I saw on Twitter that Michael Moore thought Obama's speech was "awesome". Among left-liberals, he can't be alone in thinking that. I read the speech. My primary attitude was one of frustration. Even internal to the left-liberal position (i.e. setting aside his flowery rhetoric about the importance of "free enterprise" and so on), his speech should have been infuriating. The gap between the rhetoric and the reality of what he and the Democrats have done is enormous. Much of the speech's "awesome" parts, I take it, were those moments that (for once!) took aim at the reactionary policies of the Republican leadership. But that struck me as facile externalization. To be sure, the GOP are indeed more reactionary than Obama. But Obama cannot legitimately blame them for the tax breaks for the rich. He cannot legitimately blame them for the sorry state of the Federal budget. He cannot blame the Republicans for two as yet unpaid for wars (and new ones on the way). These are all policies that he and the Democrats in Congress voted to support. These are policies that form the bread and butter of their politics. While it is obviously true that the majority of Americans, and especially progressives, want to hear rhetoric about ending the expensive wars, taxing the rich, and protecting the meager social safety net that we have... it is not the case that Obama's giving rhetorical support to these causes makes them materialize in reality. It is not the case that his mere rhetorical support for them (as election season grows near) is good enough, particularly when he proves unwilling and impatient with fighting for such causes when it comes to policy. But he's smart. He and the Dems know full well that they won't turn out people to vote for them on a platform such as "Capitulation and Austerity you can Believe In".
The key is to focus our attention on the enormous distance between the ideals used to legitimate our society, and the actual way that our society is configured on the other. You notice very quickly that the ideals stand at some distance from their supposed embodiment in basic structure of our society.