In American politics, optimism always triumphs over pessimism, as both Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan understood. Thus, another choice Obama was trying to frame: Optimism about what government might do or pessimism about that it can’t do. And progressives tend to do better in a competition of the future versus the past than of the left versus the right.
I’ve argued for a while that American decline is the specter haunting our politics, and that this could be the president’s undoing — or provide him with the opportunity to revive his presidency. Obama has clearly decided to take that challenge on, embracing the idea of America as an exceptional nation that always, well, wins the future. And he also believes that the “win the future” theme will be the key to winning a future election that is less than two years away.