The second inaugural address can either be the start of a second honeymoon period or just a reminder of who the president is. With all the talk of President Obama seeking to strike an uplifting note, he is likely to try and sell the citizens on his vision of America. However, to do so convincingly, he must win the hearts, minds, and stomachs of our country, convincing the people that he not only knows how to fight and win elections, but that he understands the everyday plight of the American working class. If he is able to communicate on a personal and grounded level, he will make us dream again and believe that his actions are in our best interest. Here are a few points to listen for.
1. Jobs and Unemployment
The president should highlight consistent decreases in the national rate of unemployment and recognize that first-time applicants for unemployment benefits are the lowest since the financial crash. At the same time, he needs to acknowledge that it does not mean that all those who are off unemployment are actively participating in growing the economy.
Obama should renew his pledge to providing incentives to the unemployed, to have access to education at community colleges where all Americans can be retrained to meet the changing needs of our economy. Likewise, he should take the opportunity to highlight his efforts to bring manufacturing jobs back to the United States and recognize the growth in the sector. Continued growth in this sector is needed, so that we can get our growing infrastructure improvement projects off the ground, with all projects benefiting solely our economy.
2. Taxes and Budgets
The president should highlight that Congress has done what it needed to do to keep the country afloat and away from the various self-imposed “cliffs,” and recognize that compromises have been made. He should strike a conciliatory tone and boldly state that he is committed to balancing the budget, reforming entitlements, Social Security, Medicaid, and Medicare.
Obama has a unique opportunity to emphasize that his claims of economic benefits of his healthcare reforms will be tested in this second term, by the reduction of the burden of healthcare on our GDP and allow for more capital to be invested into other programs. He should note that reforms to the tax code are necessary and that he will make it a priority because of the need to generate revenue by building up the tax base both in the individual sectors and corporate ones.
He should protect the defense budget, for any further reductions could compromise our operational and maintenance abilities. All Federal agencies should be subjected to a Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission type of review for recommended programmatic closures, changes, or upgrades, to reduce operating costs and increase government efficiency.
3. Domestic Policy
President Obama should commit to policies that reduce poverty and build up the middle class. Innovative programs should be announced, alongside the traditional commitment to access to education. Reductions in welfare spending and announcement of supplemental programs that encourage the chronically unemployed to seek re-education and eventual employment should be encouraged.
The president should show a commitment to immigration reform, having recognized the great contributions that immigrants have made and continue to make to the welfare and global standing of the United States. In the same spirit, he must rule out the possibility of amnesty.
4. Foreign Policy
The president must emphasize what America stands for and state our mission on the global stage. He must renew our commitment to peace in the Middle East, stability and growth in Europe, working to prevent Iran from gaining a nuclear weapon, and seeking to support the development of free societies across the globe.
In all these things, he must find the one uniting narrative for the American people and inspire us to be the change that we so desire. All Americans seek peace, justice, and opportunities, so that we can continue the legacy and our stated commitment to a more perfect union. The president has showed time and time again that he can put together a message and messaging strategy in a campaign, now he must do the same as an actual president.