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Tim Wise on Obama and Race
March 11, 2008 7:22 AM   Subscribe

Obama and Race: "In short, the success of Barack Obama has proven, perhaps more so than any other single thing could, just how powerful race remains in America. His success, far from disproving white power and privilege, confirms it with a vengeance." Tim Wise, an American anti-racist activist, writer, and author of White Like Me, has published two new essays about Obama, racism, and the 2008 election bid. More can be found on his official website.
posted by lunit (176 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Oh shut up already.
posted by cytherea at 7:30 AM on March 11, 2008 [18 favorites]


To the extent those whites are rewarding him in large measure for not talking about race, and to the extent they would abandon him in droves were he to begin talking much about racism--for he would be seen at that point as playing the race card, or appealing to "special interests" and suffer the consequences--we should view Obama's success, given what has been required to make it possible, as confirmation of the ongoing salience of race in American life.

Well, shit. So what would his failure have meant?
posted by kittens for breakfast at 7:36 AM on March 11, 2008 [10 favorites]


While I don't doubt there is at least a tinge of reverse racism and "helping out the negro" in Obama's success among latte-sipping boutique states, one wonders what, if anything, could help overcome racism in the US if not the election of a black President.
posted by DU at 7:38 AM on March 11, 2008 [6 favorites]


*pops corn, and opens Coke*
posted by sfts2 at 7:40 AM on March 11, 2008


Tim Wise, an American anti-racist activist, writer, and author of White Like Me, has published two new essays about Obama, racism, and the 2008 election bid. his continued relevance.

Of course racism is still a reality and a problem to be fought. But in that context, Obama's success should be viewed as a positive step.
posted by taliaferro at 7:44 AM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


On the one hand, many a voice has suggested that Obama's success signifies something akin to the end of racism in the U.S., if not entirely, then surely as a potent political or social force.

And thus setting up the strawman does he proceed to knock it down. I know of absolutely nobody who has claimed that the election of Obama would prove "the end of racism in the U.S." or even the end of racism "as a potent political or social force." I have heard lots of people say that it would be a positive step, and an event of great symbolic significance. Those people are correct.

But this notion of Obama "transcending race" (by which we really mean transcending his blackness) is a patently offensive and even racist notion in that it serves to reinforce generally negative feelings about blacks as a whole

He seems to be using the word "transcend" as a synonym for "disowning." But isn't the claim that Obama's campaign "transcends" race really a claim that it is "going beyond" race? How is that offensive and racist? It's a reflection of reality that his campaign is not about race, and transcends -- reaches beyond -- simple racial divisions. If Wise's view is correct, every black presidential candidate faces the Hobson's choice of being accused of betraying his or her black identity because they "transcended" race, or losing the election because they focused on issues relevant to 13% of the population.

To the extent Obama has become the Cliff Huxtable of politics--a black man with whom millions of whites can identity and to whom they can relate--he has leapt one hurdle, only to watch his white co-countrymen and women erect a still higher one in the path of the black masses.

That's just offensive. If you relate to whites, you're really just making it worse for your fellow minorities. WTF?
posted by pardonyou? at 7:44 AM on March 11, 2008 [3 favorites]


Apparently blacks have two options: sell out or be kept down. No wonder it's tough being black.
posted by GuyZero at 7:50 AM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


He's black, but he doesn't make a big deal out of the fact that he's black, so that proves we're all racist. If he did make a big deal out of being black, I'm sure the author would find racism there too. It's amazing what you can find if you look hard enough for it.

I feel kind of bad for the author; he's so poisoned by racism he can't see the world in any other way.

Obama's the best candidate I've seen in a long, long time. I'd vote for him if he were plaid.
posted by Malor at 7:52 AM on March 11, 2008 [20 favorites]


PLAIDIST
posted by DeWalt_Russ at 7:54 AM on March 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


*munches cornpone, swigs MD 20/20*
posted by quonsar at 7:57 AM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


What's all the fuss about? It's not like he's really black.
posted by flabdablet at 7:57 AM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Obama is black? I didn't realize that; I don't pay attention to the whole black/white thing as it is irrelevant, and I am awesome and superior. When I saw his name, I just assumed Obama was a filthy murderous sand-nigger.
posted by Mister_A at 7:58 AM on March 11, 2008 [9 favorites]


He's right. The only way black people will be truly empowered is if white people never vote for them.
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:01 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position," she continued. "And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

Geraldine Ferraro, one of Clinton's top Fund Raisers.

I don't think we are quite beyond race yet.
posted by afu at 8:05 AM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


By ordering extra cheese in its "pizza", America has once again proven that paperclips work just fine and that the Holocaust never happened.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 8:07 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


(In the interest of balance and while not agreeing with Wise, I would like to point out that asking the internet about racism (or sexism) is like asking foxes what to do about all these missing chickens.)
posted by DU at 8:12 AM on March 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


I agree with most of the points on this thread, that it's a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" situation for Obama's white supporters, and in a different way, for the candidate himself.

As to your first point, though, pardonyou?, it's not quite a straw man: "One could no longer make the argument that America is racist, or unfair. Not when a black man has risen to the highest office in the land. And he will have done it without the need for some futuristic utopia which the Left insists we need."

It's a colossally stupid view (hey, Benazir Bhutto was the leader of Pakistan! Therefore there's no sexism anywhere east of Maine!), and it's not one that motivates more than one percent of his supporters, but it is something that someone somewhere has expressed.
posted by ibmcginty at 8:13 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


(Fair enough, but I figured it was an opinion worth getting some exposure. I certainly didn't expect most mefites to agree with it. Which is fine, and part of why I love this place.)
posted by lunit at 8:15 AM on March 11, 2008


The problem is Tim Wise takes some numbers (20% in Ohio say race mattered in their vote, 25% of that 20 (5% of total) voted for Obama, 75% (15% of total) voted for Hillary) and makes a lot of assumptions that aren't included in the numbers.

So 15% of Ohio voters, he says, are racist. We don't know what the racial breakdown of that 15% is, but he assumes it's all white.

Furthermore we don't have any details on the exit polling, like did the pollster ask WHY race was important. Is it straight "I hate blacks" or are there other reasons? I wish more light were shed on the subject. Is it all racism? Is there some perceived notion that a black president would have a harder time or be less effective because the voter thinks certain parts of the country would react negatively to a black president? Worried it'll be some sort of catalyst for a new rise in anti-black sentiment? Are they making stupid assumptions like Obama's getting votes only because he's black and they don't like that. Some kind of extra information here could help better interpret these results.

However Tim Wise doesn't want more information. Instead he rants about racism assuming all 15% are whites and all 15% just hate blacks. And assuming racism without more facts does just as much damage (helps to maintain this tension between the races) as those who really didn't vote for Obama because they hate blacks.

So when does Tim Wise write up an essay or two about why Bill Richardson failed in his presidential bid?
posted by ruthsarian at 8:18 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


This guy's argument in the first piece is basically: he'll only win if a good number of people vote for him despite his skin color -- i.e., maintaining their prejudices but exempting him.

There is simply no metric by which this is worse than people not voting for him because of his skin color -- especially not awfully, disturbingly, hyperbolically worse, "a whole new level of racism".
posted by creasy boy at 8:19 AM on March 11, 2008


As to your first point, though, pardonyou?, it's not quite a straw man

OK, one conservative blogger expressed that (wishful) view. I'm sure there have been others; however, I really haven't heard this argument expressed -- let alone by the "many a voice" Wise claims to have heard. It's still a strawman (unless he's just taking on Dan Riehl).

(Fair enough, but I figured it was an opinion worth getting some exposure. I certainly didn't expect most mefites to agree with it. Which is fine, and part of why I love this place.)

Definitely worth posting, lunit. Not everyone has to agree for it to be worth posting and discussing.
posted by pardonyou? at 8:20 AM on March 11, 2008


Picking up on what creasy boy said, voting for someone despite his skin color, while still racist, means that at least the voter in question has some understanding that race is not the most important factor on which to base this decision. It's Archie Bunker racism - sure, he's racist, but he starts to discover that dem blacks dere, dey are people too, kinda like us dere, Edith. So it's a step in the right direction. Perfect is the enemy of good.
posted by Mister_A at 8:24 AM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Some people so define themselves by a given struggle that they cannot bear to admit they have won.
posted by LarryC at 8:28 AM on March 11, 2008 [10 favorites]


dem blacks dere, dey are people too, kinda like us dere, Edith.

Now get me a beah, dingbat!
posted by jonmc at 8:28 AM on March 11, 2008


People are voting for him because he's the best candidate. And he's a good enough candidate that his race just doesn't matter. But I'm sure that will stop no one who is this insistent that race is central to everything.

Personally I think both subtle and overt racism is common in this country, and even accepted by a substantial percentage of Americans. But the idea that Obama's success is due to race is wildly missing the point. He's the best candidate.
posted by Ragma at 8:29 AM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Damned if you do damned if you don't? It's the same thing for the voters. You're:

a racist if you don't vote for the negro.

a misogynist if you don't vote for the broad.

an idiot if you vote for grandpa.

and just plain stupid if you vote for that other white man.
posted by three blind mice at 8:30 AM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yes Tim, that's correct, in order for racism to be truly dead, a black man HAS to talk "black" issues.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:32 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Why does Obama never get referred to as "White"? Last time I looked he was, by parentage, exactly 50-50.
posted by rhymer at 8:33 AM on March 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


One drop rule.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:34 AM on March 11, 2008 [5 favorites]


This guy's argument in the first piece is basically: he'll only win if a good number of people vote for him despite his skin color -- i.e., maintaining their prejudices but exempting him.

Though there is much to disagree with in the essay, more than I have time to deal with now, I think the argument is more complicated than that. Specifically, Wise seems to be claiming that Obama can be a successful candidate only if he actively distances himself from overtly race-related political issues, the implication being that white voters who see him engaging such issues will view him as "too black."

For what it's worth the claim that Obama is doing so is not unprecedented in the black activist community--see, for example, the controversy surrounding Obama's decision to skip Tavis Smiley's State of the Black Union forum in New Orleans.
posted by Prospero at 8:35 AM on March 11, 2008


Hey is The Rock black or white?
posted by Mister_A at 8:36 AM on March 11, 2008


one wonders what, if anything, could help overcome racism in the US if not the election of a black President.

How about the election of a president, regardless of color, who'll do something about the prison-industrial complex?

Don't get me wrong, it's not as if Clinton will do anything about this, either, but there's no denying that Obama is very much business-as-usual where it really matters. He's made a bit of progress since that article was written (for example, pledging to end mandatory minimum sentencing), but he's still at a C+ in terms of prison reform, at best. Having a black president might be a symbolic step, but it won't change much so long as the New Jim Crow is still in effect.
posted by vorfeed at 8:38 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


On second thought, I'd like to take this guy's point more seriously. On a charitable reading, he's arguing that making exemptions for token blacks, even as president, whitewashes the real systematic racism still endemic to American life, thus actually setting us further back in our discussion of the problem.

