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“The era of liberalism is back”

Those were the chilling words uttered by Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell after he heard President Obama’s inaugural address on Monday.

It just so happens that a movie camera was aimed at me when I read McConnell’s words, and here is how I reacted:

McConnell elaborated:

“An unabashedly, far left-of-center inauguration speech certainly brings back memories of the Democratic Party of ages past.”

In case you missed it, here is the speech that provoked McConnell’s dismay and my frenzied response– after all, according to some of our commenters, I deserve much of the blame.

I assume these are some of the lines that gave McConnell the vapors:

The patriots of 1776 did not fight to replace the tyranny of a king with the privileges of a few or the rule of a mob. They gave to us a Republic, a government of, and by, and for the people, entrusting each generation to keep safe our founding creed.
…..
Together, we determined that a modern economy requires railroads and highways to speed travel and commerce; schools and colleges to train our workers.

Together, we discovered that a free market only thrives when there are rules to ensure competition and fair play.

Together, we resolved that a great nation must care for the vulnerable, and protect its people from life’s worst hazards and misfortune.

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise; our insistence on hard work and personal responsibility, are constants in our character.

But we have always understood that when times change, so must we; that fidelity to our founding principles requires new responses to new challenges; that preserving our individual freedoms ultimately requires collective action. For the American people can no more meet the demands of today’s world by acting alone than American soldiers could have met the forces of fascism or communism with muskets and militias.
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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.
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[W]e 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. 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.
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We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it.
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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.

As Jon Stewart observed, Obama was the first president to mention a gay bar in an inaugural address since Rutherford B. Hayes reminisced about working at The Loaded Musket.

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. Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love we commit to one another must be equal as well. Our journey is not complete until no citizen is forced to wait for hours to exercise the right to vote. 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; until bright young students and engineers are enlisted in our workforce rather than expelled from our country. 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.

If McConnell and other Republicans think that’s scary, they should see the latest NBC-Wall Street Journal poll.

According to the poll, 49% hold a negative view of the Republican Party — its highest negative rating in the survey since 2008. (In fact, it’s been higher than 49% just once in the entire history of the NBC/WSJ poll.) Only 26% have a positive view of the GOP. By comparison, the Democratic Party has a net positive rating, with 44% holding a favorable view of the party and 38% holding an unfavorable one. And the conservative Tea Party movement, which took off in Obama’s first year as president, also finds its popularity at an all-time low in the poll, with an upside-down fav/unfav of 23%/47%. What’s more, just 14 percent of adults approve of Congress’ job (which is near the all-time low in the poll), while 81 percent disapprove (which is close to its all-time high). By the way, most of the recent negative movement for the GOP is among core Republicans. The GOP was already viewed very negatively by Democrats and indies; it couldn’t really get much worse with those two groups. So this latest shift for the GOP is due to the fact that a growing number of core Republicans were not happy with how the party handled the fiscal cliff.