We are no longer a nation of idiots, or at least that's my takeaway from Obama's speech last night. It seems others agree. The consensus on political blogs was a sense of shock and awe that the President was talking to us like we weren't in elementary school.
Meanwhile, Governor Bobby Jindal's response was viewed, even by those on the right, as being directed to an audience of children.
If Obama has done anything revolutionary, it's been his ability to change the political discourse by talking to the American people like we're adults. While I usually side with H.L. Mencken when he wrote, "No one in this world has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people," and politicians in the past have sided with him too, by speaking to us like babies, Obama does it differently.
Parts of Obama's speech sounded like something you'd hear in an intro to macroeconomics class, and that's a good thing. Most Americans have at least some college education. Our politicians should treat us that way. Obama explained the reasons behind his agenda, not just the ideological sound bytes. He was trying to convince and persuade.
The reason young people used to be so turned off by politics, and the reason we're still turned off by the Republican party, is that younger people will always be more media savvy, on average than the rest of population, if only because we've spent our whole lives being saturated with it. We can't stand the lack of substance that usually characterizes modern political speech. Obama found a way around this by treating us like we have brains--the first politician to do anything of the sort in my conscious memory, which admittedly doesn't go back that far.
But the Republicans still seem to be stuck in a rut. Their priorities are the same priorities John McCain ran on: cutting taxes, cutting spending, and making sure the irresponsible get punished even at the expense of the American people as a whole. McCain never explained why doing away with earmarks was his number one economic policy as we were heading into a huge and awful recession. You'd think there would be something more pressing, no?
Republicans who opposed the stimulus, like McCain, have cried "generational theft" (how funny is that?), but last night Obama explained very clearly that without the deficit spending from the stimulus, our economy would sink into an even deeper rut that would make the long term deficit even worse. That's a legitimate argument
with a sound economic basis. Looks like we're all Keynesians again.
I want to hear an adult argument, something we didn't get from Bobby Jindal, about why this isn't the case if I'm going to take the current Republican party seriously. Or maybe they could just agree with the President and, you know, work with him, on this point.
I don't want to say that the Democrats understand we're adults and the Republicans don't because, really, it's just Obama who seems to get that you can talk to the American people like they're smarter than fifth-graders and still do well politically. But for now, Obama is the adult face of the Democratic party, he's the one Republicans have to contend with, not Nancy Pelosi, not Harry Reid.
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