After Winning as An Activist Preacher, Can Warnock Win Again as an Effective Pragmatist?Breaking News
tags: Georgia, liberation theology, Raphael Warnock, AME Church
In the middle of a community center gym in the northwest corner of this state that is the epicenter of American politics stood the Reverend Senator Raphael Warnock. Flanked by red, white and blue balloons, the Democrat campaigning here in staunchly Republican terrain looked out at a small but supportive crowd of Black and white faces. Wearing wire-rim glasses and a trim navy suit, his bald head not quite as shiny as his gleaming brown shoes, the preacher politician made his case for re-election with a sermon on the transcendent power of pavement.
“Infrastructure is spiritual,” he said.
“I believe in this so much that something really unusual happened … something that I didn’t see coming,” he said. “The Warnock-Cruz amendment.”
The people in the bleachers seemed confused. But he had their attention.
“Talkin’ about — yeah — Ted Cruz.”
Now they groaned.
“I will confess,” he continued, “most days I’m sitting there, and he’s talking about what he does, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Now, I know why I get up in the morning …’”
Now they laughed.
“But,” said Warnock, getting to the moral of this message slipped into a stump speech, “we were passing the infrastructure bill” — the $1.2-trillion bipartisan infrastructure bill — “and it turns out there was something he wanted to do, and I also wanted to do …”
More broadly, though, the way Warnock has operated in the last year and a half in the Senate as well as the way he’s vying now for a full six-year term are natural extensions of the tensions that have animated his life and his work — the “double-consciousness” of the Black church, as he describes it in the 2014 book drawn from his doctoral dissertation, the “complementary yet competing sensibilities” of “revivalistic piety and radical protest,” the saving of souls and the salvation of society, what King called “long white robes over yonder” and “a suit and some shoes to wear down here.” In strictly political terms, this tension and connection might be expressed as purity versus pragmatism. And for Warnock, ever the reverend, the balancing act between the high and the low, the eternal and the utterly quotidian, sometimes means taking a run-of-the-mill legislative compromise — one that doesn’t even allocate any actual money for the asphalt — and attempting to frame it as the apotheosis of our ongoing experiment of representative self-government.
“There is a road that runs through our humanity,” Warnock said again at the lectern in the gym, “that is larger than politics, bigger than partisan bickering, certainly bigger than race, bigger than geographical differences … and my job as a legislator, and our job as citizens, is to find our way to that road that connects us to one another — so that everybody can get to where they need to go, so that every child can have access to a good, quality education, so that everybody can have affordable health care …”
Now the applause was so loud he barely could be heard.
“Our job is to build out that road!”