President Obama spoke before Democratic Party leaders recently. (AP File Photo)
President Obama lifted the sagging spirits of Democratic Party leaders in a speech highlighting the accomplishments of his administration. Obama spoke to the group – leaders from the 50 states, the District, and U.S. territories and possessions – at its annual Winter Meeting Feb. 20 at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill. While the Democrats lost control of the U.S. Senate, lost seats in the U.S. House of Representatives, lost governorships, and control of some state legislative chambers in the 2014 mid-term elections, Obama said the party is on the rebound because America is on the upswing.
“It’s been about a year since our last meeting and as I had indicated, as I had predicted, it was a breakthrough year for America,” the president said. “Last year our economy created more than three million new jobs, the best single year for job growth since the 1990s.”
Obama said 12 million new jobs were created in the past five years and which is a sign of economic growth for middle-class families that “wages are beginning to rise again.” The president said Americans are graduating from high school and college at historically high rates and that the nation is the world leader in energy resources as oil, gas, and wind power.
He boasted about his landmark legislative achievement: the Affordable Care Act. “We’ve extended the security and fundamental right to affordable, accessible health care to more than 10 million uninspired Americans,” Obama said. “And we are counting each and every day. Folks are signing up and benefitting because of what we fought for. Because of what you fought for.”
Obama said that Republicans are changing their message because of the success of Democratic policies. “And now that their grand predictions of doom and gloom, and death panels and Armageddon haven’t come true,” he said, “the sky hasn’t fallen, Chicken Little is quiet, and the new plan apparently, of Congressional Republicans, and this is progress, the new plan is to rebrand themselves as the party of the middle class. I’m not making this up.”
Obama chided Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) for crediting the GOP for the country’s economic recovery by quoting McConnell saying “it’s better because we just got elected and people are feeling more optimistic.”
“I didn’t know that’s how the economy worked,” the president said to laughter. “But maybe? We’ll call some economists.”
In a quick, conversation with Donna Brazile, a District resident and the party’s vice president of voter registration and participation, he said Republicans need to follow through on their commitment to helping middle-class Americans. “So I am encouraged that they’re speaking about middle class and speaking about wages,” he said. “But there is this old saying that you can’t just talk the talk. Donna, you got to do what?”
“Walk the walk,” Brazile said.
“You got to walk the walk,” the president repeated after her.
Arkansas State Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock) said Obama’s speech reminded her why she worked hard for his election in 2008 and re-election in 2012. “He reminded me of the deep trouble our country was in when he came into office,” Elliott said. “He reminded me just far we have come when we were deep in the abyss. Our nation is so much better off because we elected him twice.”
Elliott said that Obama is a part of a legacy of accomplishment. “Everyone does better when a Democrat is president,” she said.
George Wallace, the mayor of Hampton, Va., agrees with Elliott. “His speech was a litany of his accomplishments,” Wallace said. “He has performed a metamorphosis of this country. He has performed his duties without B.S.”
The Rev. Randy Kelley, the senior pastor of the Goodsell United Methodist Church in Lannet, Ala., said that Obama’s speech was “powerful and practical.”
“He presented an outline of what he has done,” Kelley said. “He has a strong track record and I think that he will go down in history as the most successful president of the modern era.”