There is of course a difference between old-style racism and systematic racism. Old-style racists don't like people of that race plain and simple. This style of racist will not be voting for Obama. Systematic racism means something like an inescapable cycle of poverty for minorities that the affluent do nothing to stop because they don't care. Systematic racism can easily mean that you have no prejudices against your black neighbor or your black colleagues at work, seeing as they come from a similar middle-class background, but that you still have negative stereotypes that affect the majority of the black population. This style of racism is much more common nowadays and these racists could very well vote for Obama.

However, these new-style racists are still not making a token of Obama to whitewash their own guilt, nor are they demonstrating any racism in voting for him -- it is just that their form of racism does not pertain to him. And the best way to address systematic racism is, it seems to me, to have a candidate who transcends race and addresses issues of poverty and social inequality without blaming particular ethnic groups and sowing even greater division.
posted by creasy boy at 8:41 AM on March 11, 2008


"But the idea that Obama's success is due to race is wildly missing the point. He's the best candidate."

He doesn't argue that Obama's success is due to race at all. He's arguing that Obama was able to succeed, in part, because he deliberately avoided mentioning race altogether.

That perhaps he is the "best candidate" and hey! bonus! he's a black dude! is part of how he's been successful so far. It's also, as I believe Wise is arguing, somewhat disingenuous. "Black" issues are a part of being black in this country. By deliberately avoiding talking about them altogether, he can appeal to an audience found of colorblindness, fond of the idea that if we stop paying attention to race, it'll go away. It also means ignoring a lot of realities of racism in this country - Katrina, prisons, etc.

While I see this as a smart political strategy - and I'm not about to criticize Obama on it, I think it's the right choice - it says something about race in the United States. Namely, that we don't want to talk about it.

But that doesn't make racism just go away. In fact, it continues to support whiteness as normal, and ethnic identity and experiences as other.
posted by lunit at 8:41 AM on March 11, 2008 [5 favorites]


This paragraph absolutely killed me:

What does it say that Obama apparently can't bring himself to mention, for fear of likely white backlash, that whites are over seventy percent of drug users, but only about ten percent of persons incarcerated for a drug possession offense, while blacks and Latinos combined are about twenty-five percent of users, but comprise roughly ninety percent of persons locked up for a possession offense?

Here's a clue: the reason why Sen. Obama doesn't mention that isn't because of fear of a white backlash. It's because he fears a backlash from an electorate (white, black, and otherwise) conditioned by decades of the "war on drugs not backed by well-funded corporate lobbying and advertising campaigns" to believe that drug users are bad people who are not worthy of even the slightest bit of sympathy. It's because Sen. Obama has made an honest admission of past drug use (without the "I didn't inhale" weasel clause), and anything that could be perceived as something other than the harshest condemnation of drug use and drug users will be used by his political opponents to club him like a baby seal.

That's what it says about Obama - the fact that he wants to get elected, and is going to have to pick and choose the statements he makes in order to do so.
posted by deadmessenger at 8:42 AM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


Yes, "I'm going to let a bunch of drug criminals free" is not going to win anyone an election in early 21st century America. Whatever he intends to do about our disgraceful penal system, talking about it now can only hurt Obama. Unless, of course, he intends to build more jails, that'll get votes. I hope he does address this situation, and I think he is more likely to do so than anyone else in the race.
posted by Mister_A at 8:48 AM on March 11, 2008


Dude, Obama is black?

This changes everything!
posted by BrianBoyko at 9:41 AM on March 11, 2008


To paraphrase: "It's racism all the way down."
posted by tommasz at 9:47 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Ow.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 9:50 AM on March 11, 2008


"Ow."

Did you trip?
posted by mr_crash_davis at 9:54 AM on March 11, 2008 [6 favorites]


I like Tim Wise, but I'm going to have to disagree with his arguments. He cites Ohio frequently. I saw that stat previously. In the days leading up to Ohio's vote, I talked to 6 friends and family members that live in the major cities in Ohio and a few outlying areas. Another 3 friends/relatives didn't call me/write me back, and have yet to. The people I talked to were not very excited at all. Pretty much each one of them said both candidates were so similar that they essentially were unexcited and really didn't care.

Ohio is behind the times, to me, based on my personal experiences of a few decades living there. News seems to reach there late. Progress seems slow. Information doesn't seem to penetrate conversation as it should. For years people would come in from out of town and tell me how behind we were. I never saw it. I thought everything was fine. Until I left. Then I was the one telling people that Ohio was legitimately 3-5 years behind the rest of the country. People still have Jheri curls, for god sake, and red Jheri curls at that. But the real point of saying this is that Wise shouldn't use Ohio as his (rather paltry) argument's source because they are an anomaly, in my opinion.

He talks about the problem he has with the "He doesn't have the baggage of the civil rights movement" talk. Well that makes perfect sense, but I don't think he understands what is being said here. People aren't placing the emphasis on the lack of civil rights talk, they're placing emphasis on him being different than all the self or media-appointed purveyors of black leadership and culture, who seemingly always come with that struggle in tow. I think people are well aware of the depths this country has gone to, in terms of race issues. What people want to do is see the heights they can go to. It's not a dismissal of the civil rights issue, it's a want of change from leaders who come with that first, with that pain and the mistakes of the past and present, to a leader who comes with the hope, with the joy and the correct (racial) action of the future.

In getting tipsy with the civil rights luggage metaphor he mentally stumbles right past what might really be a much more compelling argument - that many white people might be seeing a great candidate, and the additional fervor that surrounds only Obama in this 3-person race, is the chance many white people see, probably on a subconscious level, to look to a positive future and do something racially right, instead of yet another look to the racial wrongs of the past and present.

Chris Rock said "we need a lea-TA" (we need a leader) in one of his standups, and then named Jesse, Al and one or two other people, and said "I want somebody to MOVE me". And I think people have been wanting someone like Obama.

When Wise asks why there aren't a ton of mentions of a bunch of discrimination - well why isn't Clinton mentioning them? It's humanity's responsibility, not just his. As much as he gets derided for people supposedly looking to him as a savior, this is one area where I am glad he is not trying to be one. I always hated being in some class where the topic was racism and all the white folks clammed up and looked at me like I was some racial savior appointed to discuss the matter. No, I'm not the person or from the group with the issues - I'm not the one who needs to show an understanding of it. She should be the one bringing these things up. You know he has lived these issues, beyond his control. The same is not likely true for her. So harp on that with her, not him.

I think the transcending idea is the idea that he has all the issues, which include black folk's issues. He can conquer the whole field, not just those problems of discrimination and oppression, but all of the problems that his administration would face. He appears to have the ability to come up with detailed plans to right a number of wrongs, not just those race related.



Easy there. It's not even close to "won."

posted by cashman at 9:54 AM on March 11, 2008 [8 favorites]


If there were no racism in America, Obama couldn't talk about racism because it wouldn't exist.

In any event, I've actually been surprised by how much Obama actually does discuss race and race issues. Not in a personal way but he does talk about "Scooter Libby Justice for some and Jena justice for others" for example. Like any good politician, he tailors his his rhetoric for the state he's in.

and just plain stupid if you vote for that other white man.

Are you talking about Nader? Isn't he as old as McCain at this point?
posted by delmoi at 9:54 AM on March 11, 2008


I'm voting for Obama becuase he is black.

Because he's black and becuase he can string two sentences together. Sentences with content that won't make me cringe in shame. With subject AND verb in agreement.

And honestly that's fucking it. So sue me.
posted by tkchrist at 9:55 AM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


“Two men looked through prison bars, one saw mud, the other stars”
posted by dawson at 9:57 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Presumably that's a comment about Bush, tkchrist, and not Ebonics?
posted by ibmcginty at 9:59 AM on March 11, 2008


An Ivy Leaguer is an Ivy Leaguer regardless of his skin color.
posted by ghostdog at 9:59 AM on March 11, 2008


I've got this old spasmodic cringe that I developed in my undergrad Race Relations class when people would argue that the civil rights movement was ineffective because racism still existed, so forgive me for not finishing the first link, because I felt that muscle start twingeing by the third paragraph . . .

. . . but is he basically arguing, stridently and at length and with a thick, glossy coating of intellectual pomposity, that Obama isn't keepin' it real?

By ordering extra cheese in its "pizza", America has once again proven that paperclips work just fine and that the Holocaust never happened.

Stonestock, I gather you're new here, so I'll let it slide, but in the future, if you're going to quote from Thomas Friedman, you have to include the proper citation.
posted by gompa at 10:01 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


more likely to do [prison reform] than anyone else in the race.

Well, naturally, now that the race has been narrowed down to two milquetoastifragilisticexpialimoderate "choices". We did have a few Democratic candidates who were willing to talk about this issue, but they weren't allowed to debate... at any rate, being "more likely to do something about prisons than Clinton or McCain" is like being "more likely to do something about fast food crime" than the Hamburglar -- it may be true, but it doesn't say much.

Don't get me wrong, I'll certainly be voting for Clintama or Obinton come November, but I'll have to hold my nose to do it, and I'm not expecting either of them to come within range of the real problems in this country. Situation normal, we've got green Freedom And Progress lights across the board! All underlying assumptions nominal!
posted by vorfeed at 10:05 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]



Presumably that's a comment about Bush, tkchrist, and not Ebonics?

Take your pick. However even Ol' Dirty Bastard is a more cogent communicator than Bush.
posted by tkchrist at 10:08 AM on March 11, 2008


However even Ol' Dirty Bastard is a more cogent communicator than Bush.

Well, he is the Osiris of this shit.
posted by cashman at 10:13 AM on March 11, 2008 [4 favorites]


Isn't ODB dead? Or did I waste a whole forty for nothing?
posted by Mister_A at 10:15 AM on March 11, 2008 [5 favorites]


One drop rule.

What did he drop? Isn't there a 5-second rule that also factors in?
posted by probablysteve at 10:17 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


you wasted a forty? Murderer!
posted by jonmc at 10:17 AM on March 11, 2008


Isn't ODB dead? Or did I waste a whole forty for nothing?

Honestly. You don't poor out the whole forty.

And STILL ODB is a more cogent communicator than Bush.
posted by tkchrist at 10:23 AM on March 11, 2008


And vorfeed, I appreciate your sentiment, but there is no way Kucinich or Gravel could win a general election in the USA. Politics is all about compromise, and we could certainly do a lot worse than Sen. Obama. If he wants to really take on the "War on Drugs" (and I don't know if he does), he can't do it in the primaries and expect to win. This is the kind of thing that a President might do in a second term, because if it blows up on him, it won't tank his re-election chances. Also, it takes time to build a case for major reform of the penal system and revision of drug sentencing for non-violent offenders.

