I found Obama’s message encouraging, but then again the president always speaks/reads well.
His speech was a direct attack on the Reagan revolution and made important social democratic points about solidarity and equality — health and education — being directly connected to economic prosperity. I think it was also important to connect gay rights to the Declaration of Independence: America is full of beautiful words, filling those words with meaning is America’s perennial unfinished symphony.
Despite being black Obama isn’t Doctor Martin Luther King, and there doesn’t seem to be any MLK right now to pressure him. That is the American left’s perennial unfinished symphony.
In his speech the president was obviously asking the people who voted for him to pressure Congress to support his agenda. I think that in many ways the ball is now in the court of America’s progressives and they would be wise to play that ball as it lies. If there is even an ounce of sincerity in Barack Obama’s message, this is the best opportunity that America’s progressives have had since Reagan entered the White House, maybe the best since Johnson left it, ruined by Vietnam.
I think it is mistaken to criticize Obama for not being MLK, because, except for the color of their skins, there is no real similarity between Obama and King, Hawaii is a long way from Georgia and, except for the color of their skins, there are many similarities between Obama and LBJ, both being presidents of the USA and ex-senators.
Being dissatisfied is an essential ingredient in making a person progressive, but I think people on the left may be asking more of the US presidency than it can deliver. MLK, for example, was not LBJ: King produced the pressure, Johnson — who also did Vietnam — with that pressure, produced a wealth of legislation. What little we have of social democracy in America, in great part we owe to him.
Here is a sample of what LBJ did with an active society pushing him: