Restoring The America We Remember

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While one theme of the day has  been change, the irony is that the most important change is that the nation is returning to American values after the aberration of the last eight years. As Colin Powell said, “The America we remember is back again.”

Instead of a president who ignored the Constitution he swore to protect, the new president is a Constitutional scholar who understands and respects the restrictions upon government power devised by the founding fathers.

Instead of a president who undermined our national security we have a president who understands the challenges we face and is prepared to take sensible action, without sacrificing our freedoms.

Instead of a president who championed anti-intellectualism and hostility towards science we have a president who respects science,  has studied many viewpoints, and who can speak and write coherently.

Of course some in the authoritarian right were fighting the modern world and a return to the America we remember on inauguration day, when even most Republicans realized it was not a day for such petty partisan attacks. They showed once again that they despise America and the values America was founded upon, preferring to see the country suffer from yet another failed presidency rather than having a member of the opposing party succeed. Rush Limbaugh said ” I hope Obama fails.” Joseph Farah, founder and CEO of Worldnet Daily, ran an op-ed entitled Pray Obama Fails.

Limbaugh and Farah justified this extreme position by distorting Obama’s positions as well as ignoring the actual record under Republican rule. Farah accused Obama of desiring to “change our country from one anchored on self-governance and constitutional republicanism to one based on the raw and unlimited power of the central state.” In reality it was the Bush administration which ignored the Constitution and expanded the power of government over our lives while liberals such as Obama have protested. Such distortions of reality worked for conservatives for a while, but after eight years the reality of conservative beliefs have become clear to the vast majority of American people.

American who support freedom, government limited by the Constitution, science and reason have rejected the conservative ideas which are hostile to the principles this nation was founded upon.

Obama’s inaugural address might not be one which is remembered by history but few are. More importantly he had important messages for today.

It is only after the hostility towards science under Republican rule that such a speech would include a line such as, “We will restore science to its rightful place.”

The speech laid the groundwork for Obama to move beyond the distortions which Republicans have used in framing issues:

What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply.  The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works – whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified.  Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward.  Where the answer is no, programs will end.  And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account – to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day – because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government.

Republicans have tried to portray themselves as defenders of liberty by making the argument that they are supporters of smaller government and this is what makes us free. In reality, Republicans did not provide smaller government as even Willam Kristol recently admitted,  and size of government is a poor measure of freedom compared to looking at what government actually does.

Obama continued to debunk the false choices offered by Republicans :

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill.  Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control – and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.

He also debunked the false choice of security or liberty which the Republicans have  used to justify their actions which ultimately made us less secure and less free:

As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals.  Our Founding Fathers, faced with perils we can scarcely imagine, drafted a charter to assure the rule of law and the rights of man, a charter expanded by the blood of generations.  Those ideals still light the world, and we will not give them up for expedience’s sake…

Recall that earlier generations faced down fascism and communism not just with missiles and tanks, but with sturdy alliances and enduring convictions.  They understood that our power alone cannot protect us, nor does it entitle us to do as we please.  Instead, they knew that our power grows through its prudent use; our security emanates from the justness of our cause, the force of our example, the tempering qualities of humility and restraint.

Obama rejected the belief of many on the right that this is a Christian nation and that the power of government can be used to impose their views upon all:

For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness.  We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers.

Obama defended the rights not only of those of different religions, but of non-believers, recognizing that under the secular government developed by our founding fathers, religious views must not be used alone to form public policy.

Obama managed to avoid sounding confrontational or controversial while quickly demolishing the bogus arguments used by conservatives to justify their attempts to destroy the American we remember.

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