Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Barack Obama's Race With Himself

It's not as if John McCain has become irrelevant, but in the main ring of the '08 electoral circus, all eyes are now on Barack Obama's solo high-wire act as he walks a racial, political and cultural tightrope toward the White House.

The questions are less about the two candidates' policies and personalities than about the larger meaning of it all: "Could an Obama Presidency Hurt Black Americans?" CNN asks while citing those "who warn that an Obama victory could cause white Americans to ignore entrenched racial divisions while claiming that America has reached the racial Promised Land."

Meanwhile, in the Wall Street Journal, the author of a book predicting that Obama can't win now says that he "has already won a cultural mandate to the American presidency. And politically, he is now essentially in a contest with himself" to persuade "even Middle America to feel comfortable as the mantle they bestow on him settles upon his shoulders."

This portentous pronouncement comes at the conclusion of a column titled "Why Jesse Jackson Hates Obama," which argues that Jackson and his peers presided over "an extortionist era of civil rights, in which they said to American institutions: Your shame must now become our advantage."

Obama, he claims, is moving beyond all that to become the anti-Jackson "to trade moral leverage for gratitude. Give up moral leverage over whites, refuse to shame them with America's racist past, and the gratitude they show you will constitute a new form of black power. They will love you for the faith you show in them."

All these exegeses are enough to make voters' heads spin as they watch a gifted political figure weaving his way this week through a Middle East minefield and heading toward what promises to be a tumultuous reception in Europe.

Whatever the subtexts of Barack Obama's American journey turn out to be, one conclusion is inescapable: Unlike the current occupant, if and when he moves into the Oval Office, a person of substance will be sitting there.

1 comment:

Grace Nearing said...

Unlike the current occupant, if and when he moves into the Oval Office, a person of substance will be sitting there.

It's been such a long, long time...