I do see reason for hope in Obama's forthright admission of drug use, which stands in stark contrast to the last two presidents' dissembling and avoidance of the issue (incl. GW Bush). Obama could be a powerful voice on this issue; and while it remains to be seen if he will be that voice, I'll take my chances with him rather than the other two. He may surprise you yet!
posted by Mister_A at 10:24 AM on March 11, 2008


If he wants to really take on the "War on Drugs"

I believe when it comes to the War On Drugs, at least when it comes to marijuana, Obama thinks it should be decriminalized (*not* legalized, though).
posted by booticon at 10:32 AM on March 11, 2008


jonmc, it was Crazy Horse, so it was bound to go down the gutter one way or t'other.
posted by Mister_A at 10:36 AM on March 11, 2008


"If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position"

Because there's all these incredibly inspiring white politicians who are energizing voters everywhere and who would get the nomination if only they didn't have to deal with all this reverse discrimination.
posted by straight at 10:36 AM on March 11, 2008


Old Southern saying:
If you're white, you're all right
If you're brown, hang around
If you're black, stand back

We simply will not know how race figures into the elections till studies are done AFTER the elections for president are over.
posted by Postroad at 10:41 AM on March 11, 2008


I'll certainly be voting for Clintama or Obinton come November

aarrggh, vorfeed! please, if you dig a little below the surface, the differences between obama and clinton are huge!

they're so different in fact, regardless of the rhetoric to the contrary, that clinton has even started demonstrating a willingness to sacrifice her own prospects for capturing the presidency just to tarnish obama (specifically with her remarks about how she and mccain are the only candidates ready to go on day one, when it comes to foreign policy--one among many clear signals that the differences between her own foreign policy and mccain's really aren't that significant, a conclusion her senate voting record only reinforces).

clinton's allies include military-industrial-complex-friendly dinos like nelson in florida and even republicans like the state legislature in florida (who've been pushing for seating the florida delegates on her behalf).

clinton is by far the more establishment-friendly candidate and will do anything to curry favor with those already well-represented interests who don't want to see serious movement anytime soon toward an iraq withdrawal; it's my belief she's even willing to sabotage the dem's chances at the presidency outright in order to prevent a responsible but quick pull-out from iraq. to me, all the signs suggest she's not serious about changing the direction of american foreign policy at any rate.

turning this election into a dialog about race now, when our country's firmly in the death-grip of crony-capitalism just does not seem productive. this feeds into the same divide and conquer crap the hawks were able to use so successfully against mcgovern to forestall the withdrawal from vietnam for another three years (and perhaps more importantly, to hold on to power). I'm sure that's not Tim Wise's intent at all, but anything that could potentially be used to sow division within the movement against the irresponsible whack-jobbery that's dragged the country down over the last 8 years strikes me as irresponsible and poorly-timed.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:41 AM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


it's my belief she's even willing to sabotage the dem's chances at the presidency outright

...in the service of her Huckabee-like delusion that the nomination is still hers for the taking, whether the majority of Americans would like to hand it to her or not. You don't really need conspiracy theories when the truth is so damning and obvious.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 10:47 AM on March 11, 2008


"turning this election into a dialog about race now...just does not seem productive."

Simply having a dialogue about race in the election is not going to "sow division." Maybe if Obama did it, that would be a decent argument. But what's to stop us from talking about it? It exists; it's real; it's worth talking about.
posted by lunit at 10:51 AM on March 11, 2008


gompa writes "but in the future, if you're going to quote from Thomas Friedman, you have to include the proper citation."

I'm no Taibbi fan (this morning, MSNBC had him commenting on the Spitzer scandal, predictably), but I have to admit this is a great line:

"Let me... share with you some of the encounters that led me to conclude that the world is no longer round," he says. He will literally travel backward in time, against the current of human knowledge.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:00 AM on March 11, 2008


her Huckabee-like delusion that the nomination is still hers for the taking, whether the majority of Americans would like to hand it to her or not. You don't really need conspiracy theories

well, true--i think it's definitely more a matter of single-mindedness in pursuit of her goals than any conscious conspiracy, but i do think a part of that equation is clinton's belief that political success requires cow-towing to a certain pro-military constituency that will regard any immediate withdrawal from iraq an admission of "defeat," self-justifying and circular as that kind of logic is.

still, back to the subject of race: isn't it obama's right to decide how his own racial identity figures into his politics? echoing what others have said about the one-drop rule, isn't it a little condescending and even subtly racist to insist that obama's political successes are somehow hollower because his own racial identity hasn't been central to his platform? since his heritage is also "white," maybe we should all put more emphasis on what his achievements mean for whites in america.

Simply having a dialogue about race in the election is not going to "sow division."

tell that to the architects of the southern strategy.

/rant
posted by saulgoodman at 11:07 AM on March 11, 2008


ZOMG what is with this wedgeissuefilter recently?
posted by [son] QUAALUDE at 11:19 AM on March 11, 2008


Honestly. You don't poor out the whole forty.

As a bit of a derail, I remember being kind of surprised that something that seems so coded to African-American currently shows up in the Iliad and in Horace, and, from what I gather, has African origins prior. I guess I just assumed that it was a novel thing and thought it was kind of neat to find this lineage for it.
posted by klangklangston at 11:21 AM on March 11, 2008


And vorfeed, I appreciate your sentiment, but there is no way Kucinich or Gravel could win a general election in the USA.

Absolutely, I agree with you. However, that's no reason why they shouldn't be allowed to join in televised debates, nor is it a reason why those who agree with them shouldn't be able to vote for them in the primary. The whole "electability" thing has become a self-fulfilling prophecy -- "they can't win because they can't win" -- and it's getting to the point where those who "can't win" don't even get to play, which is a shame. If people could actually hear candidates talking about these issues, without the attendant hurf-durf-fringe-candidates mocking and silencing, maybe ending the Drug War could become an issue that wins elections in America in the early 21st century. There's certainly plenty of support for it amongst the electorate, but oops, they don't vote! I wonder why?

If he wants to really take on the "War on Drugs" (and I don't know if he does)

No, he doesn't. His stance on this issue is pretty status-quo, and he's waffled a lot on the parts that are even slightly adventurous (e.g. the marijuana decriminalization thing). Don't fool yourself... judging by his lackluster responses to drug activists' questions since the beginning of his campaign, I don't think this issue is seriously on his radar.

aarrggh, vorfeed! please, if you dig a little below the surface, the differences between obama and clinton are huge!

I don't know what your definition of "huge" is, but it must not be anything like mine. I don't want to see candidates who are a bit less for the war or kind of not as much for prisons or slightly different on healthcare or the economy. I want to see candidates whose positions on these issues actually challenge the status quo, rather than simply rearranging its furniture a little. Too many of our problems in this country stem from underlying, systemic ills, both economic and cultural, and IMHO Clinton and Obama are pretty much identical in their total unwillingness to address them as core issues. Their platforms are largely identical, and almost entirely based on treating the symptoms rather than the disease... in ways that probably won't do much for the symptoms, no less.

Neither of these candidates would be called anything other than "centrist" (possible exception: "just right of center") in any western European nation, and you're trying to tell me the difference between them is "huge"? I don't think so.
posted by vorfeed at 11:30 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


saulgoodman writes "that political success requires cow-towing"

It's "kowtowing."

posted by krinklyfig at 11:39 AM on March 11, 2008


vorfeed writes "Absolutely, I agree with you. However, that's no reason why they shouldn't be allowed to join in televised debates, nor is it a reason why those who agree with them shouldn't be able to vote for them in the primary. The whole 'electability' thing has become a self-fulfilling prophecy -- 'they can't win because they can't win' -- and it's getting to the point where those who 'can't win' don't even get to play, which is a shame."

Well, our system is set up as winner-take-all, so it's sort of built in. I agree with what you say, but there's no way to convince most people to think this way, so the way to fix this problem requires dealing with the system of government. If we had proportional representation, this might not be as much of an issue, but I'm not sure we could do that without rewriting a lot of the Constitution.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:43 AM on March 11, 2008


...judging by his lackluster responses to drug activists' questions since the beginning of his campaign, I don't think this issue is seriously on his radar. - Vorfeed

Again, vorfeed, if Sen. Obama came out swinging with a penal-reform/drug law reform agenda, his candidacy would tank. I don't expect any strong statements on anything remotely controversial from any national candidate anymore, because everything is immediately twisted and sound-bitten beyond recognition. I think we both agree that this is a terrible state of affairs.
posted by Mister_A at 11:44 AM on March 11, 2008


kittens for breakfast writes "..in the service of her Huckabee-like delusion that the nomination is still hers for the taking"

Actually, in Huckabee's case, he knew exactly what he was doing. He acted as a proxy for the disaffected, non-McCain voters, mostly to send a message to the party that they were still out there and felt disaffected, even if they come around in the general. It's meant to provide a signal to McCain that he better act in their interest at least some of the time, even if the party unites behind him.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:50 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


“The extent to which Obama's white support has been directly related to his downplaying of race issues simply cannot be overstated,”

Yeah Tim, you wouldn’t think so, yet here we are.

“But make no mistake, it is an ecumenism that depends upon our being made to feel good, and on our ability to glom onto folks of color who won't challenge our denial let alone our privileges, even if they might like to.”

So, essentially - “Obama: What if he were a hot Asian chick?”
I don't want to go Seinfeld here, but (If you like their race...)

“If Wise's view is correct, every black presidential candidate faces the Hobson's choice of being accused of betraying his or her black identity because they "transcended" race, or losing the election because they focused on issues relevant to 13% of the population.”

Well said. I agree. Wise brings up the points of why he doesn’t address these things. I would suspect the answer is because it’s already so obvious. That and the above strategy of opening up with jabs instead of wildly throwing haymakers looking for a quick knockout. Ain’t gonna happen.
But, we keep seeing black folks, other folks of color, in prominent positions we will acheive exactly the unconsciousness of race that Wise seems to have a problem with.
Reminds me of something I read in an old comic, Secret Wars I believe (similar thing happened to me, rather not go into the details) Reed Richards is working on Iron Man’s armor (at the time was Rhodes instead of Stark) and Rhodes says “Are you surprised to see a black man in here” and Richards says absentmindedly “No, I was aware Iron Man wasn’t a robot.”

I think it would be nice to have that state of discourse, with an eye towards remedying social disparities of course. Such that when someone expresses a racist view the response doesn’t require assertion - so the response is puzzlement.
As much as if one denied someone housing because they wear blue shirts.
“He wears blue.” “Uh, I’m not understanding the problem.” “He puts on blue shirts! And wears them - outside! Where people can see. You don’t want *that* around here, do you?” “Uh, WTF are you talking about?”

As in Richards’ case, automatic recognition of shared humanity before any other consideration.
posted by Smedleyman at 11:54 AM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


If Lincoln had come out saying that he wanted to end slavery, he never would have been elected.
posted by empath at 11:55 AM on March 11, 2008


Actually, in Huckabee's case, he knew exactly what he was doing. He acted as a proxy for the disaffected, non-McCain voters, mostly to send a message to the party that they were still out there and felt disaffected, even if they come around in the general. It's meant to provide a signal to McCain that he better act in their interest at least some of the time, even if the party unites behind him.

I'm actually of the opinion that, if Huckabee had a plan (which I'm still not sure was the case), it was too gain as much media face time as possible so as to lay the groundwork for a show on FOX or (more appropriate, and as likely) Comedy Central. Cynical, I know, but....
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:57 AM on March 11, 2008


*To gain, even. Good God.
posted by kittens for breakfast at 11:58 AM on March 11, 2008


I don't get to vote but I like Obama because he is a pencil necked geek like I was. Before I got fat.
posted by srboisvert at 11:58 AM on March 11, 2008


Did Kennedy win based on running on Irish Catholic issues? Black people are not an alien race. A significant percentage of the interests of black people in this country overlap with the interests of everyone else. We're all human beings and we're all Americans. You're only going to win a nationwide election by running on those issues. For local races, emphasize the differences. We need to let national black candidates run as national candidates.

