‘Lift your voice’

Last night, President Obama’s jobs speech was mainly directed at challenging Congress, but towards the end, it included a public appeal: “I also ask every American who agrees to lift your voice and tell the people who are gathered here tonight that you want action now. Tell Washington that doing nothing is not an option.”

The president took his message to the University of Richmond this morning, and again, aggressively pushed for public action.

For those who can’t watch clips online, the video shows the final three minutes of a half-hour speech, during which Obama urges the public to get engaged.

Here’s a transcript of the relevant portion:

“So I’m asking all of you to lift up your voices, not just here in Richmond — anybody watching, listening, following online — I want you to call; I want you to email; I want you to tweet; I want you to fax; I want you to visit; I want you to facebook; send a carrier pigeon. I want you to tell your congressperson, the time for gridlock and games is over. The time for action is now. The time to create jobs is now.

“Pass this bill. If you want construction workers on the worksite — pass this bill. If you want teachers in the classroom — pass this bill. You want small business owners to hire new people — pass this bill. If you want veterans to get their fair share of opportunity that they helped create — pass this bill. If you want a tax break — pass this bill.

“Prove you will fight as hard for tax cuts for workers and middle-class people as you do for oil companies and rich folks. Pass this bill. Let’s get something done.

“We are not a people that just look and watch and wait to see what happens. We’re Americans. We make things happen. We’re tougher than these times. We are bigger than the smallness of our politics. We are patriots and we are pioneers, and innovators and entrepreneurs, who through individual effort and through a common commitment to one another will build an economy that is once again the engine and the envy of the world. And we will write our own destiny. It’s within our power. But we’ve got to seize the moment.”

For what it’s worth, my sense is the president is entirely sincere about this. Obama genuinely seems to believe an engaged electorate, fighting for a just cause, can persuade recalcitrant congressional Republicans to do the right thing — not because they want to, but because the public will tolerate nothing less.

I am, alas, skeptical. It strikes me as far-fetched to think frustrated, disillusioned Americans will get engaged in large numbers, and it’s even harder for me to believe Republicans will care.

That said, GOP leaders care deeply about the polls, and are desperate to do well in 2012. The president apparently hopes to use the American public to give him the leverage he’ll need to boost the economy. It’s a long-shot, but I wish him well.