Barack Obama's inauguration speech wasn't bad was it? Pushing beyond the surface rhetoric, it seems Obama is determined to meet the massive expectations placed in him. Invoking liberal American values throughout, he played up the USA as a collective project, but one that has to meet a changing world. He marked a Keynesian tone, declaring that while markets are good for generating wealth and enhancing freedom, they have to be watched constantly - the prosperity of the few does not guarantee the prosperity of the many. But above all, his talk of big challenges clearly mark the return of the big project. Over the coming weeks we will finally see how the Obama administration will go about remaking America.
The short detour into foreign policy was interesting. Yes, there was the ritual attack on Al-Qaeda, albeit referred to as a "network of terror and hatred". He reaffirmed the objective of spreading democracy, but offered the open hand to dictatorships, "so they can unclench their fists". Coded references to authoritarian Arab regimes, Iran, and North Korea? There was also a pledge to restore America's standing in the world, which of course, can only really mean a more cooperative relationship with the UN as well as a more multilateralist approach to international crises.
Poor old Bush got a pummeling in Obama's shadow boxing. He not-so-subtly attacked Bush's record on foreign affairs, domestic policy, attacks on science and education, and hands off attitude to his finance capital friends until economics forced Bush to intervene. As Bush and his gang shuffle off into retirement, they must be smarting from their bruises.
It is easy for socialists to be cynical about Obama, but conspicuous displays of it are unlikely to grow our influence and spread our ideas in the new political situation. It is more likely to alienate the constituency we want to engage with. Skill and subtlety have to guide our criticisms in the (likely to be lengthy) honeymoon period, and they must be based firmly on what he says and does. Can the left do this? Yes we can.
A more in-depth look at Obama can be read here.