a second term.
On the other hand, the paragraph following the one above reiterated one of Obama’s most severe flaws. He still believes that there is a commonality of interest between his principles of inclusion and the Republican obsession with power. He believes that that by embracing a universal American togetherness the GOP will cease to demonize him and join the effort to rebuild the nation. It starts off well enough, but crashes and burns at the end.
“I’m here to reaffirm my deep conviction that we are greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules. Those aren’t Democratic or Republican values; 1% values or 99% values. They’re American values, and we have to reclaim them.”
To argue that the 1% and the 99% share common American values is evidence of a dangerous blind spot. What Obama is missing here, and what he has missed for the past three years, is that there is a massive chasm between Democratic and Republican values. Whereas Democrats aspire (at least rhetorically) to empower the middle-class, the Republicans freely admit that their top objective is destroy Obama. That simple truth ought to be enough to convince the President that he is not going to recruit any allies in the fight for fairness and economic renewal from the ranks of the establishment GOP.
To illustrate the determination of the right-wing to throw every available obstacle into Obama’s path, Fox News cut away from the speech about half way through. Apparently they wanted to protect their fragile viewers from this subversive philosophy. By tonight Fox will be castigating the speech as a paean to socialism owing to its praise for working together. And the pressing news that demanded the interruption of the President was that Megyn Kelly had an interview with Michele Bachmann, who has about as much chance of becoming the Republican nominee as Miss Piggy.
On the whole the speech was another validation of the Occupy movement. This speech would not have been written a year ago. The public debate has been utterly transformed in the two and a half months since an unruly rabble encamped in a park in Lower Manhattan. Today the Republicans are “frightened to death” of the prospect of average Americans ascending to the top of the political food chain. And the President of the United States of America gave a speech honoring the notion that “We still have a stake in each other’s success.”