Obama channels FDR at DNC Winter Meeting

President Obama rocked the house today at the DNC Winter Meeting with a fiery speech reminiscent of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Address at Madison Square Garden, New York City, October 31, 1936:

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We have not come this far without a struggle and I assure you we cannot go further without a struggle.

For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing Government. The Nation looked to Government but the Government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that Government is best which is most indifferent.

For nearly four years you have had an Administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up.

We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering.

They had begun to consider the Government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred.

I should like to have it said of my first Administration that in it the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second Administration that in it these forces met their master.

President Obama’s Remarks at DNC Winter Meeting today:

Now, sometimes, because the news cycle is so quick, we forget how all this came about and the debates that we had last year, or two years, or four years, or six years ago.  I just want everybody to remember that at every step as we made policies, as we made this progress, we were told by our good friends, the Republicans, that our actions would crush jobs, and explode deficits, and destroy the country.  I mean, I want everybody to do a fact-check — (laughter) — and go back to 2009, 2010, ’11, ’12, ’13 — just go back and look at the statements that were made each year by these folks about all these policies.  Because apparently they don’t remember. (Laughter.)

But the facts are before us.  The economy kept growing.  The stock market has more than doubled, restoring the 401(k)s of millions of people.  Our deficits are down by two-thirds.  (Applause.)  I always find it curious that when a Democrat is President, deficits go down; a Republican is President and then deficits are going up, and yet they try to take on the mantle of fiscal probity.  (Applause.)

Our auto industry is firing on all cylinders.  None of this is an accident.  It’s not an accident that America is creating jobs faster than at any time since the last time a Democrat was President.  (Applause.)  It’s not an accident that our manufacturers are creating jobs for the first time since the last time a Democrat was President.  (Applause.)  It’s not an accident that health care inflation is running at the lowest rate in almost 50 years, and that our deficits are falling faster than they have in 60 years.

* * *

Everybody who has the privilege of serving the American people has to ask him or herself a fundamental question:  Are we going to accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well, or will we build an economy that generates rising incomes and opportunities for everybody who’s willing to work hard, everybody who’s willing to make an effort?  (Applause.)  That’s the question that we face at this moment.

And now that their grand predictions of doom and gloom, and death panels and Armageddon haven’t come true — (laughter) — the sky hasn’t fallen, Chicken Little is quiet — (laughter) — the new plan, apparently, of congressional Republicans — and this is progress — the new plan is to rebrand themselves as the party of the middle class.  I’m not making this up.  (Laughter.)

Our Republican Leader in the Senate, as he was coming in, after having tried to block every single thing that we have done to strengthen the economy, starts looking at the job numbers and says, you know, it’s getting better because we just got elected  — (laughter) — and people are feeling more optimistic.  Which  —  (laughter) — okay.  I didn’t know that’s how the economy worked.  But maybe?  (Laughter.)  We’ll call some economists.

We have a Republican Congresswoman who said she couldn’t agree with me more that we need to be helping working moms and dads.  That’s good.  That’s progress.  One Republican Senator wrote a policy memo saying that Republicans “must define themselves as the party of the American worker and the party of higher wages.”  That’s good.  (Laughter.)  I’m glad they feel that way.  Rand Paul said — Rand is an interesting guy, and Rand — (laughter.)  No, he is.  And Rand Paul said the Republican Party needs to show up on the South Side of Chicago and shout at the top of its lungs that, “the GOP is the ticket to the middle class.”  I think that’s encouraging that he wants to go to the South Side of Chicago.  (Laughter.)  No, I want parties to compete everywhere.  I think that’s a good thing.

And I was just home on the South Side of Chicago yesterday. (Applause.)  And I guarantee you that Senator Paul would be welcomed there.  We are a friendly bunch.  (Laughter.)  I mean, it’s a little strange if people show up and just start shouting at the top of their lungs — (laughter) — but we’re friendly and it would be okay.  (Laughter.)  But I will say this.  So I am encouraged that they’re speaking about middle class and speaking about wages.  But there is this old saying that you can’t just talk the talk.  Donna, you got to do what?

MS. BRAZILE:  Walk the walk.

