|Obama at work on State of Union Address|
Obama is now understanding the glue for a multi-racial electoral coalition together will be policies that protect and lift up the poor and the increasingly desperate working class. The only way to keep the GOP from completely defeating him is to mobilize all of his coalition. He is like Lincoln, who fought a war to keep the Union from dissolving over slavery, and ended up understanding that the only way to win the war was to abolish slavery. The hand of a President can be forced by the people in action themselves.
Lincoln saw that African Americans were flocking to the Union lines, and wanted to get into the fight. Either he would let them, or he would have to drive them away. When low-wage workers, many people of color, started agitating for $15 wage in the fast food industry, or a union at Walmart, when the Dream Defenders sat in in the Florida governors office for the rights of the children of immigrants, it became clear that the rising multi-racial electoral majority would be led from below. Hence, the turn to the left, to economic populism, on the part of the Administration, the Democratic Congress and the liberal pundit class.
All of this matters to liberal religious institutions. We have carried the vision of a multi-racial democracy in the United States, since the days of our conversion in the 1950's and 60's. It's been a struggle to realize that you can't get to "post-racial" without being "anti-racist". Now, it will be more clear that to be "anti-racist" means that you have to be "economically populist." We have to be concretely on the side of all those who live in the mix of low-wage work, part-time work, unemployment benefits, SNAP, TANF, SSDI, Social Security, Medicaid and off the books enterprises. Otherwise, it is to become uncommitted to what we thought we were committed to.
The commentators all talk about how Obama has finally given up on the vision of a nice-bipartisan, pragmatic Washington, all that blue-sky stuff about reaching across the aisle, Tip and the Gipper knocking them back after a hard day giving and taking with each other. The GOP in Congress would have none of that. Obama will have to fight. And to fight, he has to mobilize as many of the 99% as possible.
UU public theologians should understand that we are in the same tough spot. We have been addicted to our own version of Obama's pipe dream: a safe, nice, spiritual sweet spot, where peace and harmony bloom, where harsh political divisions are left at the door, where all sorts of lions and all sorts of lamb lie down together, and where our sensitivity and skills at interpersonal relationships in here overcome all the social contradictions of the society out there. That pipe dream is how we got through the last era. It will prove inadequate for the future.
(9:45 on Jan 29 -- edited to correct disastrous typo -- "It has been a struggle to realize that you can't to "post-racial withOUT being anti-racist." )