President Obama's Second Inaugural Address.
And they matter a lot. In his reporting after the president's speech, Chuck Todd discussed statements made to him by Obama aides to the effect that the president now sees as part of his job the "mainstreaming" of progressive values. His Second Inaugural Address is a great start to this project.
President Obama famously said:
Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not, and a way that Bill Clinton did not[.]
I think that is true. And President Obama has always yearned to be a "transformative" president. Early on, the transformative nature that the president seemed to aspire to was to change the way politics worked—the Post Partisan Unity Schtick. That always struck me as not only fanciful, but more importantly, rather meaningless.
However, a project to "mainstream" progressive values, as expressed in the president's Second Inaugural Address, is not only transformative, it is doable.
It is true that actions speak louder than words, and there is much action the president will need to take on.
But changing the political conversation about progressive values will be as important a project as, say, implementing and improving the Affordable Care Act.
It is heartening indeed to see the president and his folks place high value on that project.
An important moment may be at hand. Consider James Fallows' reactions:
This was the most sustainedly "progressive" statement Barack Obama has made in his decade on the national stage.See also Greg Sargent quoting Clinton chief speechwriter Michael Waldman:
I was expecting an anodyne tone-poem about healing national wounds, surmounting partisanship, and so on. As has often been the case, Obama confounded expectations -- mine, at least. [...] More detailed parsing later, but this speech made news and alters politics in a way I had not anticipated.
“This was the most philosophically clear of any of his major speeches, and one of the most expansively progressive Inaugural Addresses in decades,” Waldman told me. “And he rooted those arguments in the civic creed of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.