President Obama is at least rhetorically starting his second term on more liberal note. His inaugural address touched on a litany of progressive goals including climate change, LGBT rights, voting access, equal pay, gun control and immigration reform.
Obama did continue to call for “hard choices” about reducing our deficit, but that received only a single mention. By comparison an entire paragraph was dedicated to climate change.
Most newsworthy was probably Obama’s strong advocacy of LGBT rights as a true civil rights struggle. Even Obama’s endorsement of same-sex marriage was framed in personal terms. This was different. Obama declared Selma and Stonewall as part of the same universal struggle for equality. He called for a full national embrace of marriage equality saying, “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.”
The President is at least starting his second term on a more inspirational and less conciliatory tone. There was almost no reference in his speech to compromise and bipartisanship. It was more about principles than possible bipartisan legislation.
That said, words are by their nature cheap, especially when faced with an oppositional Congress that will provide a plausible excuse for inaction on almost every issue. Ultimately Obama’s second term will be judged by his actions not his speeches.