In the months leading up to last fall’s presidential election, even Obama’s supporters mourned his lack of a vision for the next four years. They haven’t taken much consolation from developments since then, despite the moment of unity over the shootings in Newtown, and the rhetorical uplift of the second inaugural address. At first glance, that speech seems merely to confirm the President’s conventionally liberal intent on multiple fronts: the war in Afghanistan, immigration, health care and education reform, climate change and social justice. Republicans see little or no effort at the bi-partisan solidarity the President had announced—perhaps naively—in his first inaugural address.
And yet, the form of engagement that he at one point calls “collective action” does surface repeatedly in the speech: so, if not a bridge across the aisle in Congress, what collectivity does the President have in mind?