Last week was President Obama’s best political and policy results in the six years of his presidency. He began the week mourning the outcome of the bloody massacre and murder of nine Black worshipers at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina by a young white terrorist. At the same time he was working overtime to convince the Democrats to change course and support his request for Fast-Track authority for his Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade (TPP) legislation.
Most political commentators and pundits had written off the president and his ability to succeed in turning this situation around. However, in the midst of these circumstances he was able to end the week by declaring he and the nation were the recipients of “Amazing Grace”. Here are the reasons that led to that Grace!
OBAMA’S WEEK OF GRACE
- On Tuesday the 23rd, after some serious “horse trading” and deal making amongst his fellow Democrats, President Obama was able to gain the support needed to pass the Fast-Track authority for his Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade. This authority allows the President to negotiate the terms of the trade agreement with the 12 nations within the partnership without Congress being able to amend or filibuster the final accord. The passage by the Senate on Tuesday cleared the way for the House to vote in favor of the legislation. Many members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) were opposed the legislation because of the threat of the loss of jobs due to overseas production, outsourcing, and the transfer of companies’ production to low cost labor markets in Asia. Many of these CBC members were won over by the accompanying legislation that set aside more money to compensate workers who lost their jobs do to the TPP.
President Obama was pleased with this victory since he considers this legislation apart of his presidential legacy.
- After agreeing to deliver the eulogy at the funeral of Pastor Pinckney and calling for the Confederate flag to be taken down from the South Carolina state capitol, he was joined in this call by Governor Nikki R. Haley. By Wednesday the state legislature agreed to debate removing the flag. This led to a nationwide movement to take down the flags from state capitol buildings around the south as well as removing the Confederate flag symbol from license plates in states like Virginia, North Carolina, Maryland, and Tennessee. Major retailers Amazon, eBay, Sears, and Walmart announced that they will no longer allow the sale of Confederate flags and flag themed merchandise in their establishments. President Obama was pleased with this development.
- Thursday was the brightest day in the week for Mr. Obama. The U.S. Supreme Court handed down its long awaited decision on the Affordable Care Act (ACA), dubbed Obamacare by his
opponents. The Court ruled in a 6-3 decision that the Affordable Health Care Act was the law of the land and it applies to all of the 50 states. It allows the federal government to provide nationwide subsidies to help poor people purchase health care insurance in any state. The President was quoted as saying “After multiple challenges to this law before the Supreme Court, the Affordable Care Act is here to stay.” He further stated “What we’re not going to do is unravel what has now been woven into the fabric of America.” This was a major victory for the President since this health care legislation is another part of his presidential legacy. Indeed, millions of people now are able to purchase health insurance and receive care in any part of the country.
- The Supreme Court delivered another victory for the Obama administration on Thursday in its rule against discriminatory housing practices. While the states that brought the case to the Court argued that discrimination can only be legally valid if it is found to be caused by intent, the Court ruled that the Fair Housing Act of 1968 allows citizens to pursue lawsuits when a housing practice has a discriminatory effect, even if that practice wasn’t intended to discriminate. This “disparate impact” discrimination argument was at the heart of the argument of the Civil Rights advocates in their presentations to the Court. The 5-4 majority on the Court in ruling for the plaintiffs, a Texas nonprofit organization, the Inclusive Communities Project, said that the publically funded housing department “failed to meet its burden to show that there were no less discriminatory alternatives for allocating the tax credits.” Right-wing groups in the state of Texas were deeply disappointed and vowed to continue litigating to reverse the decision. Groups like the National Low-Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC) were pleased and joined President Obama in praising the decision.
- Lastly, on Friday morning the Supreme Court handed down decision on the question of same-sex marriage. It ruled in a 5-4 decision that the Constitution guarantees a right to same-sex marriage. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, writing for the majority, stated “No longer may this liberty be denied. No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were.” With this decision, same-sex marriage becomes the law of the land that cannot be legally denied in any state. Justices Roberts and Antonin Scalia, both in the minority, scorned the decision. Justice Scalia wrote of his fellow judges in the majority “The opinion is couched in a style that is as pretentious as its content is egotistic.” Former Arkansas Governor and possible Republican candidate for president Mike Huckabee, in his outrage of the decision, said “The Supreme Court has spoken with a very divided voice on something only the Supreme Being can do—redefine marriage. I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.” President Obama praised the decision and asked all Americans to abide by it since it is now the law of the land. Mr. Obama had publically declared that same-sex marriage was constitutional and morally correct more than two years ago.
- On Friday, President Obama demonstrated his most impassioned understanding of the Black Church and its tradition of faith, hope, civic engagement and Civil Rights. While delivering a beautiful eulogy for Rev. Clementa C. Pinckney, he seamlessly flowed into a plea for gun control laws, an end to racism, justice for all Americans regardless of race, and the removal of the Confederate flag from the South Carolina State House. Perhaps his most memorable line from his eulogy was his plea for an end to racism. He said “Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it. So that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs, but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview, but not Jamal.”
He surprised and brought the audience to its feet when he talked about “God’s Grace” and began singing the hymn “Amazing Grace”! It is clear that he was deeply moved by the victories that he has received during the week that he no doubt characterized as by the Grace of God. He feels that his legacy is now intact and whatever he does in the rest of his term, he can count this last week in June, 2015 as his week of “Amazing Grace.”