Tuesday 12 December 2017

Tim Stanley: President Obama's State of the Union address kept the flame burning

US President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address. Photo: Getty Images
US President Barack Obama delivers his State of the Union address. Photo: Getty Images

THE Democratic Party is infatuated with its past. It has never forgotten the glories of the New Deal years, when Franklin D Roosevelt tempered the free market and brought America back from the brink of chaos. Since 1945, the Democrats have lived in the shadow of Roosevelt’s accomplishments. President Harry Truman tried to replicate the New Deal in the Fair Deal, and Lyndon Johnson attempted to build a Great Society. Even Jack Kennedy had his New Frontier, and Bill Clinton his Bridge to Tomorrow. These men retained the conviction that government is a force for good that can rescue capitalism from itself. They were the keepers of the flame.

Barack Obama kept the faith burning with last night’s State of the Union address. He directly referenced the New Deal when he reminded the audience that it was during the depths of the Great Depression “that America built the Hoover Dam and the Golden Gate Bridge.” He also reminded them that the New Deal spirit flourished in the postwar years, too, creating a noble middle class: “My grandfather, a veteran of Patton’s Army, got the chance to go to college on the GI Bill. My grandmother, who worked on a bomber assembly line, was part of a workforce that turned out the best products on Earth. They understood they were part of something larger; that they were contributing to a story of success that every American had a chance to share.” And where Truman once offered a Fair Deal, Obama now offers “a fair shot for all”. That means a war on outsourcing, better education, tax reform and tighter regulation of the financial sector.

“War” is the right word to use, for there was a very martial feel to this State of the Union. Obama called for more attention to be paid to the “home front” and twice contrasted the unity of the armed forces with the anarchy of Congress. His solution to America’s problems seems to be to ask America’s economy and society to emulate the discipline of the army. I’d love to know what Ron Paul thinks of that.

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