The President's latest begging letter reached me today. He signed it in a nostalgic mood, looking back fondly on "one momentous week in late June, when the course of our nation pointed, once again, squarely toward progress." The letter itself begs for donations to the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Obama's idea being that if his party can take four of the 24 Republican seats in play next year, while holding all ten of theirs, Democrats will reclaim the upper house. Recalling those momentous June days, I assume, is supposed to inspire us to donate to Democrats -- but what was so momentous about that week, and what did Senate Democrats have to do with it?
Obama explains, first, that after that momentous week, "A woman in Florida working two part-time jobs no longer has to worry about whether or not she will have access to affordable health care. [boldface in original]" Once you reach the end of the sentence you realize that he refers to the Supreme Court decision upholding the Affordable Care Act against the most recent nitpicking challenge. Next,"A devoted same-sex couple from Ohio can now build a life together with equal dignity in the eyes of the law." And indeed, in that same week in June the Court struck down laws denying marriage rights to same-sex couples. Finally, "across the South, lawmakers are calling to take down the Confederate flag, a symbol of systematic oppression for so many, from public grounds." Here the President refers to initiatives by state governors and legislators, including some Republicans. Can U.S. Senate Democrats claim leadership on this issue? Alas, the credit really belongs to the perpetrator of the Charlestown massacre of the previous week, whose avowed white supremacism and brandishing of the rebel flag shamed many of the old banner's former defenders while newly emboldening its longtime opponents.
The only thing Democratic Senators can take credit for out of all of this is voting to confirm the Supreme Court justices who voted in favor of Obamacare and gay marriage. But in all four pages of the President's begging letter on Senators' behalf, their role in replenishing the Court gets one sentence -- a sentence fragment, really -- of recognition, and then the main priority is "Appointing Supreme Court justices who will defend a woman's right to make her own decisions about her body and her own health." A devil's advocate might note that by upholding the ACA, the majority of justices, confirmed by Democrats, denied women the right to at least one decision regarding their health: the right not to buy health insurance. But we know what he meant, and as Justice Roberts said back in June, what the author means matters more than how he puts it in writing.
"During that historic week in June, I felt, more than anything else, an open heart," the President writes boldly, "And I know you felt it, too." But if you think rather than feel -- and this is often as hard for Democrats as it is for Republicans -- the change Obama has waited for until that momentous week in June had little to do with national legislation. It resulted from judicial deliberation and state initiative, in the latter case provoked by violence. If the President could point to actual accomplishments of the U.S. Senate during the Democratic majority of 2007-14, besides their approval of his signature health-insurance legislation, he would probably make a better case for donations to Democratic candidates. Instead, he goes on for three pages about how great next year's candidates look after making a compelling argument for their irrelevance. Senators ought not even appear irrelevant, but Obama's sort of flattery will get Democrats nowhere.