This is an intriguing passage from last night:
And dropping out of high school is no longer an option. It’s not just quitting on yourself, it’s quitting on your country – and this country needs and values the talents of every American.
What to make of that? On the one hand, it shows one of Obama’s great strengths and innovations as a liberal that he can invoke patriotism in a way that doesn’t seem affected. On the other hand, why is it okay to question the patriotism of high school drop-outs when it’s just about the worst thing in the world to question the patriotism of people in other circumstances? Moreover, I think it says something telling about the current state of liberalism — and the political culture generally — that doing your part to sustain economic growth is a patriotic duty. This may seem normal and natural to people, but this notion is in fact a fairly recent development, with roots in the Progressive era but culminating with JFK’s Cold War liberalism, when outperforming the Soviets economically became a national imperative.
Update: From a reader:
Maybe I’m being too generous to Dear Leader, but I found his reference to the unacceptability of America’s high school drop-out rate to be a remark directed mostly (though subtly) toward black America where that problem is most severe. I would welcome more tough talk to the African-American community, especially coming from someone to whom they’re inclined to listen.
Me: I think this is largely right. I meant to make this point and somehow let it drop from my points. But I don’t think that’s all it’s about either.