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Obama and the End of the Democracy Agenda

For the first time in decades, one very important word was conspicuously absent from an inaugural address.

by
John Rosenthal

Bio

January 24, 2009 - 12:00 am
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Amidst all the “soaring rhetoric” and many high-sounding words in Barack Obama’s inauguration speech, one word was conspicuous precisely by its absence: “democracy.” Neither the noun “democracy” nor the adjective “democratic” was uttered. The “democracy agenda” so closely associated with the foreign policy ideas of President Bush appears to be well and truly off the table. But the “democracy agenda” was not only an integral part of Bush foreign policy; it has — at least on the level of rhetoric — been an integral part of American foreign policy as such for decades now.

George W. Bush mentioned the words “democracy” or “democratic” three times in his second inaugural address in 2005 and three times in his first inaugural address in 2001. Bill Clinton mentioned the word “democracy” five times (once in the plural) in his second inaugural address in 1997 and four times in his first inaugural address in 1993. George H.W. Bush mentioned the word “democracy” five times in his inaugural address in 1989.

Barack Obama in 2009: zero. Change has indeed come to America.

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