His story became our story. Through generations and across presidencies, during his time in prison, his own unlikely presidency, and well-lived life beyond, Nelson Mandela's example and inspiration was entwined with the American journey.
So it is that American politics takes a pause for reflection and remembrance. For a moment that may prove fleeting, the differences here seems insignificant, if not petty. We'll focus soon enough on Rob Ford's football picks and what state Scott Brown thinks he's in. But this is Mandela's moment, for the nation and the world.
Here's a glimpse of some of the stories your ABC News political team will be tracking in the week ahead:
Going in to the last week where the House and Senate will be in session together, some things could actually get done. An agreement on the farm bill – which covers funding for food stamps, which are almost certainly facing a serious cut – appears near, though work on it could slip into January. And prospects for a budget deal that at least averts the prospect of another government shutdown are brighter than they've been in some time. Next Friday marks the self-imposed deadline for a deal between House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan and Senate Budget Chairman Patty Murray, and fatigue and memories from the shutdown are such that they could actually reach an agreement. Look for something that mitigates some of the most hated "sequester" budget cuts, and imposes some new fees that won't be called "taxes." The hope is that a deal covers spending through the midterm congressional elections, buying the nation some temporary budgetary peace.
The folks sending a message before the holidays don't normally have to scream to make themselves heard. But these are not normal times. The US Chamber of Commerce is now running ads in a series of red states – West Virginia, Idaho, Kentucky – in an attempt to keep them that way. It's an attempt by business-aligned organizations to reassert their relevance in a tumultuous political climate. Tea party groups haven't been waiting for the new year to cast their bets for 2014, and now the establishment is trying to make clear it will support its friends with equal enthusiasm. And if there's one thing that fires up tea party-aligned organizations, it's when they get the attention of the establishment. Friday's announcement by Sen. Thad Cochran, R-Miss., that he will seek reelection only creates a new front in the fight.
You thought the Obamacare rollout had everything… But actually it hasn't had HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius testifying on Capitol Hill for more than a month now. She's back on Wednesday, and will be expected to sort through the mixed bag of news from the rocky rollout that's gotten smoother with time. President Obama has used the hints of good news to his advantage, as a rare chance to talk about something other than health care, with a focus on income inequality and the minimum wage. But Obamacare remains the defining issue for the president, and Sebelius' management of the rollout will again come in for scrutiny, particularly so long as Obama doesn't make heads roll.
Next Saturday marks the anniversary of the tragic school shooting in Newtown, Conn. If you can't remember any significant gun legislation that's passed in its aftermath, that's because there hasn't been anything. While the anniversary itself is expected to be quiet in Newtown, several anti-gun groups are using the calendar to focus attention on congressional inaction. But even the most optimistic leaders in the movement aren't expecting their actions to change the calculus that leaves even modest new gun laws stalled on Capitol Hill.
The near-universality of the warm remembrances of Nelson Mandela are almost enough to make one forget about the complicated relationship Mandela and his political movement had with American politics over the decades. A spin through some conservative Websites and message boards could change that fast, but none of that seems likely to take away from the celebration of the Mandela legacy that will last through next week and beyond. With President Obama leading the American presence in South Africa, this will be a remarkable several days in remembering a giant of the last century.
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