Who let the Black Christian out?
President Obama’s eulogy yesterday at the Clementa Pinckney funeral in Charleston was both strikingly Black in its cadences–not to mention his rendition of “Amazing Grace”–and Christian in his theology, which includes a concept of grace foreign to a Reform Jew like me:
While the occasion was a somber one, the President has good reason for his new-found confidence and connectedness. He has won in the last week a remarkable series of battles:
- in Congress, he got “fast track” negotiating authority (aka Trade Promotion Authority, or TPA) that will enable him (and eventually his successor) to get an up or down vote on the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), without possibility of amendment;
- at the Supreme Court, he won make or break cases on Obamacare subsidies, gay marriage and housing discrimination.
“Fast track” required the President to support Republican maneuvers around Democratic resistance. House Minority Leader Pelosi, who nominally lost, is likely none too upset at the outcome. She got credit from labor unions for resisting TPA, but avoided undermining a Democratic President. The result also liberated Hillary Clinton from the need to take a stand she has been trying to avoid.
I imagine a good number of Republicans feel the same way about losing on Obamacare. They got credit for opposing it but avoided the mess that would have followed annulment of the law. It wasn’t going to help their cause to upset the more than 10 million or so voters who get subsidies for health insurance under Obamacare, never mind the millions who have stayed on their parents’ health insurance because of the law or wouldn’t have insurance at all because of pre-existing conditions. Ditto gay marriage: Republicans are on the record in opposition but can now accept the decision and avoid surrendering the entire LGBT community to the Democrats.
The Supreme Court victories all depended on more conservative justices crossing the line to support more liberal views. The passage of “fast track” depended on Democrats crossing the line to support Republican views on trade.
So American democracy and justice, which not long ago were thought to be hopelessly deadlocked, have somehow bounced back to make important decisions that by my lights go in the right direction.
President Obama has good reason to feel more confident. Maybe that is what allowed him to let the Black Christian out, despite the likelihood that his audience included many who would not support him on gay marriage. I doubt he’ll have much success on gun control, which was one his memes in Charleston yesterday, but for the moment at least it looks as if the Confederate flag will be coming down in many places, another meme he emphasized.
Politics is war by other means. You win some and you lose some. But this was a winning week for President Obama, who is looking like a pretty peppy, Black and Christian, lame duck.