by Ben Cohen
I've come down on the President for what I regard as a failure to stand up for a comprehensive public option during his speech to congress last night. But what I will give him credit for is his impassioned defense of Liberalism.
Liberalism is a strain of political thought abused, ridiculed and spat at for the past 30 years in America. It's failure was mostly due to Republicans determined to strip the country of its welfare and education system, enacted through a corporate financed campaign of disinformation and lies. The notion of the State as a force for good was relentlessly battered into submission, and most of its function dismantled under Reagan, Clinton, and both Bush Administrations (the latter virtually destroying the entire country until grownups took over).
But as the country pulls back from the brink of disaster, the role of government is finally making a come back. While the Republicans try to pretend it isn't, the public knows full well the road to economic recovery requires strong action by the Federal Government. They know that poverty cannot be solved solely by markets, and they know that a functioning healthcare system must be built by the government, and not private, for profit insurance companies.
Barack Obama articulated that feeling last night, and put it into human words that defined welfare as an obligation to your neighbor, and healthcare as a moral duty. It was a much needed boost to the Left, and a proud assertion of an ideology that liberals have been ashamed of for far too long.
Part of the reason why Obama has the potential to be a great President is his ability to define moral issues, and shift the boundaries of debate with his extraordinary oratory powers.
I have criticized his actions, but I do not want to undervalue the power of his words. I'd like to see more meaningful reform than meaningful vocabulary, but perhaps the former is not possible without the latter.
Maybe Obama is laying the foundation for more serious reform by shifting the paradigm of the debate. Maybe his plans for comprehensive healthcare are more far reaching than he is letting on, and maybe, just maybe, he'll be the President to get it done