It’s fair to say President Obama has had a rather extraordinary week. It was literally just a week ago when Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) mocked the president as a “very, very lame duck,” though few seem to be using the phrase today.
This was the week Obama’s trade agenda – one of his principal second-term goals – took a giant step forward. This was the week Obama’s health care reform law withstood a challenge at the U.S. Supreme Court, cementing his place as “one of the most consequential presidents in American history.”
And this was the week Obama was able to stand in the Rose Garden of the White House and celebrate the day marriage equality came to the United States. MSNBC’s David Taintor reported:
President Obama on Friday celebrated the Supreme Court’s decision to legalize same-sex marriage across the country, calling the historic ruling a “victory for America.”“Sometimes, there are days like this,” the president said in a statement from the Rose Garden outside the White House, “when that slow, steady effort is rewarded with justice that arrives like a thunderbolt.”
Obama, who’s advanced the cause of gay rights further and faster than even optimists could have predicted, added, “Today we can say, in no uncertain terms, that we’ve made our union a little more perfect…. America should be very proud.”
Watching this president discuss this ruling from this location served as a striking reminder about the extraordinary historical circumstances we find ourselves in.
Ezra Klein noted on Twitter this morning, “If you had told me in 2004 that America would have a black president, universal health care, and gay marriage by 2015, I would have laughed.”
As would I. In fact, I remember blogging the day after the 2004 election – a cycle in which the Bush/Cheney ticket used same-sex marriage as a wedge issue, capitalizing on bigotry to stay in office – and finding it awfully difficult to be optimistic about the future.
Take a moment to think about what’s happened since. Pause to appreciate what is, by some measures, a national transformation.
Voters elected America’s first African-American president and may soon elect our first woman president.
Gay and lesbian Americans, in every state in the union, can get married and serve openly in the military.
After a century of effort, America overhauled a failing health care system, which in turn has lowered the nation’s uninsured rate to levels unseen in our history and offered health security to millions of working families.
The nation suffered a brutal economic collapse, and it was progressive measures that rescued the country and cut the unemployment rate nearly in half.
American diplomats are having constructive conversations with countries we had refused to speak to for generations.
The Confederate battle flag is coming down in South Carolina and Alabama – among other places.
In some states, by popular referenda, Americans can even smoke marijuana without fear of imprisonment.
It is an overused quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” It is also true.
Most days, cynicism and frustration come effortlessly. We see political dysfunction and petty partisanship, and we can’t help but wonder whether progress is still possible.
And then sometimes, we have exceptional days like today, and we take great, collective leaps forward.