Obama, retour aux sources

Barack Obama a prononcé, le mardi 20 janvier, son avant-dernier discours sur l’état de l’Union. Malgré la défaite des démocrates au Sénat comme à la Chambre des représentants lors des élections de midterm de novembre 2014, le président américain n’entend pas céder devant la majorité républicaine. Dick Howard, professeur émérite à la Sony University de New York, a même retrouvé dans le discours de mardi les accents du candidat à la présidence en 2008.

Barack Obama dans la Chambre Rouge, par Pete souza
via Wikicommons

Les commentateurs ont souligné la confiance, voire l’agressivité avec lesquelles Barack Obama s’est présenté devant les deux Chambres réunies lors du discours sur l’état de l’Union, le 20 janvier, malgré la défaite retentissante subie par son parti aux élections de novembre 2014. La gauche du parti démocrate semble dire : enfin, Obama souligne nos différences, il défend nos valeurs, il abandonne cette posture d’un président au-dessus de la mêlée. Le parti républicain (déjà bien à droite) dénonce une forme d’« usurpation ». Le président ignorerait les résultats électoraux pour imposer ses convictions à une opinion majoritaire.
Les uns comme les autres tombent en tous cas d’accord pour estimer que les deux dernières années du mandat de Barack Obama seront combatives et partisanes. Mais surtout, elles vont délimiter le champ de bataille pour les élections présidentielles et parlementaires de 2016 où sera en jeu non seulement son héritage mais plus important l’avenir d’une république ébranlée par la vague populiste du Tea Party.

Le discours et la promesse

Il faudra attendre un peu pour juger du rapport entre les paroles d’Obama et les actes. Mais il y a eu un moment —juste avant la fin du discours sur l’état de l’Union —, qui soulignait les points durs entre une « droite » et une « gauche ». Ces accents rappelaient un autre discours d’Obama, celui de 2004 lors de la Convention démocrate qui avait révélé le jeune sénateur de l’Illinois au grand public. C’est ce discours, ce seul discours et la promesse qu’il laissait entrevoir, qui avait permis à Barack Obama de gagner la nomination du parti démocrate au détriment d’Hillary Clinton. C’est ce discours qui lui fit, contre vents et marées, gagner la présidence… Et c’est ce discours que démentait, jour après jour, législature après législature, campagne après campagne, la réalité de la vie politique dans une société divisée.

À la fin du discours sur l’état de l’Union, alors que le téléspectateur (nous étions 30 millions devant notre poste, alors qu’aux beaux moments de la vie politique télévisuelle, nous étions quelque 45 millions) s’était endormi, arrivait cette sorte de péroraison. Elle semble nous assurer que le président est toujours le Barack Obama qu’on avait adoré en 2004 et élu en 2008.

"Sharing some bedrock values"

You know, just over a decade ago, I gave a speech in Boston where I said there wasn’t a liberal America, or a conservative America ; a black America or a white America — but a United States of America. I said this because I had seen it in my own life, in a nation that gave someone like me a chance ; because I grew up in Hawaii, a melting pot of races and customs ; because I made Illinois my home — a state of small towns, rich farmland, and one of the world’s great cities ; a microcosm of the country where Democrats and Republicans and Independents, good people of every ethnicity and every faith, share certain bedrock values.
Over the past six years, the pundits have pointed out more than once that my presidency hasn’t delivered on this vision. How ironic, they say, that our politics seems more divided than ever. It’s held up as proof not just of my own flaws — of which there are many — but also as proof that the vision itself is misguided, and naïve, and that there are too many people in this town who actually benefit from partisanship and gridlock for us to ever do anything about it.
I know how tempting such cynicism may be. But I still think the cynics are wrong.
I still believe that we are one people. I still believe that together, we can do great things, even when the odds are long. I believe this because over and over in my six years in office, I have seen America at its best. I’ve seen the hopeful faces of young graduates from New York to California ; and our newest officers at West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs, and New London. I’ve mourned with grieving families in Tucson and Newtown ; in Boston, West, Texas, and West Virginia. I’ve watched Americans beat back adversity from the Gulf Coast to the Great Plains ; from Midwest assembly lines to the Mid-Atlantic seaboard. I’ve seen something like gay marriage go from a wedge issue used to drive us apart to a story of freedom across our country, a civil right now legal in states that seven in ten Americans call home.
So I know the good, and optimistic, and big-hearted generosity of the American people who, every day, live the idea that we are our brother’s keeper, and our sister’s keeper. And I know they expect those of us who serve here to set a better example.
So the question for those of us here tonight is how we, all of us, can better reflect America’s hopes. I’ve served in Congress with many of you. I know many of you well. There are a lot of good people here, on both sides of the aisle. And many of you have told me that this isn’t what you signed up for — arguing past each other on cable shows, the constant fundraising, always looking over your shoulder at how the base will react to every decision.
Imagine if we broke out of these tired old patterns. Imagine if we did something different.
Understand — a better politics isn’t one where Democrats abandon their agenda or Republicans simply embrace mine.
A better politics is one where we appeal to each other’s basic decency instead of our basest fears.
A better politics is one where we debate without demonizing each other ; where we talk issues, and values, and principles, and facts, rather than “gotcha” moments, or trivial gaffes, or fake controversies that have nothing to do with people’s daily lives.
A better politics is one where we spend less time drowning in dark money for ads that pull us into the gutter, and spend more time lifting young people up, with a sense of purpose and possibility, and asking them to join in the great mission of building America.
If we’re going to have arguments, let’s have arguments — but let’s make them debates worthy of this body and worthy of this country.
We still may not agree on a woman’s right to choose, but surely we can agree it’s a good thing that teen pregnancies and abortions are nearing all-time lows, and that every woman should have access to the health care she needs.
Yes, passions still fly on immigration, but surely we can all see something of ourselves in the striving young student, and agree that no one benefits when a hardworking mom is taken from her child, and that it’s possible to shape a law that upholds our tradition as a nation of laws and a nation of immigrants.
We may go at it in campaign season, but surely we can agree that the right to vote is sacred ; that it’s being denied to too many ; and that, on this 50th anniversary of the great march from Selma to Montgomery and the passage of the Voting Rights Act, we can come together, Democrats and Republicans, to make voting easier for every single American.
We may have different takes on the events of Ferguson and New York. But surely we can understand a father who fears his son can’t walk home without being harassed. Surely we can understand the wife who won’t rest until the police officer she married walks through the front door at the end of his shift. Surely we can agree it’s a good thing that for the first time in 40 years, the crime rate and the incarceration rate have come down together, and use that as a starting point for Democrats and Republicans, community leaders and law enforcement, to reform America’s criminal justice system so that it protects and serves us all.
That’s a better politics. That’s how we start rebuilding trust. That’s how we move this country forward. That’s what the American people want. That’s what they deserve.

I have no more campaigns to run. My only agenda for the next two years is the same as the one I’ve had since the day I swore an oath on the steps of this Capitol — to do what I believe is best for America. If you share the broad vision I outlined tonight, join me in the work at hand. If you disagree with parts of it, I hope you’ll at least work with me where you do agree. And I commit to every Republican here tonight that I will not only seek out your ideas, I will seek to work with you to make this country stronger.

Lisons, réfléchissons, jugeons

Il est trop tôt pour en évaluer la signification—mais cela vaut la peine de relire ces mots, d’apprécier ces sentiments… car les six premières années de la présidence Obama semblaient démentir ces bons sentiments généreux. Lisons, réfléchissons, jugeons : c’est notre métier de citoyen.