In order to win a national race, you have to be deracinated and delocalized to an extent, no matter what your ethnicity is. And by that, I don't mean you have to 'act white'. If you look like a Chicago politician or a New York politician or a Boston politician, you're going to have problems, no matter what your race or gender is.
posted by empath at 12:02 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Don't get me wrong, I'll certainly be voting for Clintama or Obinton come November, but I'll have to hold my nose to do it

Obama passed legislation mandating that Police interrogations be videotaped in the IL senate, and his favorite TV show is The Wire(!). Some of this stuff is sort of intuiting things from the ether, but it really does seem like there is a huge difference between him and Clinton here. Bill Clinton was very much a "Law and Order" type, put 100,000 new police on the streets, etc. And frankly the prison population expanded under Clinton.

However, almost all of that is due to state laws, and has nothing to do with the federal government

(One glaring exception would be the DEA going after medical marijuana users and growers in CA)
posted by delmoi at 12:03 PM on March 11, 2008


One thing I do notice - s’funny how often the Quixotic charges from fanatic idealists get accolades as they go down in flames, but the pragmatists making the small incremental changes get criticized no matter how successful they are.
posted by Smedleyman at 12:03 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


I'm actually of the opinion that, if Huckabee had a plan (which I'm still not sure was the case), it was too gain as much media face time as possible so as to lay the groundwork for a show on FOX or (more appropriate, and as likely) Comedy Central. Cynical, I know, but....

He also kept Mitt Romney off the ticket. It's likely that Romney would have won if Huckabee hadn't sucked up the really conservative voters.
posted by delmoi at 12:05 PM on March 11, 2008


kittens for breakfast writes "I'm actually of the opinion that, if Huckabee had a plan (which I'm still not sure was the case), it was too gain as much media face time as possible so as to lay the groundwork for a show on FOX or (more appropriate, and as likely) Comedy Central. Cynical, I know, but...."

Well, maybe, but I personally think he's laying the groundwork for another run in 8 or 12 years.
posted by krinklyfig at 12:06 PM on March 11, 2008


Some "anti-racist activist" this guy is. I would say that viewing absolutely everything in terms of race would certainly make one a "racist". This joker probably gets indignant when he sees someone putting cream in their coffee. He appears to be a white guy who probably comes from a racist upbringing/background and it fucked him up so completely that even as an "anti-racist activist" he can't help but see everything in racial terms. It's kind of sad, really.
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:07 PM on March 11, 2008


We need the fanatic idealists out there to make the rest of us sound reasonable.
posted by empath at 12:07 PM on March 11, 2008


Also, it's pretty funny to see a white "anti-racist activist" basically call a black man an Uncle Tom. Keep up that anti-racist activism, pal!
posted by DecemberBoy at 12:08 PM on March 11, 2008


Why is there no hand wringing over whether John McCain is Irish enough?
posted by empath at 12:10 PM on March 11, 2008


The phrase "anti-racist activist" comes from his wikipedia page.

For his bio, try looking at his website, linked above.

If you want to refute his arguments, by all means please do - I'm intrigued. But just because he's a white guy who wants to talk about race doesn't mean he's a nutjob. Surely we can have a higher level of discourse here?
posted by lunit at 12:10 PM on March 11, 2008


Also, I know it's tempting to read into this article that he's critiquing Obama, but I'm not seeing it. I see it as a critique of American culture, not the candidate.

Seems he does, too.

...nothing I have said here should be taken as a critique of Obama himself by the way, for whom I did indeed vote last month...
posted by lunit at 12:14 PM on March 11, 2008


sidediscussionfilter: vorfeed, if you look past the surface, i contend the differences are much more significant than is commonly acknowledged. clinton's position on iraq withdrawal is basically to put on another iraq study group dog-and-pony-show by another name; obama has committed to a specific and even fairly ambitious timetable for withdrawal. that to me is one of the key issues in this election. obviously, not everyone shares that view, and that's fine. but to me, it says volumes about where the two candidates really stand. join that to the fact that clinton didn't even bother showing to vote down telecom immunity in the senate while obama did--and countless other small but telling details, and i honestly think obama's a lot more genuinely interested in substantive, if incremental, change than clinton is, much more so in fact, than is reflected in the media's take on the campaigns.

It's "kowtowing.

d'oh. of course it is.

posted by saulgoodman at 12:17 PM on March 11, 2008


Also, I know it's tempting to read into this article that he's critiquing Obama, but I'm not seeing it. I see it as a critique of American culture, not the candidate.

this is mostly how i read it too, but it still feels like there's a bit of subtextual finger-pointing at obama for not forcing the issue more.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:19 PM on March 11, 2008


If you're running for national office, and you come from, say, Maine, your campaign manager isn't going to have you spend much time campaigning in Maine You'll be spending your ad money in California and Texas and Florida.

If you've got a well-known history of working with the AFL-CIO, you're not going to spend all of your time courting the unions - you're going to be explaining to big- business why they can trust you.

And in a two-party system, if you're a democrat, you're not going to make promises you can't keep in order to appease the far left. You make promises you might be able to keep to win over the swing voters.

He's not avoiding "black" issues because he's afraid of them, or ashamed of them, or lacks understanding of them. It's simply the political economics of building the largest base: you don't spend a lot of time or money worrying about the people who are likely to support you anyway.

ghostdog: "An Ivy leaguer is an Ivy leaguer regardless of their skin tone."

And a southpaw is a southpaw regardless of their skin tone. It doesn't mean all lefties can be generalized from that, though.
posted by Navelgazer at 12:22 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


I hope that, whoever the next president is, he or she discontinues the policy of fucking over the semi-conscripted Natties who are fighting and dying in Iraq. Also, bicycles!
posted by Mister_A at 12:25 PM on March 11, 2008


empath: To be fair, Lincoln did not want to end slavery when he was campaigning, and even prior to the Emancipation Proclamation he floated the idea of the federal government slowly phasing out slavery over decades (which still would have been cheaper than fighting the then-ongoing Civil War by several orders of magnitude) rather than all at once.
posted by absalom at 12:35 PM on March 11, 2008


Well, our system is set up as winner-take-all, so it's sort of built in. I agree with what you say, but there's no way to convince most people to think this way, so the way to fix this problem requires dealing with the system of government.

What happened this year to Kucinich and Gravel has very little to do with our system of government -- the government does not run the televised debates, nor the newspapers, nor the talk shows. Yes, the two-party system is part of it, but the core problem is that people with non-standard ideas are not allowed to talk, by media fiat. Not win, just talk. Kucinich attended the debates and was able to campaign right up until the Convention in 2004. This year, he was not allowed to attend the MSNBC debate and quit running before the end of January. As I recall, we had exactly the same system of government then as now. What's changed?

Bill Clinton was very much a "Law and Order" type, put 100,000 new police on the streets, etc. And frankly the prison population expanded under Clinton.

Yep. Make no mistake about it: Bill Clinton was the worst president since Reagan in terms of expanding the drug war. That said, If you'd care to explain how that has any bearing on his wife's campaign for president, I'm listening.

And, again, I'm not saying that Clinton is any better in terms of the drug war or prison reform, merely that she and Obama are both poor candidates on these issues. I don't think that either of them are likely to support significant reform.

vorfeed, if you look past the surface, i contend the differences are much more significant than is commonly acknowledged.

And I contend that the surface, i.e. the big, underlying issues in America, is where the difference really needs to be significant. Yes, Obama has a slightly more concrete plan for doing the same thing in Iraq that Clinton says she wants to do: congratulations, but so what? Don't get me wrong, the war is certainly the most significant difference between them, but in terms of the big picture, it's not much. Their platforms on this are extremely similar -- where's the huge difference there?
posted by vorfeed at 12:39 PM on March 11, 2008


The difference, vorfeed, is that Clinton is lying to get the Democratic vote, and will do pretty much what McCain would.

Obama, on the other hand, will actually get us out of Iraq.

Seems like a pretty major difference to me.
posted by Malor at 1:08 PM on March 11, 2008


well, to me there's a pretty huge difference between promising to get a bunch of experts together to talk about the possibility of doing something and actually putting the cards on the table, committing to doing something, and specifying how, which is how i would characterize the difference between the two campaigns on iraq and on a lot of issues, personally. obama in general puts more skin in the game than clinton does. but this is already getting pretty far afield of the topic.

back to the race question: my grandfather was half cherokee (his mom was full-blooded cherokee) and half poor alabama dirt farmer of british descent. the fact that he was half cherokee never even entered into his personal understanding of his identity--he was just an old white cracker in his own mind, and that's how everyone else saw him, too. should he have made more of an issue of his mixed ethnicity throughout his life? i don't know. maybe. but that was his business.

(on preview: also what malor said.)
posted by saulgoodman at 1:12 PM on March 11, 2008


Their platforms on this are extremely similar -- where's the huge difference there?

The fact the Obama seems to have integrity, and based on what we've seen from her in her 7 years in the Senate, Hillary does not. I have every expectation that Obama will not deviate far from his stances on core issues, where I have no confidence that Hillary will turn not her back on her own at the first sign of trouble.

But if Obama lets us down, then off with his head!
posted by psmealey at 1:17 PM on March 11, 2008


A significant percentage of the interests of black people in this country overlap with the interests of everyone else. We're all human beings and we're all Americans.

"We will reach the goal of freedom in Birmingham and all over the nation, because the goal of America is freedom. Abused and scorned though we may be, our destiny is tied up with America's destiny."
posted by cashman at 1:24 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


Yeah, because there's a huge difference between "I'm a boring, corporate centrist who is lying about and/or has no integrity about doing maybe one or two nice things, while upholding the status-quo", and "I'm a boring, corporate centrist who truthfully intends to do maybe one or two nice things, while upholding the status-quo". Again, these are superficial differences -- to me, even the war in Iraq is superficial (as in a symptom, not the disease) when compared to the core problems this country is facing, and Obama and Clinton are identical in their refusal to touch these. But hey, if you're convinced by "Obama: because Clinton doesn't really mean it when she says she wants to rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic!", more power to you.

Not to mention the hard, factual nature of one's personal feelings on the "integrity" and "lies" of political candidates...
posted by vorfeed at 1:35 PM on March 11, 2008


Yep. Make no mistake about it: Bill Clinton was the worst president since Reagan in terms of expanding the drug war. That said, If you'd care to explain how that has any bearing on his wife's campaign for president, I'm listening.

Are you kidding? The Clinton record is a huge part of her campaign. Until Bill shot his mouth off in South Carolina he was a major spokesperson for her. Hillary is campaigning on a continuation of the 90's, and that has to include the bad, as well as the good.
posted by delmoi at 1:42 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


"I'm a boring, corporate centrist who is lying about and/or has no integrity about doing maybe one or two nice things, while upholding the status-quo", and "I'm a boring, corporate centrist who truthfully intends to do maybe one or two nice things, while upholding the status-quo".

obama's not a boring corporate centrist. his background is in civil rights law and community organization. he's never even been a corporate lawyer or industry lobbyist, unlike some dem candidates.
posted by saulgoodman at 1:42 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


vorfeed, as I said earlier in this thread, perfect is the enemy of good. You can't expect a president, any president, to fix everything that you think is wrong with the USA. Even a president with ideals and goals that run exactly parallel to yours will fall far short. Even a king or queen (some would say especially a king or queen) lacks the power, stamina, and will to wholly remake a society in 4-8 years.