THE PRESIDENT:  You got to walk the walk.  (Applause.)  We’ve been walking the walk.  And if Republicans are serious about taking on the specific challenges that face the middle class, if they are prepared to walk the walk, we should welcome them.  I’ll welcome their ideas.  There’s nothing I’d like more than an opposition party that is willing to engage with us and work with us on these issues.

* * *

If you want to help working moms and dads, you can’t just dismiss things like child care and paid leave.  (Applause.)  Work with us to treat them like the economic priorities that working families know they are.  (Applause.)

If you want to be the party of higher wages, come on, join the dozens of cities and states, the companies like The Gap, and now Wal-Mart, raising wages, not just because it’s the right thing to do, but because it’s good for business.  Don’t stand in the way.  You’ve got votes in Congress.  You got votes in the House.  You got votes in the Senate.  Work with us.  Join the rest of the country.  Give America a raise!  Let’s go.  Let’s go. (Applause.)  Let’s go!  I’m ready.  (Applause.)  I’m ready!

If you are serious, if you’re really troubled with income inequality, then you can’t put forward proposals that give more tax breaks to the folks who are doing the best and millionaires and billionaires, and then propose more cuts to the very programs that help working Americans get ahead.

If you want to be the party that’s paving the way for people to get into the middle class, a good way to start is stop trying to strip health insurance for millions of Americans — (applause) — and preventive and contraceptive care for millions of women.  (Applause.)  And stop trying to deport millions of striving young kids who just want to earn their shot at the American Dream like the rest of us.  Help us fix a broken immigration system.  (Applause.)  There are a lot of ways to help the middle class.

So, look, I think the shift in rhetoric that they’re engaging in is good if it actually leads them to take different actions.  If it doesn’t, then it’s just spin.  If it doesn’t, if you’re just trying to repackage the same top-down economics and use the words “middle class” attached to it, if you’re just going to keep on cutting taxes at the top and not raise minimum wages for folks who are struggling, then it’s just spin.  You’re trying to bamboozle folks.

And looking backward is not the answer.  We’ve got to look forward, all of us as Americans.  And, Democrats, we’ve got to be the party that recognizes and responds to what Americans really face in a 21st-century economy.  Our brand of middle-class economics is very specific.  We detail it:  Here’s what we’re going to do.  We can show you how it’s going to help middle-class families and folks striving to get into the middle class.  We want to offer young people a stronger start.  We want to work to make sure that families have more security in a world of constant change.  And so we list out how we’re going to help folks afford college.  We specify how we’re going to provide health insurance to folks who don’t have it.  We talk about how we can help the young family buy a home, or the family entering into middle age, a retirement that they can count on.

And that means we have to stop treating things like child care and paid leave as side issues, or women’s issues.  (Applause.)  We’ve got to treat them as economic priorities.  (Applause.)  It means we’ve got to stand up for unions.  (Applause.)  It means that we’ve got to make sure that women are earning what men do for doing the same job.  (Applause.)  It means we support a fair living wage.  We’re very specific about how we want to help ordinary folks.  (Applause.)

When we talk about helping people earn higher wages and better skills, we put forward specific programs:  Here’s more opportunities for job training.  Here are apprenticeship programs that give workers the chance to earn higher paying jobs even if they don’t have a higher education.  (Applause.)  Here’s how we are going to help Americans burdened with student loans reduce their monthly payments.  (Applause.)  Here’s how we’re going to make community college free for every responsible student who wants to improve their lot in life.  (Applause.)

Here’s our program.  What’s yours?  Tell us how you’re helping middle-class families, because we’ve got an agenda and we know it works.  (Applause.)  Don’t just talk about it.  (Applause.)

* * *

So we don’t just talk the talk, we’re walking the walk every day.  I’m telling you, Democrats, we should never worry about fighting for these issues, because they are not only right, the American people stand right beside us on most of those issues.  Sometimes that gets lost with all the money that’s being spent by outside forces and the distortions and confusion.  But when you actually look at do Americans agree with our policies, do they think these policies would help them — and when there’s a fair presentation of the policies the other side is offering, the American people are with us every time.

Watch the C-Span video: President Obama Remarks: 2015 DNC Winter Meeting.

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