Obama’s legacy.

From the musicians in new purple uniforms who traveled from places like Des Moines and Montgomery, Ala., to march with a gay and lesbian band, to high school mariachi performers from Texas — including some who took their first plane ride to get here — to scores of elegant African-American women in full-length mink coats and matching hats, the faces of Inauguration Day 2013 were the faces of those left behind by the political process in decades and centuries past.

I got goosebumps reading that in the NYT this morning. And when I watched the speech? Well, I think it’s hard to underestimate just how empowering the inclusive, warm language must be for our homosexual brothers and sisters. The leader of the Free World acknowledged Stonewall as a key political moment of protest in America’s history alongside the Civil Rights movement of the 60s. Who would have thought that possible a mere decade ago?


There was a time when merely stating the ideas Obama put forth would have gotten you killed. And we still live in a time where people gladly tell you that the Civil War was not whether we’d be “half-slave and half-free” but about whether we’d be “half-agrarian or half-industrial.” Or some such. I don’t think most Americans really understand the significance of say Seneca Falls or Stonewall. And I don’t know that any president has actually lauded either of these publicly.

But The Guardian’s front page today, which emphasises only the gay rights message that came through in the Inauguration, was a terrible misjudgement. Mentioning it matters, of course, but anyone who listened would know this was about so much more than that. Amongst other things, it was about climate change. That was a revelation in these bleak and desperate times. And the opposition is already taking shape:

The president’s emphasis on climate change drew fire from conservatives. Tim Phillips, president of Americans for Prosperity, a group financed by the Koch brothers, who made a fortune in refining and other oil interests, criticized the speech in a statement. “His address read like a liberal laundry list with global warming at the top,” Mr. Phillips said. “Americans have rejected environmental extremism in the past and they will again.”

They can bring it. No fight in this world is more important right now, and Obama knows it.

And the speech yesterday proved, I think, beyond doubt, that Sullivan has been right all along to hypothesise that this guy could very easily be the liberal Reagan. He will have presided over the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell whilst spurring on the marriage equality movement. He will have passed a stimulus bill whilst the world bowed to austerity. He got major healthcare reform that has escaped liberal presidents for decades, along with tax rises on the rich in the face of the fiercest House obstructionism in memory, the first Hispanic (and a woman) on the Supreme Court, the end of torture and two long wars, and with the nomination of Hagel, Kerry and Brennan, men that can deflate the absurd military state and reform foreign policy financially without detracting from America’s efficacy. If he cements all that with real action on climate change and a change of heart on pot, he could go down as greater than LBJ. It’s very hard to know when you’re witnessing substantive history being made, but the next four years could easily be a period that future generations swoon over.


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