Kia Franklin

A New Era of Responsibility?

"Greatness is never a given. It must be earned." In his inaugural address, President Obama certainly was off to a great start. Obama spoke about ushering in a new era of responsibility--to ourselves, to our nation, to the world, to the environment. The address spoke to both soul and political consciousness. I have some thoughts on what his speech means for the fight for civil justice.

Below is video, courtesy of DailyKosTV (also available on YouTube):

Obama pledged to work toward restoring the people's confidence in our government. He said that it's time to get to work on this task with "bold and swift action" based on an exploration of the bigger, not the petty, questions. "Stale political arguments won't work," he states. The dialogue is no longer to be confined to questions of big vs. small government, but instead to questions about creating a government that works. It's not about dogmatically defending or attacking the free market, but about keeping a watchful eye on the market so that it does not "spin out of control" (as we've seen all too clearly recently).

Restoring people's faith and confidence in the government is one of the most central themes of the civil justice movement. Movement activists seek to do this by highlighting the civil justice system's value as an integral part of the democratic process, through illustrations of what happens when the system works well. But the movement is not about cheer leading--it's also about critique, by showing what goes wrong when the system is not allowed to function properly, when corporate interests infect the process and obstruct access to justice for ordinary people.

The sentiment from Obama's speech signals growing ideological skepticism toward the tired tort "reform" rhetoric that has been used to protect corporate interests and weaken our legal rights, safety, security, financial welfare, and health for so long. But this only means that the conversation is opening up to include the voices of real people--Ledbetter rode the train with Obama, after all--who've been affected by corporate influence on the civil justice system. It doesn't mean that those voices will be heeded. What's needed in addition to a diversity of voices is a willing mass of agitators ready to demand a stronger, more effective system for holding corporate power, and our government, accountable.

So it's okay to celebrate. It is, after all, an historic moment. But then we get back to work.

Kia Franklin: Author Bio | Other Posts
Posted at 2:17 PM, Jan 20, 2009 in Decision 2008 | Presidential Election | Videos
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"Stale political arguments won't work"? What does this actually mean? Does it mean that the arguments made against the polcies of the liberal left are just no longer valid? When Obama says we all work together, is he suggesting that conservatives just all have to become liberals?

This idea of working together is odd to me. If liberals truly beleive this, then why did they oppose every policy of Bush for the past eight years? Or do we only work together when the agenda is that of the liberal left?

Posted by: Heather | January 21, 2009 9:45 AM

"Stale political arguments" means the talking points that have failed the test of reality but still somehow are convenient to make. Those are the ones that should no longer be entertained. I like Bob Borosage's blog over at OurFuture--it highlights several of these.

But it's not simply a "liberal vs. conservative" issue, although conservative ideology has created a lot of problematic policies. What works for real people? What improves peoples' lives? To the extend that liberals, conservatives, and those in between want to achieve those goals, working together is possible and desirable. But you're right, as for the many many Bush era policies that squarely enriched corporate America and endangered the general public, "working together" would be odd to say the least.

Posted by: Kia | January 21, 2009 10:20 AM

Also Rick Persltein at has some good commentary on the subject.

Posted by: Kia | January 21, 2009 10:22 AM

Also Bill Scher over at Liberaloasis has an excellent analysis of the inaugural address and the call for progressive dialogue.

Posted by: Kia | January 22, 2009 11:35 AM