The Royal “We” in the Inaugration Address

I didn’t watch the presidential inauguration live, and I didn’t watch any video of it until today when I saw a video of the inaugural address.

I, personally, find the pomp of the inauguration and the adoring crowds distasteful. But, I understand that others see it as an important tradition, and an opportunity for the newly elected president to set a tone for his administration.

There have been many reactions to the speech, with many on the left praising it as a bold statement of progressive principles that will be furthered regardless of what the opposition thinks of them; and, many on the right criticizing it for similar reasons. I suppose that it’s refreshing, in a way, that he’s stopped pretending to be interested in reaching out to those who disagree, and that there’s any reason to “Hope” for any positive “Change.”

I didn’t think much of the speech. There was a promising section that seemed to recognize reality, and the distinctive virtues of this country:

Through it all, we have never relinquished our skepticism of central authority, nor have we succumbed to the fiction that all society’s ills can be cured through government alone. Our celebration of initiative and enterprise, our insistence on hard work and personal  responsibility, these are constants in our character.

But, the rest of the speech belied any commitment to those words.

One particularly despicable section was this straw man argument:

No single person can train all the math and science teachers we’ll need to equip our children for the future, or build the roads and networks and research labs that will bring new jobs and businesses to our shores. Now, more than ever, we must do these things together, as one nation and one people.

Sheldon Richman wrote a better comment on this than I could.

But, beyond the usual rhetorical tripe, what struck me about the speech was the constant use of “We”, and “Together.”

I never felt included in these assertions about what “We” believe and what “We” must do, except as one of the intended victims of the extortion that would finance the schemes of the real “We”. And, the real “We” is Obama himself, the government, and those who collude with them. When Obama says “We” he means himself (The Royal “We”) and his misguided followers.

And, “Royal” seems to be an apt adjective for this president, since his behavior has often been reminiscent of a king or dictator (e.g., going to war without congressional approval, illegal “recess” appointments and other abuses of executive orders, kill lists, targeted killing of an American and his child without due process, declarations that he will not debate with Congress on issues legally requiring its approval…).

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