"Fundamentally Transforming the United States of America"

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Oct. 18 2011 4:26 PM

"Fundamentally Transforming the United States of America"

One extra note on Phil Kerpen's book: His analysis reminded me of just how crucial one Obama quote is to the libertarian critique of the president. It's this quote.

 

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"Fundamentally transforming" -- that's become legendary, a hint that Obama knew what he was going to do to government for years and let it slip out at a campaign rally. I wanted to check what exactly Obama was talking about transforming. Surprise: He was using a lot of boilerplate! The quote comes from an October 30, 2008 campaign rally in Columbia, Missouri.

After decades of broken politics in Washington, and eight years of failed policies from George W. Bush, and 21 months of a campaign that's taken us from the rocky coast of Maine to the sunshine of California, we are five days away from fundamentally transforming the United States of America. In five days, you can turn the page on policies that put greed and irresponsibility on Wall Street before the hard work and sacrifice of folks on Main Street. In five days, you can choose policies that invest in our middle class, and create new jobs, and grow this economy, so that everyone has a chance to succeed, not just the CEO, but the secretary and janitor, not just the factory owner, but the men and women on the factory floor. In five days, you can put an end to the politics that would divide a nation just to win an election, that tries to pit region against region, and city against town, and Republican against Democrat, that asks -- asks us to fear at a time when we need to hope.

So: Was Obama hinting that he was planning to turn America into a social democratic Euro-state? Or was he just riffing on a main theme? It's a fun rorschach test, isn't it?

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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