Obama Outlines Progressive Agenda for Second Term

Your News Companion by Ben Mathis-Lilley
Jan. 21 2013 2:18 PM

President Obama Begins Second Term by Outlining Progressive Goals

"Our journey is not complete," said President Obama during his inauguration address

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images

President Obama had the public swearing-in for his second term as president on Monday, and he used the opportunity to outline a broad agenda that included several goals that liberals had been waiting for four years to hear from the president. Inaugural addresses are often criticized for being too broad, more about the rhetoric than the content. This wasn’t quite the case now, points out the New York Times’ Adam Nagourney, noting Obama made several points that could be important over the next few months. Among other things, he surprised many by making a forceful case for action on climate change and also made a vigorous defense of entitlement programs. (Read a transcript of the speech here, or watch it after the jump.)

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations,” Obama said. “Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But American cannot resist this transition. We must lead it.”


In his second inaugural address, “President Obama became the progressive leader that many liberals thought they were getting when they voted him into office four years ago,” writes the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza. He not only outlined progressive principles, he also issued a thinly veiled criticism against ideologues who many have blamed for paralyzing Washington: “We cannot mistake absolutism for principle, or substitute spectacle for politics, or treat name-calling as reasoned debate.”

Yet Obama also had words that seemed directed at disappointed liberals, asking for patience from allies, points out the National Journal’s Ron Fournier. “We must act, knowing that our work will be imperfect,” Obama said. “We must act, knowing that today’s victories will be only partial, and that it will be up to those who stand here in four years, in 40 years, and 400 years hence to advance the timeless spirit once conferred to us in a spare Philadelphia hall.”

Ultimately though, Obama’s inaugural address amounted to “a vigorous and pro-active testament to the power of government to support and protect its people—and the ability of the people to influence that agenda,” writes Politico’s Jonathan Allen.

Throughout the address, Obama seemed to recognize he has a short window to achieve his goals. And that’s because a second term president doesn't have much time to get things done. The time to push big legislative goals will end roughly in the summer of 2014, when attention will turn to the midterm campaigns. The bottom line? “By the start of 2015, Obama’s power to drive his legislative agenda will be significantly less than it is today,” point out the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza and Aaron Blake. What his second term meant (or didn’t) will have already be largely determined by then.

Daniel Politi has been contributing to Slate since 2004 and wrote the "Today's Papers" column from 2006 to 2009. You can follow him on Twitter @dpoliti.


Medical Examiner

The Most Terrifying Thing About Ebola 

The disease threatens humanity by preying on humanity.

I Bought the Huge iPhone. I’m Already Thinking of Returning It.

Scotland Is Just the Beginning. Expect More Political Earthquakes in Europe.

Students Aren’t Going to College Football Games as Much Anymore

And schools are getting worried.

Two Damn Good, Very Different Movies About Soldiers Returning From War

The XX Factor

Lifetime Didn’t Think the Steubenville Rape Case Was Dramatic Enough

So they added a little self-immolation.


Blacks Don’t Have a Corporal Punishment Problem

Americans do. But when blacks exhibit the same behaviors as others, it becomes part of a greater black pathology. 

Why a Sketch of Chelsea Manning Is Stirring Up Controversy

How Worried Should Poland, the Baltic States, and Georgia Be About a Russian Invasion?

Trending News Channel
Sept. 19 2014 1:11 PM Watch Flashes of Lightning Created in a Lab  
  News & Politics
Sept. 20 2014 11:13 AM -30-
Business Insider
Sept. 20 2014 6:30 AM The Man Making Bill Gates Richer
Sept. 20 2014 7:27 AM How Do Plants Grow Aboard the International Space Station?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 19 2014 4:58 PM Steubenville Gets the Lifetime Treatment (And a Cheerleader Erupts Into Flames)
  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Sept. 19 2014 12:00 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? The Slatest editor tells us to read well-informed skepticism, media criticism, and more.
Brow Beat
Sept. 20 2014 3:21 PM “The More You Know (About Black People)” Uses Very Funny PSAs to Condemn Black Stereotypes
Future Tense
Sept. 19 2014 6:31 PM The One Big Problem With the Enormous New iPhone
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Sept. 20 2014 7:00 AM The Shaggy Sun
Sports Nut
Sept. 18 2014 11:42 AM Grandmaster Clash One of the most amazing feats in chess history just happened, and no one noticed.