Dennis Kucinich couldn't do it, and neither could you. Getting out of Iraq is incredibly important to me, because all my light rail money is being spent there. It's not a minor thing, and while getting out won't cure all our ills, it will certainly constitute progress, as far as I'm concerned.
posted by Mister_A at 1:43 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


to me, even the war in Iraq is superficial (as in a symptom, not the disease) when compared to the core problems this country is facing

Well, I think you have a pretty extreme view then.
posted by delmoi at 1:45 PM on March 11, 2008


Not to mention the hard, factual nature of one's personal feelings

Given the nature of a presidential election and the subjective nature of, well, everything that surrounds it, the hard factual nature of your personal feelings (and personal experience with the candidates) is about the most solid you're going to get.

But to expect a nation of conformists that consumes junk entertainment, doesn't question what's in its drinking water, mistrusts intellect and creativity to elect anything other than either a "boring, corporate centrist" or a boring, corporate reactionary crypto bigot is to expect the impossible.
posted by psmealey at 1:50 PM on March 11, 2008


Yeah, because there's a huge difference between "I'm a boring, corporate centrist who is lying about and/or has no integrity about doing maybe one or two nice things, while upholding the status-quo", and "I'm a boring, corporate centrist who truthfully intends to do maybe one or two nice things, while upholding the status-quo".

Oh ferchrissake. I thought maybe now that Ron Paul was done, his Paulbots would deactivate themselves in mourning and we wouldn't hear shit like this anymore. Wishful thinking, I guess.
posted by DecemberBoy at 1:56 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


If you want to refute his arguments, by all means please do - I'm intrigued. But just because he's a white guy who wants to talk about race doesn't mean he's a nutjob.

It's not that he's "talking about race". It's that he's a white man calling a black man "Cliff Huxtable" because white people like him. He is a white man accusing a black man of Tomming. You don't see anything wrong with this?
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:02 PM on March 11, 2008


(Personally, I can't get the image of a cow towing presidential nominee out of my head now. Positively Faulkerian.)
posted by ~ at 2:25 PM on March 11, 2008


Gak! Faulknerian.
posted by ~ at 2:26 PM on March 11, 2008


Reference count so far:
Ol' Dirty Bastard, Iron Man & Fantastic Four, Cosby Show

That's pretty good, but this could be more awesome.
posted by JHarris at 2:52 PM on March 11, 2008


Even a king or queen (some would say especially a king or queen) lacks the power, stamina, and will to wholly remake a society in 4-8 years.

There are several examples of this sort of vast top-down societal change that have happened, within living memory, in this very country -- WWII mobilization and the New Deal come immediately to mind. And I don't believe that the earlier reference to Lincoln is quite out of place, either. See also: Germany 1935-39, Japan 1862-1869, France 1805-1812, China 1958-1960 and again 1979-mid 1980s, Cuba 1959-1965, among others. Not all of these periods are viewed in a positive light today, to say the least, but some were great successes. I'd say it's clear that a leader can remake society in 4-8 years, given the right conditions. I think it's a huge mistake to convince ourselves that the only possible change is slow and incremental, though this does seem to be a pretty popular belief, these days. I'm not sure why, considering how much our own society has changed in the last 8 years, largely due to Presidential power!

But to expect a nation of conformists that consumes junk entertainment, doesn't question what's in its drinking water, mistrusts intellect and creativity to elect anything other than either a "boring, corporate centrist" or a boring, corporate reactionary crypto bigot is to expect the impossible.

You mean to say that there are serious cultural ills in America that our current mainstream candidates can't or won't address? Well, you're right, I certainly haven't been saying that.

And, again, I don't expect someone like Kucinich or Gravel to be elected! I would, however, like it if they were able to run and to attend the debates without being shut out. Democrats do not gain from silencing these kinds of voices -- since you guys seem to like to mention Ron Paul out of nowhere (only someone with very poor reading comprehension could think I was for him!), I think that much of his "phenomenon", such as it is, comes straight from the failure of the Democrats to speak to their core constituents, many of whom are feeling disenfranchised and thus aren't voting. The same goes for Nader in 2000. The idea that the Democrats mainly need to speak to swing voters is among the reasons why they can't seem to win at the national level. You don't see the Republicans watering down their message like this, so why should we?

Well, I think you have a pretty extreme view then.

Um, what the hell do you think I've been saying throughout this thread? The war bothers me deeply, but not as much as the systemic economic and cultural problems that allowed Bush to begin the war in the first place. A healthy polis would not have gone to Iraq; we need to work towards a state of robust societal and political health, starting now, before we get ourselves into trouble we can't borrow our way out of.
posted by vorfeed at 3:13 PM on March 11, 2008


The big thing in considering Obama as a candidate, and a black candidate, is precisely that the nature of his support is at once dependent on his image and solidly grass rooted. So it’s both tenuous yet broad. He doesn’t have the flexibility Clinton has in campaigning, he’s got to maintain his image. Clinton on the other hand is, and has been for a while, a Dem party heavyweight.

So ok, project that from candidacy to office holder.

Clinton is going to have a bully pulpit. Not only does she have her influence as a big Dem, and her and her husband’s contacts, but she’s the president and will likely have a strongly democratic congress backing her up. So what the grassroots or the republicans or anyone else likes or doesn’t isn’t going to mean much.
To some of you, that’s great. To me it says “more of the same” when it comes to executive power.

So look at Obama as chief executive. The republicans aren’t going to want a strong democrat executive. He’s still going to have to take crap from party heavyweights like Clinton. If you like her, it’s not like she or her policies are going to go away. So congress is going to want more control and Obama isn’t heavy enough (in his first term) to push anyone around. So you’re going to have a weaker chief executive which is good news if you don’t like all the crap Bushco pushed over the past 8 years (expect to see a bipartisan about face on executive power if Obama is elected. Clinton - probably just impotent rage).
Obama is going to have to make nice and listen to get anything he wants done, done. Even if he’s got the will ‘o the people - by the very nature of his support he’s got to go after more congressional leaning issues - especially addressing social issues - rather than saying F’off and going and doing his own thing like Clinton could. (Not that she would or wouldn’t, but someone hands you a finely tuned racecar, you’re probably not going to put it up on blocks right away if you don’t have to)

Obama’s pretty much tailor made for a post-Bush, post-strong chief executive term.
I think people know he’s going to have to listen to them. Which is why so much is going unstated.
McCain, of course, might as well be deaf whether he turns out to be great or lousy in character or anything else.

But that’s structurally. Still, it’s a good hunk of why I’m voting Obama. It’s not just the policies. I don’t like his stance on gun control. The upside is, he’s not going to be able to get away with ramming that through, if he chose to do so. (He doesn’t strike me that way, but Lord Acton and all that.) Clinton could - whether she would or not - stomp all over the place, which would lead to a lashback in congress and you have the same deal Bill Clinton had in his second term with a republican congress kicking his ass all over pointless in-fighting.
That’s speculation of course, but that’s how the odds and landscape look to be laying out to me.
posted by Smedleyman at 3:22 PM on March 11, 2008


Barack Obama represents the future of the human race, which is the interracial ending of "races" as we know it. Obama truly does personify change by just being both white and black. However, we don't seem to expect any specific legislation or appointments or policies in order to expect the change that Obama represents, because it is a cultural evolution that transcends black and white. Women, however, aren't going anywhere, and are still fighting to keep the basic political right to have an abortion. In the religious context of poverty, some women are still struggling with being owned as broodmares. So this is now becoming the "alternate candidate year" that chooses a fresh symbol of the future, seemingly as a choice over women who have been waiting in the wings to finally secure their own reproduction rights. I will consider it a vanity election of sorts if Obama wins the nomination, a way for America to pat itself on the back for doing nothing.
posted by Brian B. at 4:29 PM on March 11, 2008 [2 favorites]


america is still very racist. i point to the clinton campaign as an example and they're shrewdly playing the race card with great effect. and it will get worse.
posted by brandz at 6:28 PM on March 11, 2008


Here's a clue: the reason why Sen. Obama doesn't mention that isn't because of fear of a white backlash. It's because he fears a backlash from an electorate (white, black, and otherwise) conditioned by decades of the "war on drugs not backed by well-funded corporate lobbying and advertising campaigns" to believe that drug users are bad people who are not worthy of even the slightest bit of sympathy.

you're missing the whole point. the people conditioned by decades of a war on drugs to think drug users are bad people are not the minorities living in the projects. The people who will feel that way are precisely the white backlash being spoken about - it's the minority view, who commonly experience a radically different culture, which is not being represented by Obama. But for them, drug users are neighbors and locals - not necessarily "good" but commonly within the range of normal experience, the way alcohol is for white america. But white america keeps its drug use segmented - you might experiment in college, you might have a little something at a certain kind of party, and when it gets bad, you go to rehab or into counseling and then write a memoir. The underclasses don't have the proper formalism so their drug use is simply criminal from the start - is this not evidence of some kind of racism? To dismiss the cultural divide and allow the lower classes (whether by economics or racial oppression) to be much more harshly punished for crimes that the upper classes are forgiven for is clearly unjust.

I'm not saying it's Obama's job to address these things - he's a mainstream candidate trying to get elected, not a civil rights leader. That's fine. I do think there is a sense in which electing Hillary would be a major breakthrough for women while electing Obama would not really be a breakthrough for blacks, but those aren't the only issues in the election, so I see both candidates as about equivalent. I do worry that the Obama support is a bit howard deanish, very college-based, internet-based, not union based, working family based... Sometimes seems to depend a little too much on feelings and ideals rather than real life.
posted by mdn at 9:09 PM on March 11, 2008 [1 favorite]


"In short, the success of Barack Obama has proven, perhaps more so than any other single thing could, just how powerful race remains in America."

Nonsense.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:14 PM on March 11, 2008


Ferraro: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position."

Obama spokesperson Bill Burton: "With Senator Clinton’s refusal to denounce or reject Ms. Ferraro, she has once again proven that her campaign gets to live by its own rules and its own double standard, and will only decry offensive comments when it’s politically advantageous to Senator Clinton."

Obama: “I would expect that the same way those comments don’t have a place in my campaign, they shouldn’t have a place in Sen. Clinton’s."

Ferraro: "I really think they're attacking me because I'm white."
posted by Anything at 11:12 PM on March 11, 2008


Clinton's campaign has become a farce.
posted by Anything at 11:15 PM on March 11, 2008


The phrase "person of color" is racist. White is a color. Yellow and are colors. Defining people by colors is racist. There are no black issues any more than their are white, yellow, pink, or purple issues. There are American issues.

As Obama continues to demonstrate that race is not an issue those who have based their social identities on race (rather than nationality, profession, religion, sex, sexual orientation, or political values) will generate increasingly convoluted arguments in order to maintain their particular brand of separateness.

