The opposition party has a duty only to oppose, nothing more. Plans are laid out, so that America has an idea of an alternative path, but the job of passing the agenda lies in the majority. The fetish of bipartisanship as a goal in itself embraces only imbecility. If one side simply caves to the other, that's not America. That's Hitler's Germany, Chavez' Venezuela or Castro's Cuba. As Lloyd Cutler used to say, "America was founded by dissidents and smugglers." Why should we lose our independence and our probing minds for something of undefined effect and with untold cost?
At the bottom line, America has thrived on substance. Yes, we've had lots of pretty words along the way, but all words that meant something had a direct substantive effect. In other words, they were almost mathematical in their precision and scope. The "Gettyburg Address", FDR's Pearl Harbor speech, JFK's "Why Not the Moon" speech and Reagan's "Tear Down this Wall" speech. All described the state of affairs, a plain goal and a way to reach it. The goals may have been extremely hard to reach, but the stakes were acknowledged and the speeches lent solemnity to decisions that almost all felt must be made. The humanity of these individuals shines through in those speeches because the purpose rang true. How was this so? Those were all set piece speeches and yet any one of them has the sense, the feel of an intimate almost extemporaneous conversation. Tiger Woods and President Obama give speeches drenched in artifice, pretense and simulation. The speeches of Lincoln, Kennedy, Reagan and FDR had no need or time for pretense. The enormous issues of their day were duly understood and confronted with speeches that were not only well made, but direly needed.
Perhaps I mourn for the loss of such speeches. Almost three decades ago Walter Ong noted the rise of secondary orality, speech based only on written words. Long before "talking points" became household words, Ong noted this shift and something else. There was still a desire or perhaps need for primary orality or speech alone with no props or printed words or reminders. Obama himself decries talking points in speeches and yet that negative attitude about the medium is now a talking point. This is why the speeches of our ancestors have vanished. We have speeches exclusively about speeches. This serves only as cover or concealment for an agenda most people don't want.