After the results of the midterm elections poured in — a curt realization for the Democratic Party that the American people were all but impressed with the Democrats in office — President Barack Obama said on CBS’s “Face the Nation” that, “Whenever, as the head of the party, it doesn’t do well, I’ve got to take responsibility for it.”
Responsibility is what he’s been taking — issuing veto threats to Congress, restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, exercising his executive action power on immigration issues and reminding countless Americans in both red and blue states that the American economy is steadily and surely improving.
Last Thursday, Obama delivered a speech at the Ford Motor manufacturing plant in Wayne, Michigan. Behind the podium, where Obama delivered remarks, sat American-made Ford automobiles — red, silver and blue. On the left side of the podium, an American flag hung, stretched flatly and tightly, as if straightened by a military bed-maker’s hand. Amidst the atmosphere created by an American auto plant cloaked in patriotic garb, it all felt very working-class American. This wasn’t surprising given the rhetoric Obama has consistently delivered while in office, one during his address in Michigan.
Obama’s speech commenced a three-day-long trip to Michigan, Arizona and Tennessee — states that voted Republican for governor in the recent midterm elections. Given the new GOP Senate majority, Obama’s red-state stops were strategic reminders of the White House’s exploits since 2008. The three states on the agenda all exemplify initiatives taken in the economic, housing and education spheres. And further, on Jan. 9 in Knoxville, Tennessee, Obama announced a colossal initiative on the education front — America’s College Promise — making “two years of community college free to responsible students who are willing to work for it.” This promise mimics the Tennessee Promise, a similar pact for Tennessee residents, making Tennessee the spearheading force for free higher education.
In Michigan two days prior, amidst pipes and car parts, Obama discussed the revival of the American auto industry. In 2008, as reported by the White House, the automobile industry was “on the brink of collapse.” The same report, published June 2011, states that in 2009, “the president’s decision to save GM and Chrysler was about more than those two companies. It was about standing by the countless workers, communities, and businesses — large and small — that depend on the automotive industry.”
Although Ford —the most secure of the Detroit three — was not among the companies that received a federal bailout, by aiding GM and Chrysler, America avoided a “cascading impact throughout the supply chain, causing failures and job loss on a larger scale.” Because of Ford’s tie to the same auto suppliers as GM and Chrysler, Obama’s decision to provide a bailout can in large part account for Ford’s current profitability.
When speaking to the people, plant workers and apprentices-turned-professionals of Wayne, Obama manifested a tendency blatant even in speeches given during his first presidential campaign: a deep appreciation and concern for the middle class. “If we all do our part, if we all pitch in, then we can make sure that this rising tide is actually lifting all the boats, not just some,” Obama said. “We can make sure that the middle class is the engine that powers America’s prosperity for decades to come.”
After a very rough six years in office, Obama has turned a corner, taking a proactive stance in addressing his administration’s achievements and proposing new initiatives that have put liberals on the edge of their seats. This stance is demonstrative of the fearless attitude seen in a younger, more optimistic Barack Obama — one that sparked a national movement toward the alluring concept of change.
But disappointment has become a national sentiment over the past six years, with Washington in gridlock and the Obama administration only grazing over issues with a moderate tone. I believe the new Republican Senate majority was almost welcomed in by some liberals, assuming that Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell sticks to his word to pass legislation.
As an advocate and lover of all things Obama, I’ve found myself defending his presidency for no other reason than that I see him as a moral person, a family man and a leader. I’ve clung to words shouted during his 2008 acceptance speech: “I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to. It belongs to you.”
But along the six-year road, the path that has lodged too many national and international crises to count, it began to feel like maybe the American people weren’t as victorious as we had once hoped we’d be.
However, once Obama began to announce shocking and almost radical new initiatives, such as restoring diplomatic relations with Cuba, I, along with the rest of the country’s Obama enthusiasts, were reminded of his willingness and determination to change the free world. Obama’s speech in Michigan planted subtle hints at the administration’s victories — the federal bailout of the auto industry is a big one — but I believe his words went beyond that.
He asserted that “this state proves that no matter how tough times get, Americans are tougher.” And what I believe is embedded within that statement is that no matter how tough times get in America, the Obama administration is tougher. Toughness is what he’s demonstrating in response to the GOP Senate majority. Action is what he’s proposing for the last two years of his presidency. Consistency is what he’s preaching when he comments on the middle class and its importance to our great nation.
Obama’s rhetoric, now reformed to become fiercely operative, is at the forefront an oration delivered to members of the middle class. His new policies and intentions aren’t uber liberal, and they aren’t on the brink of socialist either. They’re intended to fuel economic, personal and professional growth among the majority of Americans. Twice during his speech at the Michigan Assembly Plant, Obama noted that no matter what, we should never become complacent. Complacency is the touch of death to progress. Americans are resilient, and Obama, an American, is resilient. Given his consistent concern for those who need help coupled with a new drive to enact change, I will leave with words that probably put a fire in your belly back in 2008: Yes we can.
Abby Taskier can be reached at email@example.com.