The confidence that comes with reelection was visible everywhere at Monday’s inaugural ceremony, from the forcefulness of President Obama’s demeanor, to the more expansive tone of his inaugural address, to the large, loyal crowd that poured into Washington to register its support. Plainly, the president plans to use his second term to advance progressive causes that, in his first term, were either downplayed or submerged beneath the weight of the economic crisis. These include immigration reform, gay rights, and climate change, all of which were featured prominently in Obama’s speech.
Unlike immigration and gay marriage, which got frequent mentions on the campaign trail last fall, climate change has been a lost cause in Washington since a bill to limit carbon emissions got bogged down in the Senate in 2009. Putting the issue back on the map represents a bold move for the president, but he needs to follow up with a comprehensive plan to limit greenhouse gases. He will have to work hard to build public support: His decision to link the issue to wildfires and other disasters represents a good start.