As I listened to the president who I voted for, who I will almost undoubtedly vote for again ask the questions tonight of where would we be if Lincoln had not built the intercontinental railroad despite the civil war? Or started the National Academy of Sciences? where would we be right now if the people who sat here before us decided not to build our highways and our bridges; our dams and our airports? What would this country be like if we had chosen not to spend money on public high schools, or research universities, or community colleges? How many jobs would it have cost us if past Congresses decided not to support the basic research that led to the Internet and the computer chip?
As I heard him say those things I could not help but think “where were these words 2 years ago when you had to sell the American public on what government could do?” Where were these words when you started from such a position of weakness by throwing a Republican party incentives even when the party had no desire to support you in anything you ever did no matter what? For years democrats have been afraid to try to sell the American public one what Government has done and the many ways it has been the vision of our leaders in the past that has helped contribute to the great country we have today.
Instead we sit in a country where people want to go backwards. Where the accomplishments and the progress we made for so many years are threatened with demise. It's an easy to sell to say that “you can spend your money better than the government.” Or that government is too big. It is particularly easy when government gets as nasty as it has in recent years. When the business becomes winning elections instead of taking care of the American people. People can fathom that.
It's a much harder sell to try to explain all that government has done in the past to make this country great.
FDR once said: Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country.
When the government invests in our future on a large scale its doing the type of investment that cannot be done by one or two people. The intercontinental railroad spurned industry in so many ways. It connected the country in ways it had not been before. Can you imagine a world without roads to drive on or highways to travel on? We certainly would not be living the life we are today. The government funded universities that have done some of our best research that have pioneered innovation like the internet. For years people have not been willing to make that case.
People do not think about all the ways these government investments, the foresight our past leaders had to push these programs...they do no realize how much they have pushed American on and enhanced our every day lives. They do not realize it because they cannot see a world without. Well the sad truth is we are pushing to a world without it and the politics of the last 20-30 years...the failure of government to act with foresight, to invest in infrastructure and the future of America has been leading us down the hole we are in right now.
We needed a bigger, badder stimulus two years ago. We needed to fix two decades of government stagnation. Of a world where Congress lived election to election afraid to do anything at all. Had the democrats lost the house, and senate and white house actually stepping up to the plate and doing what was right I would have been alright with that. But now we sit and the accomplishments of this Administration have been minor. Yes I loved the repeal of don't ask don't tell, and the health care bill was a step in the right direction, but we needed more...instead we got appeasement. We got an administration that seemingly wanted to include a Republican party that had no desire to really be included unless they got their way.
So here we sit now... Obama says words that I have been waiting forever for a president, or any democratic leader, to say and yet he says them at a time where his ability to do anything of significance is nonexistent. The Democrats have already lost the house in historic fashion, the senate margin is thin, and Obama's approvals are at all time lows. Right now the president is acting from a position of weakness. This type of speech should have defined his presidency. He should have put his reelection hopes on what government could do and used his huge house and senate majorities to do it.
Instead he refused to make the hard sell. He tried to be all things to all people. Now the recovery we have had (and yes there has been some, just not enough, particularly in jobs) has leveled off. We did not do enough and Obama's reelection hopes mainly stem on the ineptitude of the opposition... either way his ability to do something truly historic, to change the tide of history back to one of vision that so many leaders of the past have shown, from Lincoln, to Teddy Roosevelt to FDR, Truman and JFK...to the many great congress men and women who did so much... to bring back a government that invests in its people and moves us towards a brighter future. That opportunity is lost now. And to me that may be the defining characteristic of Obama's presidency.