Go watch Boondocks already. Seriously. Garden Party says it all.
posted by ewkpates at 3:52 AM on March 12, 2008


I've never had to have a cow towed; does AAA cover it?
posted by cookie-k at 11:27 AM on March 12, 2008


Jonah Goldberg Latest Wingnut To Question Obama’s Patriotism
posted by homunculus at 12:09 PM on March 12, 2008


Ferraro: "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position."

I agree. He'd likely have had the nomination sewn up on Super Tuesday and the Clinton campaign would be a dim and distant memory.
posted by psmealey at 12:19 PM on March 12, 2008


Why exactly does perennial trivia quiz answer Geraldine Ferraro have to stick her head out of the Where Are They Now? file to say that Barack Obama wouldn't be the leading Democratic candidate if he wasn't black? What exactly does Ms. Wrong End of a 49-1 Electoral Landslide have to tell us about winning elections?
posted by kirkaracha at 2:08 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


I can't resist one more pile on Ferraro's comment: Talk about the pot calling the kettle black.
posted by straight at 2:22 PM on March 12, 2008


I think Wise is overstretching in his interpretation of Ohio exit poll results. There are many ways in which race can play a role other than pure racial animus towards blacks (or the "white pride" that Wise dismisses). I suspect that many of these voters were upset at the Obama campaign's frequent mischaracterization of Clinton's campaign as racist or racially insensitive. For example... Clinton correctly stated that LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act into law, yet Obama called that racially insensitive. Her husband stated another historical fact, that Jesse Jackson won SC in 1988, that too was called racist. And when Bill said that Obama's claim of always being against the Iraq War was a "fairy tale," it was distorted into him supposedly saying that Obama's desire to be the first black president was a fairy tale. More recently there's the silly flap over the picture of Obama in Somali clothing (there was never any evidence that the photo was connected to the Clinton campaign, and even if it was, there's nothing wrong with it, many other world leaders including Clinton herself have dressed in local garb of the places they visit). And now the media pile-up on Geraldine Ferraro (She stated that Obama had many important qualities and qualifications, including his campaign skills and his message. She stated, correctly in my opinion, that one of the most important factors that has driven the success of his campaign is the history making potential of becoming the first black president. His campaign would not have the benefit of that history making potential if he were not black. Ferraro did not say that was a bad thing and she fully acknowledged that she never would have been the VP candiadte in 1984 if she were *Gerard* Ferraro.)

In other words, I think race played a factor with these voters, not because they disliked Obama's race or liked Clinton's, but because they disliked the divisive way that Obama's campaign has "played the race card," for lack of a better term.
posted by mahamandarava at 3:16 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


She stated that Obama had many important qualities and qualifications, including his campaign skills and his message.

She was also heard to say he was very articulate and that some of her best friends were black.

Just kidding. I do think Americans are and can be hyper-sensitive with regard to the subject of race/ethnicity and the difference between real and imagined bias, but I think you've slightly under-emphasized the set of actions the Clintons were responsible for in your description, and exaggerated a bit the reactions of the Obama campaign.

I don't have time to do a full breakdown point by point, but the "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina comment" was not just an innocent pronouncement of fact (though it was true), or an odd non-sequitir, in its context it was provocative. It seemed designed to diminish Obama's significant win in SC with the plain implication that "well, the black candidate always wins South Carolina". It's really difficult to see how he meant otherwise.

The "fairy tale" thing, I think people went overboard on, but it nevertheless was patronizing and insulting, even if you strip any racist bent out of it.

Ferraro's comment might not have been overtly racist either, but it was fucking stupid. As if to say that the only reason Obama was competitive with Hillary is because he's a black male? That makes no sense whatsoever.

Beyond this, the whole question of Obama not being Muslim "as far as (Hillary) know(s)", was clearly a nod to wingnuts who believe he's the antichrist or the son of Osama bin Laden. She may have been trying to be wry or something, but that comment definitely played in some circles.

After 8 years of wordsmithing and spinning to death, do you honestly believe the Clintons are so innocent and so given to misstatements and ambiguity. I grant you that they might not always be conniving, but it's difficult to believe that 90% of what they do is not calculated or tailored to provoke a reaction that has been test marketed to death.
posted by psmealey at 3:45 PM on March 12, 2008 [1 favorite]


the "Jesse Jackson won South Carolina comment" was not just an innocent pronouncement of fact (though it was true), or an odd non-sequitir, in its context it was provocative. It seemed designed to diminish Obama's significant win in SC with the plain implication that "well, the black candidate always wins South Carolina".

Well, so far, the black candidate (the two times there has been a serious one) HAS always won in South Carolina! Nothing wrong with that, and not surprising given that over half, if I'm not mistaken, of SC Democratic primary voters are black. Obama would have had a tougher time winning SC if there were fewer blacks there. I don't think it's offensive to acknowledge that. Frankly, I'm not sure Clinton would have won ANY of the races she won if it were not for her strong support among women voters and their heavy turnout rate. I don't think it's offensive to point that out either.

Beyond this, the whole question of Obama not being Muslim "as far as (Hillary) know(s)", was clearly a nod to wingnuts who believe he's the antichrist or the son of Osama bin Laden. She may have been trying to be wry or something, but that comment definitely played in some circles.

She was asked whether she believes he's a Muslim. The first words out of her mouth? "Of course not." I think that counts as a clear denial. She did go on to say "I take him on the basis of what he says." Which makes sense, since the only hard evidence of his internal beliefs would be his word. Since he talks about being a Christian so much, I have no doubt he's sincere. (Not that I would mind in the slightest if he were a moderate Muslim... hell, if anything, it might make me more likely to vote for him... but I really don't believe he is a Muslim at all.)
posted by mahamandarava at 9:04 PM on March 12, 2008


I suspect that Obama followers are displaying a bit of denial. Their way of coping with the pain that accompanies the total embarrassment and trashing of the presidency over the last 8 years is to support someone they deem to be most pure and innocent. That's a recipe for idealism, and disaster. Luckily, the chances that Obama is pure and innocent is nil, but they yet don't know that, and that's not the danger, just the delusion. The danger is that so far any criticism of Obama is met with a defensive fury normally reserved for protecting a child of ridicule. What this means is that nothing is going to happen for 4 years of Obama, because he won't want to change the innocent image that got him elected, so he won't bother to make enemies and get his hands dirty. And that suits their denial just fine.
posted by Brian B. at 5:55 PM on March 13, 2008


can't we all just drop the smug prognosticating and pseudo-intellectual analysis for a little while and wait and see what happens, instead of spending all our time trying to read tea leaves and patting ourselves on the back? one thing that disgusts me is that even the so-called "liberals" in the clinton camp are all on-board with allowing the focus to drift ever further away from the fundamental question of what's in the best interests of america at this crucial point in history. this race is not about race, or about women's issues, or about any single issue: it's about beginning the long and difficult process of undoing the damage done to the nation by short-sighted ideologues who allowed the fundamental constitutional foundations of our country to be subverted by economic raiders and political opportunists. for that kind of task, i'll take the constitutional scholar and former civil rights attorney over the former corporate attorney any day, whether white, black, male, female, or transgendered.
posted by saulgoodman at 11:19 AM on March 14, 2008


She was asked whether she believes he's a Muslim. The first words out of her mouth? "Of course not." I think that counts as a clear denial. She did go on to say "I take him on the basis of what he says." Which makes sense, since the only hard evidence of his internal beliefs would be his word. Since he talks about being a Christian so much, I have no doubt he's sincere. (Not that I would mind in the slightest if he were a moderate Muslim... hell, if anything, it might make me more likely to vote for him... but I really don't believe he is a Muslim at all.)

Are Clinton supporters paid to repeat republican smears, or is it just something about their natural temperament?
posted by afu at 11:42 AM on March 14, 2008


can't we all just drop the smug prognosticating and pseudo-intellectual analysis for a little while and wait and see what happens, instead of spending all our time trying to read tea leaves and patting ourselves on the back?

There is no need to take this scared approach in this thread, because it isn't a natural event. It is a human event, in progress, and that's what we're discussing, because it matters now.

one thing that disgusts me is that even the so-called "liberals" in the clinton camp are all on-board with allowing the focus to drift ever further away from the fundamental question of what's in the best interests of america at this crucial point in history. this race is not about race, or about women's issues, or about any single issue:

Rabidly anti-Clinton so soon after your call to quit? Then I'll continue. To me it's about reproduction and overpopulation, education, health care, and the environment, and it always was, and if these were our priority, we wouldn't be in this mess, and we don't need a president to debate constitutional law theory to get us out of it, because that wasn't the approach that got us here. It would be a trap to even try. But, Obama would make a fine supreme court justice if he's so good at it. He'd be my first choice.

for that kind of task, i'll take the constitutional scholar and former civil rights attorney over the former corporate attorney any day, whether white, black, male, female, or transgendered.

Chasing Bush's tail is a big dumb mistake. We'd all be better off if we went back eight years in governing assumptions and started over from there.
posted by Brian B. at 8:45 PM on March 14, 2008


Chasing Bush's tail is a big dumb mistake. We'd all be better off if we went back eight years in governing assumptions and started over from there.

no, we wouldn't in my opinion, because it's thanks in part to some of the missteps of the clinton years that we are where we are now. don't get me wrong, bill clinton was a hell of a lot better a president than bush could ever hope to be. but clinton paved the way for the monster that is the bush administration and its k street allies by consolidating power in the executive branch to an unprecedented degree. and it was under clinton that extra-constitutional practices such as extraordinary rendition were initially begun. almost every major policy "success" of the clinton administration--from don't ask don't tell, to welfare reform, to nafta, to financial market and industry deregulation--helped the country drift further along a rightward trajectory. so bush II inherited all the political momentum he needed to turn the country even further rightward, thanks in part to clinton. so no, i disagree. the clinton administration did not do nearly enough to take the country in a different direction after the previous republican administrations. true, if we'd had a better president immediately following clinton, the clinton admin's conservative-friendly approach to public policy might not have necessarily resulted in the serious, systemic problems we face today. but a significant share of the responsibility for where we are today lies with the clinton administration and the democratic party establishment from that era. a return to the politics of eight years ago now would be disastrous, because the reality on the ground has changed. we can't fall into the trap of romanticizing the past now, because the past always plays a role in leading us to where we are in the present.
posted by saulgoodman at 9:58 PM on March 14, 2008 [2 favorites]


so no, i disagree. the clinton administration did not do nearly enough to take the country in a different direction after the previous republican administrations.

This is nonsense. The conservative revolution was in full swing when they swift-boated the Clintons after the Clintons threatened lucrative healthcare profits, using paid-for talk radio as their central medium. Bill and Hillary were defending themselves from popular Christian hate as much as they preserved the new deal, paid down the debt, and were pro-expansion into Northern Mexico to give them something called a job. Ralph Nader always hated the Clintons, because he sourly believed we needed to get much worse before we got converted for the better (and he made his point that way against Gore too), while the Clinton's showed how to govern wisely in a booming economy without pandering to the standard Emocratic impulses to "give food instead of land." Welfare reform was so badly needed at the time, teenagers were breeding like flies on it and dropping out of school and creating a crack epidemic instead. I still recall how Newt Gingrich made passionate pleas to get rid of foodstamps, and he had the votes, but it was never on the table, so I would say that the Clinton's were masters at protecting liberalism from drug addicted radio sermonizers, while most people ate it up with a spoon and never forgot the central anti-Clinton message. People such as yourself perhaps.

