President Obama told Osawatomie, Kansas, today that ever since the financial crisis, Americans have been locked in a debate over how to fix the economy and bring back fairness.
Throughout the country, it has sparked protests and political movements - from the Tea Party to the people who have been occupying the streets of New York and other cities. It's left Washington in a near-constant state of gridlock. And it's been the topic of heated and sometimes colorful discussion among the men and women who are running for president.
But this isn't just another political debate. This is the defining issue of our time. This is a make or break moment for the middle class, and all those who are fighting to get into the middle class. At stake is whether this will be a country where working people can earn enough to raise a family, build a modest savings, own a home, and secure their retirement.
Now, in the midst of this debate, there are some who seem to be suffering from a kind of collective amnesia. After all that's happened, after the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression, they want to return to the same practices that got us into this mess. In fact, they want to go back to the same policies that have stacked the deck against middle-class Americans for too many years. Their philosophy is simple: we are better off when everyone is left to fend for themselves and play by their own rules.
Well, I'm here to say they are wrong. I'm here to reaffirm my deep conviction that we are greater together than we are on our own. I believe that this country succeeds when everyone gets a fair shot, when everyone does their fair share, and when everyone plays by the same rules. Those aren't Democratic or Republican values; 1% values or 99% values. They're American values, and we have to reclaim them.
Emphasis mine, reason being that President Obama is folding in the Occupy Wall Street movement and the spin-off 99 percent meme and the Tea Party all in one speech about fairness as an American value. NBC producer Shawna Thomas says this is a new deal for him.
Mr. Obama may not have sounded this populist since his address to the 2004 Democratic convention, the speech where he argued that there isn't a Blue America or a Red America but one United States of America. It's the same formula Elizabeth Warren has been capitalizing on -- we all pay the taxes and build the roads and educate the workers.
E.J. Dionne has a great first look at the speech's roots in Teddy Roosevelt. We'll have a whole bunch more on the show tonight.