June 19, 2006


Barack Obama: The End Of Small Politics: Editor's Note: These remarks are excerpted from a speech Obama delivered at the Take Back America conference on June 14, 2006. Click here to watch a video of the speech. (Barack Obama, June 19, 2006, AlterNet)

[W]hile the world has changed around us, unfortunately it seems like our government has stood still. Our faith has been shaken, but the people running Washington haven't been willing to make us believe again. Now, it's the timidity, it's the smallness of our politics that's holding us back right now -- the idea that there are some problems that are just too big to handle, and if you just ignore them that sooner or later they'll go away, so that if you talk about the statistics on the stock market being up or orders for durable goods being on the rise, that nobody's going to notice the single mom who's working two jobs and still doesn't have enough money at the end of the month to pay the bills. That if you say "plan for victory" often enough and have it pasted -- the words behind you when you make a speech, that nobody's going to notice the bombings in Baghdad or the 2,500 flag-draped coffins that have arrived at Dover Air force Base. The fact is we notice, we care, and we're not going to settle for less anymore. ...

I don't think that - I think George Bush loves this country. I really do. I don't think his administration is "full" of stupid people. ... The problem is not that the philosophy of this administration is not working the way it's supposed to work; the problem is that it is working the way it's supposed to work. They don't believe -- they don't believe that government has a role in solving national problems because they think government is the problem. They think that we're better off if we just dismantle government; if, in the form of tax breaks, we make sure that everybody's responsible for buying your own health care and your own retirement security and your own child care and your own schools, your own private security forces, your own roads, your own levees.

It is called the "ownership society" in Washington. But, you know, historically there has been another term for it; it's called "social Darwinism" -- the notion that every man or woman is out for him or her self, which allows us to say that if we meet a guy who has worked in a steel plant for 30, 40 years and suddenly has the rug pulled out from under him and can't afford health care or can't afford a pension, you know, life isn't fair. It allows us to say to a child who doesn't have the wisdom to choose his or her own parents and so lives in a poor neighborhood, pick yourself up by your own bootstraps. It allows us to say to somebody who is seeing their child sick and is going bankrupt paying the bills, tough luck.

It's a bracing idea, this idea that you're on your own. It's the simplest thing in the world, easy to put on a bumper sticker. But there's just one problem; it doesn't work. It ignores our history. Now, yes, our greatness as a nation has depended on self-reliance and individual initiative and a belief in the free market, but it's also depended on our sense of mutual regard for each other, our sense that we have a stake in each other's success -- that everybody should have a shot at opportunity.

Americans understand this. They know the government can't solve all their problems, but they expect the government can help because they know it's an expression of what they're learning in Sunday school. What they learn in their church, in their synagogue, in their mosque - a basic moral precept that says that I have to look out for you and I have responsibility for you and you have responsibility for me, that I am your keeper and you are mine. That's what America is.

And so I am eager to have this argument with the Republican Party about the core philosophy of America, about what our story is.

If he were eager to have the argument he wouldn't so cynically mischaracterize the politics of Blair/Clinton/Bush and would propose a set of alternatives to the Third Way. Of course, he can't, because the entire Anglosphere has rejected the Second Way.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 19, 2006 2:40 PM


Posted by: Tom C.,Stamford,Ct. at June 19, 2006 3:04 PM

Get your facts straight and get back to us.

Posted by: erp at June 19, 2006 4:03 PM

oj -

Have you not revised your assesment of the O-Bomb?

Posted by: ghostcat at June 19, 2006 4:36 PM

I think George Bush loves this country. I really do. I don't think his administration is "full" of stupid people....

Those two lines will probably send the Kos Kiddies into screaming fits of rage.

Posted by: Mike Morley at June 19, 2006 4:38 PM

Nope, he's still a lightweight, the black Joe Lieberman. Similarly though, he believes in and has prposed so little that he could easily ditch the Left and go Right, at which point he'd be formidable politically.

Posted by: oj at June 19, 2006 4:41 PM

Coulda sworn you initially saw him as The Great Black Hope.

Posted by: ghostcat at June 19, 2006 5:13 PM

He is, if he becomes a Republican. A black Democrat can't be elected president.

Posted by: oj at June 19, 2006 5:20 PM

I'm from the government, I'm here to help you...(run away run away!)

Posted by: KRS at June 19, 2006 5:35 PM

Agreed as to the first part, less sure as to the second.

Posted by: ghostcat at June 19, 2006 5:37 PM