I am suspicious of anyone who needs to prove how overtly liberal they are, because it means they will act the part of the concerned giver and not the wise planner. The former need starving people best express their ancient brand of liberalism.

Finally, since we're supposed to shut up about Obama and not Clinton, what I find to be extraordinarily disturbing is how Obama bragged and chastized Hillary for not going to church in a recent televised debate, claiming she was out of touch with the believers. Well, maybe that is good because apparently Obama has been immersed in a brand of radicalized religion this entire time, and seems to be mixing politics with religion again.
posted by Brian B. at 8:42 AM on March 15, 2008


Welfare reform was so badly needed at the time, teenagers were breeding like flies on it and dropping out of school and creating a crack epidemic instead.

Spoken like a true humanitarian. I'm sorry but I just can't seriously consider your opinions as coming from a position sympathetic to the "left" when you've internalized all the major right-wing talking points. Sorry. That's exactly what was wrong with the old Democratic guard from my perspective: They accepted the distorted reality of the extreme right almost as much as the republicans did. And in the process they helped legitimize and mainstream right-wing ideological non-sense that should have been dismissed as fringe politics from the start.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:36 PM on March 15, 2008


Welfare reform was so badly needed at the time, teenagers were breeding like flies on it and dropping out of school and creating a crack epidemic instead.

Spoken like a true humanitarian. I'm sorry but I just can't seriously consider your opinions as coming from a position sympathetic to the "left" when you've internalized all the major right-wing talking points. Sorry. That's exactly what was wrong with the old Democratic guard from my perspective: They accepted the distorted reality of the extreme right almost as much as the republicans did. And in the process they helped legitimize and mainstream right-wing ideological non-sense that should have been dismissed as fringe politics from the start.
posted by saulgoodman at 6:36 PM on March 15, 2008


d'oh. (a rant so nice, I posted it twice.)
posted by saulgoodman at 6:37 PM on March 15, 2008


Spoken like a true humanitarian. I'm sorry but I just can't seriously consider your opinions as coming from a position sympathetic to the "left" when you've internalized all the major right-wing talking points.

We all knew it at the time, that welfare caused children on welfare, and it was always discussed to limit parenthood on welfare but the right wing nuts wouldn't have it. The breeder approach you opt for is not progressive liberal at all, maybe Obama liberal though. Giving incentive to have babies in poverty is not even humanitarian, but was always a slave method.
posted by Brian B. at 7:35 PM on March 15, 2008


Giving incentive to have babies in poverty is not even humanitarian, but was always a slave method.

Yeah, that's how it works. Thanks for the insight, Rush!
posted by saulgoodman at 8:40 PM on March 15, 2008


My pleasure, saulgoodman. But using Limbaugh's first name like that is very telling of your long term exposure to him, because the right wing nuts refer to him just like that. Thought so!
posted by Brian B. at 8:56 PM on March 15, 2008


Hey, Brian B.--just so you know for the record, it's your boy who's actually been appearing on Limbaugh's show to stump for his wife's candidacy.
posted by saulgoodman at 10:01 AM on March 17, 2008


I almost believed you saulgoodman, but it was a telephone call to Mark Davis concerning the primary underway, or whatever his name was. We all know Limbaugh told his morons to vote Hillary. It is noteworthy because the Clinton's are still hated and ridiculed by Limbaugh listeners, and former Limbaugh listeners...wait, what am I telling you for? So anyway Hillary desperately needs to compete down among Republicans to make up for the fact that Obama gets more Republican voters by far. It looks like she may have finally evened up the Republican vote on par with Obama.
posted by Brian B. at 6:57 PM on March 17, 2008


Well, looks like Obama's gonna confront race. Should be interesting, definitely.
posted by lunit at 7:31 AM on March 18, 2008


anyone listen to the speech?
Just heard some responses to it on WNYC. One caller especially surprised me with his blindness to race issues, even after the detail that Obama laid out, basically saying he didn't understand why we couldn't just move beyond this and stop being angry...
posted by mdn at 8:47 AM on March 18, 2008


I read it, it is excellent. Really covers all the main points from a lot of different perspectives (white, black, mixed race, immigrant, descendant of slaves, etc.) . It's Obama at his best.

I really do wish he'd start addressing the economy and such. Not trying to be cynical, but he really does the (Bill) Clintonesque "I feel your pain" bit much better than Hillary does, and I think if he could communicate some kind of vision for what needs to happen to address the fix we're in (financial re-regulation, supper for homeowners under-water), he could put some distance between Hillary and himself.
posted by psmealey at 9:12 AM on March 18, 2008


duh... support, not supper. But I'm sure supper would be nice, too, if you can't cover your mortgage and property tax payments.
posted by psmealey at 9:14 AM on March 18, 2008


Oh man - I just read it, too. And I think it's pretty impressive. Well done, sir.
posted by lunit at 10:08 AM on March 18, 2008


Anyone going to FPP the speech? I think it's worthy, but it needs context.
posted by empath at 10:35 AM on March 18, 2008


I was just thinking that it's too bad that few people are still reading this thread. But I'm still not sure it's FPP worthy. If someone wants to run with it, that'd be cool though.
posted by lunit at 10:43 AM on March 18, 2008


I think it's worthy, too, and it is a significant speech, but given the preponderance of Barack Obama posts in the Blue over the past two months and the fact that this thread is still open, I'm going to hold off.... unless there is some noteworthy reaction to it, then I might be tempted.
posted by psmealey at 10:49 AM on March 18, 2008


I just linked to this thread in the other open obama thread I know of... I do think it's an interesting topic but that another FPP could be a little incendiary at this point.

The question really is whether this can get people to think differently, and what it really means to have 'dialogue' on race, etc. Like I said above, the respondent who identified himself as a "progressive" who had been supporting obama that called the radio station afterward seemed to be completely unable to see past the lines he had already drawn about how racial discrimination works. He said he just wanted to hear Obama distance himself from the Reverend, assure him he does not feel that way, etc.

He did not seem to take in any of the more nuanced points Obama made about the psychological split and the way that anger may work against us but it's still there, and so on. It was really frustrating to hear, especially because at the end he made a big point about how "white people are against drugs too" as if the comments on the drug war are the same from the white and the black side (as we discussed a little bit above).
posted by mdn at 11:08 AM on March 18, 2008


I assume the news reporting on this has been utterly attrocious and stupid?

If the two open Obama threads did not exist this would absolutely be an FPP, even as just links to the youtube and transcript. FWIW I would defend a decent and more complex FPP tooth and nail should someone care to make one, even with the two older threads.
posted by Artw at 11:11 AM on March 18, 2008


And it's an amazing speech. Makes me wish I was an American so that I could vote for him.

(And if you know me you know "Makes me wish I was an American" is something I never, ever say about anything)
posted by Artw at 11:18 AM on March 18, 2008


He really did say something that can appeal to everyone. This is a work of political manuevering that truly is genius. And while it's definitely carefully crafted to appeal to a lot of different viewpoints, it's also surprisingly genuine considering how much he had to play politics about this issue.

I do think that Reverent Wright was right about a lot of things, but I also understand and respect the way that Obama distanced himself from those statements while refusing to deny his close relationship with him. And I love the way he draws a distinction between political mentorship and religious mentorship.

This speech has literally changed my position on Obama from being merely a supporter to being a avid, die-hard believer.
posted by lunit at 11:30 AM on March 18, 2008


Meta.
posted by Artw at 11:40 AM on March 18, 2008


Perhaps the strangest thing to come out of Obama's speech: Charles Murray really approves.
posted by OmieWise at 11:43 AM on March 18, 2008


Makes me wish I was an American so that I could vote for him.

It's pretty funny, but I often think about this election in European terms. I think if this race were being run anywhere in the West but the US, Obama would be 30-40% up on either Clinton or McCain. Thing about the position the US is in... facing endless war, permanent decline in prestige, troubled economic times at home... seems like the French, the Germans the Spanish, the Brits would always choose not change agent (not exactly analogous, given the parliamentary systems of the some of those govts, but you seem my point).

I wanted to blame dullard Americans for this, but mostly, it's the fault of American "liberals". In recent times, at least, Democrats have shown a very poor tendency to favor the entrenched party schmuck over the "ideas" candidate (Kerry over practically everyone else who ran against him, Mondale over Hart, Clinton over Brown and Tsongas, etc.). This seems pretty much to be the strain in Democratic Party DNA the Clintons are trying to exploit.
posted by psmealey at 11:50 AM on March 18, 2008


It was one of the best speeches I've ever heard in my lifetime, and I'm fuckin' 50 years old.

"Should we FPP this 'I have a dream' thing?"

"I dunno, there's an open civil-rights thread already, plus somebody posted about dreams yesterday..."

;-)
posted by digaman at 11:56 AM on March 18, 2008 [6 favorites]


I wanted to blame dullard Americans for this, but mostly, it's the fault of American "liberals". In recent times, at least, Democrats have shown a very poor tendency to favor the entrenched party schmuck over the "ideas" candidate

But you cannot possibly think that Jerry Brown would have won over Bush I, can you? And Clinton was absolutely not the entrenched party line guy in 1992 - he was the "new democrats" guy because the dems had not won a race since their one term guy in 76, and before that, since the early 60s. Remember who is actually winning the elections. Just because you like someone doesn't mean they are actually the most viable candidate in this country: Nixon won, twice. Reagan won, twice. GWBush won, twice.
posted by mdn at 12:07 PM on March 18, 2008


I did, however, have an issue with this paragraph:

"But the remarks that have caused this recent firestorm weren't simply controversial. They weren't simply a religious leader's effort to speak out against perceived injustice. Instead, they expressed a profoundly distorted view of this country - a view that sees white racism as endemic and that elevates what is wrong with America above all that we know is right with America; a view that sees the conflicts in the Middle East as rooted primarily in the actions of stalwart allies like Israel, instead of emanating from the perverse and hateful ideologies of radical Islam."

Uh, racism is endemic. Thankfully, I think the rest of his speech seems to allude to that idea, without necessarily saying it. Something tells me he's more radical than he's letting on.

And, at a time and in a country where his own supporters cheer "race doesn't matter!", the fact that he even says "race is an issue that I believe this nation cannot afford to ignore right now" is an (unfortunately) radical affront to those who continue to operate under an assumption of colorblindness. I'd like to hope that this is a step in the right direction toward an honest and critical dialogue about race in this country.
posted by lunit at 12:07 PM on March 18, 2008


Something tells me he's more radical than he's letting on.

well, this is an endless problem of rhetoric... There is always room for interpretation.

