Casting the coming election as an opportunity to encourage “an economy that grows for the many, not just the few,” President Obama delivered a stinging indictment of the Republican agenda on Friday.
The speech to the Democratic National Committee’s winter meeting represented the most charged partisan rhetoric of Obama’s second term and a preview of the party’s message in coming campaigns. Democrats are hoping a populist platform highlighted by a call to increase the minimum wage will help buoy them against what is historically a difficult midterm election cycle for the party holding the White House.
“It is time to give America a raise or elect more Democrats who will do it,” the president said.Obama derided Republicans’ economic message as “opportunity for a few,” saying they had espoused a similar mix of tax cuts for the wealthy and reduced social spending throughout the last century.
“Just because this theory has a history, doesn’t mean it should have a future,” he said. “It’s time to retire this theory. It doesn’t work.”
On health care, Obama acknowledged the law’s early problems, but mocked House Republican leaders for their ongoing struggle to produce a health care alternative that Majority Leader Eric Cantor pledged last year.
“I’m sure it’s coming any day now,” he said. “The reason they don’t do it, of course, is that we already took the best ideas that are out there about bringing down costs and covering more people.”
With Republicans in Congress already downplaying the odds of of any major legislation passing this year, from immigration reform to a tax overhaul, there’s little incentive left for the president not to pivot sharply toward an election year message for 2014. Obama alluded to the House’s inactivity in his remarks, repeating his pledge to evade Congress when they fail to act – an approach that has produced only limited policy gains in his second term., but outraged Republicans who deride his executive actions as a power grab.
“I’ve said I want to work with Congress wherever I can - and there are places where the parties can work together to get things done,” he said. “But I’ve also said and shown that in this year of action, where ever I can act on my own to expand opportunity for more Americans, I will.”