Friday, January 23, 2009

Wow, he really didn't like the speech...

I've heard mixed reviews from people on the speech that President Obama gave during the inauguration. Some felt it was a shining moment where they felt inspired to do great things, others felt it was okay and some? Well, some like Robert Tracinski, really didn't like the speech at all, No Idea what he's doing but as Robert pointed out, we already have the answer as to why those like Robert would take issue...From our President himself:
What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them--that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply. The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works--whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified....

Nor is the question before us whether the market is a force for good or ill. Its power to generate wealth and expand freedom is unmatched, but this crisis has reminded us that without a watchful eye, the market can spin out of control--and that a nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous.

What do I think? I think that Ed Kilgore has the answer:
Whatever you think of this or that speech, Barack Obama is clearly a master of values-based messaging. And the inaugural address did not simply embrace broadly shared values beyond those usually emphasized by progressives; he went out of his way to argue that values often placed in opposition to each other are both reconcilable and essential (e.g., liberty and security, and public-sector activism and "free" markets). This may sound dangerously like Third Wayism to many progressives, but if reflects the fact that big majorities of the American people do in fact embrace such "contradictory" values, and do not want to see them vanquished or ignored.

This is probably why the public gave very positive ratings to the inaugural address and the accompanying events, even as most pundits panned it. And more generally, it is why Obama's speechifying--so often criticized as "vague" or "abstract" by the punditocracy-- resonates well with the public. There's a time for ten-point platforms in political communications, but it's essential to open the door to listeners by convincing them you live in the same "vague" and "abstract" moral universe that they inhabit.