THE BLOG
02/13/2013 07:04 pm ET Updated Apr 15, 2013

The American Dream vs. The Politics of Fear

Tuesday night the American people saw a tale of two nations. And the difference could not have been any greater had Dickens himself written it.

The first tale came from President Obama. In his State of the Union address, the president spoke to our hopes and dreams, not our fears and doubts. He spoke of what makes America great and what gives all Americans hope for tomorrow: "The idea that if you work hard and meet your responsibilities," he said "you can get ahead, no matter where you come from, what you look like, or who you love." This is the American Dream. And Tuesday night, President Obama gave new meaning to it.

He masterfully wove this thread of aspiration throughout the texture of the entire speech. On immigration, he called for expanding the American Dream to include those undocumented workers. Skillfully, he stayed at a high level and left room for Congressional negotiators to work out the details. When the deal comes, President Obama will share credit with everyone, including Republicans smart enough to vote for it.

Next, President Obama spoke of ensuring that the American Dream includes good jobs and a growing economy. He struck a positive tone on the economy and noted promising economic data. The president promised to build on this growth and create an economy that works for the many, not just the few. And he again championed the middle class as the great economic engine that drives our economy. He also promised to deal with the structural debt but to do so in a way that ensures the wealthy pay their fair share.

On foreign policy, the president spoke of defending the American Dream by standing for freedom around the world. He will not tolerate terrorism; and he will seek to plant the seeds of democracy around the world.

Finally, on the most emotional issue of these times, the president called for sensible gun laws. He knows that most Americans -- including many gun owners -- support reasonable gun laws. Who needs an assault rifle to hunt? Or uses a supersized magazine clip? No one. That's why it's time for common sense gun laws.

The beauty of President Obama's vision of the American Dream stood in stark contrast to the dark vision presented by Senator Rubio. The Republican view of the country is closer to a bad dream than the American Dream.

To hear the Republicans, we don't have enough tax cuts for the rich and we don't have enough guns on the street. To his credit, Senator Rubio tried to distance himself from his party on one issue: immigration. He courageously called for immigration reform that would include some form of a pathway to citizenship.

Here is a word of advice to Senator Rubio: don't look behind you, because not many Republicans are following you.

The Republican Party showed its colors in the 2012 election when Governor Romney ran on a platform calling for the "self-deportation" of undocumented workers. Hispanic voters responded by voting in overwhelming numbers for Democrats at the polls.

Now, Senator Rubio is smart enough to change course on this issue. The question remains: is his party smart enough to join him? I doubt it. And the reason is because of the Republican philosophy. Where President Obama offers "smarter government, not bigger government," the GOP is stuck offering sound bites about individual rights. But no man is an island to himself. We all live and succeed together. This is the genius of the Obama vision -- it unites us all in a common cause. And this is the weakness of the Republican vision -- it says it's every man for himself. Is it any wonder voters rejected the GOP last November?

The tale of two nations presented Tuesday night showed that the American people have a clear choice in politics: the Obama vision of hope and faith or the Republican vision of fear and doubt.

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