Obama Got In Some Good Trouble for His John Lewis Eulogy

The former president laid out an agenda to defend American democracy.

One of the funniest comedy routines from the Obama presidency was the one created by Key and Peele about Obama’s anger translator. But at one point in the former president’s eulogy for John Lewis, he demonstrated that he didn’t need an anger translator, because he brought it himself.

Obama went on to say that it wasn’t enough to acknowledge that John Lewis was a hero.

You want to honor John? Let’s honor him by revitalizing the law that he was willing to die for. And by the way, naming it the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, that is a fine tribute. But John wouldn’t want us to stop there, trying to get back to where we already were. Once we pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, we should keep marching to make it even better.

By making sure every American is automatically registered to vote, including former inmates who’ve earned their second chance.

By adding polling places, and expanding early voting, and making Election Day a national holiday, so if you are someone who is working in a factory, or you are a single mom who has got to go to her job and doesn’t get time off, you can still cast your ballot.

By guaranteeing that every American citizen has equal representation in our government, including the American citizens who live in Washington, D.C. and in Puerto Rico. They are Americans.

By ending some of the partisan gerrymandering — so that all voters have the power to choose their politicians, not the other way around.

And if all this takes eliminating the filibuster — another Jim Crow relic — in order to secure the God-given rights of every American, then that’s what we should do.

On a day that the current president was spreading lies about mail-in voting and tossing out the idea of delaying the election, the former president was outlining an agenda to ensure that every American has access to the franchise and the elimination of anti-democratic barriers. But in a perfect example of the media’s obsession with “both sides do it,” the headline at ABC news read:”Presidents offer dueling views on country’s voting systems.” In other words,  they equated a powerful defense of voting rights with voter suppression.

In the video clip above, Obama indicated that he knew what was coming when he said this:

Now, I know this is a celebration of John’s life. There are some who might say we shouldn’t dwell on such things. But that’s why I’m talking about it. John Lewis devoted his time on this Earth fighting the very attacks on democracy and what’s best in America that we are seeing circulate right now.

The fact that Obama went there anyway was not only an affirmation of Lewis’s commitment to voting rights, it was an example of what it means to get in “good trouble.” That is because Republicans have made voting rights—the very foundation of our democratic republic—a partisan issue. So right on cue, Tucker Carlson called Obama a “greasy politician” who “desecrated” Lewis’s funeral by engaging in “partisan talking points.”

The reason why the Key and Peele routine was so funny is that Barack Obama has always been slow to anger. But he once described himself as a counter-puncher, saying that if people abuse that, he “will crush them”—acknowledging that last part was a joke … sort of. So when Republicans adopt a partisan agenda that strikes at the very heart of our democratic processes, Obama got in some good trouble. I suspect that John Lewis would approve.

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Nancy LeTourneau

Nancy LeTourneau is a contributing writer for the Washington Monthly. Follow her on Twitter @Smartypants60.