In President Obama’s second inaugural address, he laid out a progressive agenda framed by the Declaration of Independence.
“What makes us exceptional, what makes us America is our allegiance to an idea articulated in a declaration made more than two centuries ago. We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal. That they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights, and among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”
He went on to say that the principles articulated in the Declaration of Independence require us to act on the specific imperatives of a progressive agenda that addresses income inequality, deficit reduction, preservation of medicare and social security, climate change, peace and democracy in the world, gay marriage, voting rights, immigration reform, and reduction of gun violence.
Polls taken both before and after his speech indicate that a substantial majority of Americans agree with the themes he laid out in his progressive agenda. Income equality for women draws the highest level of support at 73% favorable, 15% opposed, and 12% not sure. Support for gay marriage gets the lowest numbers, but is still supported by a substantial plurality, receiving 47% favorable, 23% opposed, and 30% neither/not sure.
Many conservatives along with Fox News were grumpy about the speech and its unabashed progressive agenda, while many liberals and MSNBC thought the speech was great and used it as the occasion to proclaim proudly that the U.S. is no longer a center right nation. We have become a center left nation.
Framing the Debate
From the liberal perspective, President Obama’s speech was indeed progressive both in substance and also in tone in that he framed his stances using the truths proclaimed in first great American document and directly took on the opponents of his stands. He has clearly learned from his first term that he needs to frame the debate and to do that by engaging deeply held American values.
And, he has also clearly learned that moving to the center to try to get consensus without establishing powerful popular support for strongly articulated positions is a mistake. What happens next in America is too important to allow the forces inside the Washington beltway to set the terms of the debate.
So far, so good.
Reframing the Debate
However, let’s take a look at his speech through the frame of Planetary Philosophy. From the perspective of One Planet, an emphasis on addressing Climate Change certainly is welcome. The principle of One People can be seen reflected in the emphasis on medicare, social security, gay marriage, voting rights, immigration reform, and reduction of gun violence.
The problem comes when we get to One Purpose. We all know that the system of the Earth and the sub-system of the human species have entered a state of profound disequilibrium all around the planet. We all see the examples of this when we look at the latest news on the weather, on the world economy, on the Middle East, on Northern Africa, and on North Korea.
It’s clear that humanity and the Earth must now either evolve to a qualitatively higher, stronger, better system of organization or devolve to a qualitatively lower level of organization – probably without our species. According to the frame of Planetary Philosophy, President Obama did not really address the urgency of our situation or the need for a profound transformation of our economic, social, and environmental world order.
The President forcefully proclaimed a progressive agenda in the context of the United States and the Democratic Party. But that is no longer enough, because the meaning of progress has changed. Progress now means recognizing that we need to build a Planetary Movement to lead the way toward a time when we have peace and prosperity among all the members of our One People, the human species, and protection and renewal for the ecosystem of our One Planet, the Earth.
That’s got to be our One Purpose. That’s what’s progressive.