He presented his agenda as the logical consequence of the Declaration of Independence’s enunciation of the equality of all men and our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. For Obama, that means equal-pay legislation, gay marriage, and amnesty for illegal immigrants. He included a long passage on the necessity of fighting climate change with transformative energy policies. “That’s what will lend meaning,” he said, “to the creed our fathers once declared.” (One wonders what Thomas Jefferson would have made of the argument that his handiwork is meaningless absent federal subsidies for the likes of Solyndra.)…

All in all, it was a brazen performance, as audacious in intent as it was banal in its expression. He used the Founders’ authority to advance an expansive conception of American government that would have been unrecognizable to them. Amid the pomp and the circumstances, Republicans should have heard a direct challenge. The president did them, and everyone else, the favor of enunciating the battle lines and the stakes of the fights to come.