Obama Reclaims Declaration of Independence

I don’t have the text of Barack Obama’s second inaugural address just yet, but it will pretty be interpreted as an unambiguous, even combative, progressive reclamation of patriotic traditions and vocabulary. That was made obvious when he began with the Declaration of Independence, the document that the Tea Party Movement has sought to make an eternal charter for absolute property rights, rigidly limited government, Christian Nationalism, and freedom from mutual responsibility. Obama boldly and repeatedly identified equal opportunity as the basic point of the Declaration, and the basic content of “American exceptionalism.” Just as boldly, he made the quality of our “collective action,” not its absence, the measure of our fidelity to national traditions, specifically touting climate change, equal opportunity for women and GLBT folk, a fair immigration system, and succor for people struggling to survive as immediate challenges that no manner of “different opinions” can wish away.

I’ll have more to say about the speech later, but whatever it lacked in empty rhetorical uplift it more than adequately supplied in what someone once called “the audacity of hope.”

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Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.