Obama’s Inaugural: What Was Missing?

Only the issue of most concern to Americans: the economy and jobs. Liberals are swooning over President Obama’s second inaugural speech, with some going so far to call it Lincolnesque. But when Lincoln was inaugurated after his 1864 re-election, he spoke exclusively about the great issues that were then before the country: the Civil War and the eradication of slavery from the Democratic South. Today, in contrast, Obama acted as though the nation’s principal issues–high unemployment, almost non-existent economic growth and low labor force participation–barely existed. Byron York notes the incongruity:

Why did President Obama barely mention unemployment in his inaugural address? After all, today’s jobless rate, 7.8 percent, is precisely what it was when Obama first took the oath of office in January 2009. It’s even worse; if you combine the unemployed with those who are working part-time but want a full-time job, and those who have been too discouraged to look recently, the figure is 14.4 percent, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

That is a desperately bad situation. People know it. In poll after poll, Americans list jobs and the economy as the issue most important to the country. They’ve been saying the same thing every day Barack Obama has been in office.

And yet, in his inaugural address the president said essentially nothing about the nation’s most pressing problem. Why?

Because he didn’t have to. His base supporters — loyalists and activists who would declare war on a Republican president with a similar unemployment rate — continue to give Obama a pass on joblessness. There are other issues, like immigration reform, climate change and raising taxes, that excite them more than economic recovery.

That is strange, but true. The average American cares little about gay marriage and free contraceptives. He sees America declining as an economic power; if not out of work himself, he has friends and relatives who are, and he worries over his own children’s shrinking prospects in life. An air of hopelessness has settled over America as the Democrats ask us to accept a lousy economy as the new normal–exactly as happened in the late 1970s, with the difference that Jimmy Carter didn’t win a second term.

President Obama didn’t find it necessary to talk about joblessness because he wasn’t speaking to all Americans, he was addressing his own core supporters. And they, because they are students, or public employees, or rich liberals, or lobbyists who feed off the public sector, etc., don’t care much about the economy or the employment picture. The fact that President Obama found it unnecessary to address the issue that most Americans rate as the most vital facing the country is just one more indication of how badly Obama has polarized America as he begins his second term.