The Washington Post

The President liberals were waiting for is (finally) here

Today in his second inaugural address, President Obama became the progressive leader that many liberals thought they were getting when they voted him into office four years ago.


Couched in rhetoric about the need to come together as a country was a strong -- and surprisingly pointed -- invocation of a laundry list of progressive principles: gay rights, voting rights, climate change and the inherent value of entitlement programs like Medicare and Social Security.

In addition to endorsing that progressive policy agenda, Obama also not-so-subtly criticized what he clearly believes is the hijacking of the Republican party by rank ideologues. "We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate," said Obama.

This was a speech that could only be given by someone who knew that he would never have to run for re-election again. (Compare Obama's rhetoric today with the inaugural speech he gave in 2009; they are very different addresses.) This was Obama unbound. Distill Obama's speech to a single sentence and that sentence is: "I'm the president, deal with it."

Obama's rhetoric matches what seems to be a marked change in his approach to legislation -- and Congressional Republicans -- since he won re-election last fall. On both the fiscal cliff and debt ceiling showdowns, Obama outlined his position and stuck to it, forcing Republicans to either move in his direction or run the risk of engaging in a public political fight with him. Both times, Republicans blinked.

The question going forward is whether President Obama will make good on the progressive agenda he outlined today. Does he push hard on climate change or some sort of broader energy policy? Does he cut a deal with Republicans on immigration reform or go it alone believing they will follow? On guns, will he accept a smaller-bore version of the legislative proposals he outlined last week or go for the whole enchilada (or something close to it)?

Those questions are, at the moment, impossible to answer. What we do know: In his second inaugural speech, President Obama forcefully embraced the sort of progressive agenda for which liberals -- and Democrats more broadly -- have long pined.

Chris Cillizza writes “The Fix,” a politics blog for the Washington Post. He also covers the White House.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Comments
Show Comments
The Democrats debated Thursday night. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Chris Cillizza on the Democratic debate...
On Clinton: She poked a series of holes in Sanders's health-care proposal and broadly cast him as someone who talks a big game but simply can't hope to achieve his goals.

On Sanders: If the challenge was to show that he could be a candidate for people other than those who already love him, he didn't make much progress toward that goal. But he did come across as more well-versed on foreign policy than in debates past.
The PBS debate in 3 minutes
Quoted
We are in vigorous agreement here.
Hillary Clinton, during the PBS Democratic debate, a night in which she and Sanders shared many of the same positions on issues
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the polls as he faces rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz heading into the S.C. GOP primary on Feb. 20.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 18%
Fact Checker
Trump’s claim that his border wall would cost $8 billion
The billionaire's claim is highly dubious. Based on the costs of the Israeli security barrier (which is mostly fence) and the cost of the relatively simple fence already along the U.S.-Mexico border, an $8 billion price tag is simply not credible.
Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio
The complicated upcoming voting schedule
Feb. 20

Democrats caucus in Nevada; Republicans hold a primary in South Carolina.

Feb. 23

Republicans caucus in Nevada.

Feb. 27

Democrats hold a primary in South Carolina.

Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands
Most Read

politics

the-fix

Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.