But overall I also got the sense that he was making a much more nuanced claim - and I'm surprised and almost confused by how radical it is seen to be - that racism underlies a lot of our behavior and policies. The idea that drug laws are racist seems undeniable to me, and yet there are people on this thread and people who responded to this speech who simply do not see it. They think we are done with racism because "n-----" is a bad word and everyone loves Oprah. So I do think it is important that this was addressed, however carefully. And I wonder what Tim Wise thought...
posted by mdn at 12:19 PM on March 18, 2008


Those are good points, mdn, and no, Jerry Brown didn't have a chance in hell (though he did get more delegates than my guy, Paul Tsongas). Admittedly, Clinton was a bit of reach, but he actually had been chairman of the DLC prior, and gave the keynote address at the convention in 1988, so he was definitely a huge player in the party.

Really my comparison was more with how Europeans select their leaders compared to what we do. Owing to history, media or whatever, Americans seem to think they're electing a temporary king and tend to be much more conservative about getting behind a "change" candidate. Europeans seem to be a little more experimental, and more often opt to get some new blood in when things aren't working. Clearly, given the nature of the parliamentary system, it's much easier to get rid of an idiot PM than and ineffective President (has Bush actually done anything since his effort to "save" social security failed?), so that probably has much to do with it.
posted by psmealey at 12:23 PM on March 18, 2008


Well. Random trivia: points for quoting Faulkner, and I guess [grammar nerd] the misused semi-colon in the first paragraph can be blamed on the transcriber[/grammar]. Minus points for referring to Hillary Clinton as simply "Hillary". Loved the quote from his book about the power of the black church, but disliked the touching anecdote about Ashley and the mustard sandwiches. It's an overused rhetorical move. I also disliked the rather jaw-dropping America-centric subtext here:

I am the son of a black man from Kenya and a white woman from Kansas. I was raised with the help of a white grandfather who survived a Depression to serve in Patton's Army during World War II and a white grandmother who worked on a bomber assembly line at Fort Leavenworth while he was overseas. I've gone to some of the best schools in America and lived in one of the world's poorest nations. I am married to a black American who carries within her the blood of slaves and slaveowners - an inheritance we pass on to our two precious daughters. I have brothers, sisters, nieces, nephews, uncles and cousins, of every race and every hue, scattered across three continents, and for as long as I live, I will never forget that in no other country on Earth is my story even possible.

In "no other country"? Is he serious? Obviously he is, but I can think of many other countries-- pretty much anywhere in the West-- where such a life is possible.

I don't have a vote, so my opinion here doesn't really matter, but I just can't feel Obama. I should, given my politics and my background, but I just can't. I don't trust that he'll do anything differently, that he won't be crushed by the existing power systems in Washington, that he'll be able to deal with the continuing toxic fallout of Iraq. I can't help but think that if he is elected, two years from now there are going to be a lot of disappointed, bitter people left wondering why his health care reform has foundered in Congress, why the war just keeps rolling on, and why the economy is still tanking.

I remember that people felt much the same way about Clinton, back in '92, as they do about Obama today. Change! A fresh and youthful face in the White House! The baby boomers were finally getting their hands on the levers of power, and the 60s would flower!

I exaggerate of course, but not by much.

Maybe I'm just too weary of the messianic nature of some American political campaigns? Maybe I'm just too old and too grieved about the war to feel hope? Or maybe because I remember the 70s, and those bloody battles for equal rights for women, that I feel a sneaking attraction to Hillary Clinton?
posted by jokeefe at 1:35 PM on March 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


Minus points for referring to Hillary Clinton as simply "Hillary"

I'm no blind Obama booster, and I'm very uncomfortable with this entire race, but this criticism (referring to HRC as Hillary as somehow being disrespectful) is not on point, I don't think. Her own campaign literature, signs, supporters, all of it, refer to her as Hillary.
posted by OmieWise at 1:51 PM on March 18, 2008


absolutely agree, jokeefe - the "no other country" thing threw me a bit too, and a couple other moments when he played very hard to the center, but he's a mainstream politician, despite what some followers like to imagine. What I liked was the attempt to talk about the actual existing anger of people still affected by racism, the very thing this thread was started about, because Tim Wise didn't think Obama was doing that. My response was partly to be concerned, as I said, that some of his supporters were not going to be nearly as receptive to this as we might hope.

I also agree that we've forgotten how much hope there was when Bill Clinton originally ran that he would be a new kind of president. And I meant to note in here, that for people who like obama but think Clinton rejected the left when he passed welfare reform, Obama made it completely clear that he supported that move in this speech.

This speech didn't change my basic opinion - I still will vote for whoever the dem nominee is, and I still don't have a real preference between them, as I think they both have strong and weak points. What I found interesting about this was less the thumbs up/thumbs down for barack part, and more the overall capacity of Americans to face racism as it currently manifests.
posted by mdn at 1:57 PM on March 18, 2008


Or maybe because I remember the 70s, and those bloody battles for equal rights for women, that I feel a sneaking attraction to Hillary Clinton?

I give you the point of the messianic nature of Bill's first campaign, and I can't back this up, but this just feels different. Clinton was a silver-tongued devil, but one never got the sense that he was going to do much beyond recast the Democratic party as being "pro Business", while still pursuing only a very vaguely progressive agenda. Obama just feels different. Possibly, I'm only seeing what I want to see, time will tell.

That said, I'd have to ask you, jokeefe, what on earth Hillary Clinton's path has in common with Bella Abzug's, Betty Friedan's, Gloria Steinem's or Shirley Chisholm's? It's really hard for me to see the feminist pull to Clinton, other than the almost incidental fact that she lacks the y chromosome.

This is to put it a tad unkindly, but Senator Clinton is attempting to parlay the greatest free ride in history into the Presidency of the United States. She already won a US Senate seat (without ever having run for public office before) largely thanks to her husband's political connections. Now, she's trying to spin her ceremonial role (no security clearance, no accountability) as First Lady as having had significant experience at the highest levels of government. Would that really be a victory for old-school, tough-as-nails 70s feminism? If so, you've come a long way, baby, I guess.

Obama may be inexperienced, but owing to the fact that he's toiled at the lowest levels of public service (PIRG, education, community politics in Hyde Park, State Senate, etc.) he at least strikes me as an authentic force for something. By contrast, Hillary Clinton just seems like a big phony. A test marketed candidate who will do anything, say anything, exploit any opportunity to claim what she seems to feel already belongs to her.

Maybe authenticity only counts in rock bands, but it's the biggest reason I have such difficulty supporting Senator Clinton.
posted by psmealey at 2:01 PM on March 18, 2008


Maybe I'm just too weary of the messianic nature of some American political campaigns? Maybe I'm just too old and too grieved about the war to feel hope? Or maybe because I remember the 70s, and those bloody battles for equal rights for women, that I feel a sneaking attraction to Hillary Clinton?
posted by jokeefe at 4:35 PM on March 18


Why do you feel the need to justify support for Hillary? Obama isn't the default position. And yes, it is disrespectful to call her "Hillary" even if that's how she presents herself to the public. First, she's a senator. Second, she's a former first lady. Believe me, I'm no fan of hers, but I would never ever think to address her by her first name, nor would I address him as Barack.

I've been thinking about why people hate Hillary, and the conclusion I've come to is that they hate her for things they'd admire in a woman. She's too manipulative, too strategic, is possessed of a will to power. You could say those about every single president ever, including her husband. We're still finding it difficult to break free of the notion that hard-charging, motivated women are somehow not like regular women.

Of course she's where she is because of her husband. The Bushes, Gore, Roosevelt, and Kennedy got as far as they did because of their fathers. But the idea is that women riding coattails is illegitimate when men doing it is "networking". It will always be harder for any woman than any similarly situated man - there is too much cultural programming against having women run things.

In a strange way, though, she's internalized this pressure, and I think that's her tragic downfall - she felt the need not to exploit her name and personal history, and instead to push it to the background. She felt the need to "soften her image". She's vying for control of the most powerful political entity in human history. Whatever asshole advised her to soften her image needs to be fired directly. Soften her image? This isn't Sweden. This is goddamn Imperial Rome. We have big problems in the Middle East with radicals and with China that wants to flatten our economy. She's supposed to have the image of Julius Caesar, not some sitcom housewife. Did anyone dare tell Thatcher to soften her image? Would that have been before or after she thumbed her nose at the Soviet Union and strolled into Communist Poland for a meeting with Lech Walesa?

Hillary could have argued very easily and honestly that Bill was successful in his rise to power because of her, not the other way around. She is a brilliant lawyer (no one of any political stripe disputes this), and worked behind the scenes his entire career to build networks of supporters in the legal and business communities throughout the country. I don't like her politics, but for her not to play up the fact that she is quite possibly the smartest, shrewedest person in U.S. politics since James Baker is a travesty.

Hillary has been tested in a way that I think only women really understand, and I think she passed it. When Bill perjured himself to cover up his affair with Monica, not only did it cast her marriage on the rocks, not only did she have to worry about their daughter, not only did she have to endure the mockery and humiliation of having it become a public affair, but he also jeopardized her entire professional career.

I can't imagine that was easy. Hell, people can't keep it together in relationshipfilter threads on askme, let alone having the details of their husband's adulterous blow job read into the fucking Congressional Record. And here she is, with her dignity intact, and a powerful career and position in her own right. Her public image is that of a bitch, and she's basically running against JFK, but nonetheless she's holding her own.

She should have run her campaign like her audience was the history books. Instead she ran it for network television.
posted by Pastabagel at 2:44 PM on March 18, 2008 [2 favorites]


The difference between Jeremiah Wright and radical, white evangelical ministers
posted by homunculus at 2:52 PM on March 18, 2008


And yes, it is disrespectful to call her "Hillary"... ...but I would never ever think to address her by her first name, nor would I address him as Barack.

I've been thinking about why people hate Hillary...


You just did. And again several more times. And then you address President Clinton as 'Bill.' So you would think to address a former president and a current senator by their first names.
posted by tkchrist at 3:24 PM on March 18, 2008


I've harped about this before on the blue, so I'll drop it after this one comment:

Her own campaign literature, signs, supporters, all of it, refer to her as Hillary.

With respect, I say: so what? Bush's campaign signs, supporters, and so on, used to refer to him as "W", or variations thereof. It doesn't matter what she calls herself in the race/marketing campaign: everyone else-- political commentators, journalists, her opponents-- should do exactly what they would do if she were a male candidate-- i.e. refer to her by her last name. It's one of these almost invisible, taken for granted things-- like Bush referring to Condaleeza Rice as Condi when talking about her, even in her professional capacity-- that rankles like a stone in my shoe. And I bear no love for Rice, not one bit.

If it was just Clinton this happened to, you could say that it's a way of differentiating her from her husband (though, you know, she's the only Clinton officially running for President at the moment). But it happens all the time. Anyway, I'll take my kvetching over to the corner now and contemplate the fact that I find myself sort of in agreement with pastabagel. This is both interesting and deeply disturbing.

And there is enough of knee-jerk, unreconstructed, identity feminism in my makeup which appears to have somehow survived Thatcher and which still sees the election of a female President as... something. Fortunately, not being American, I don't have any say in the election, but like everyone on this planet I feel I have a stake of sorts in the race.

I keep on thinking, anyway. I wish I could believe in Obama. I really do. So it goes.
posted by jokeefe at 5:12 PM on March 18, 2008


That said, I'd have to ask you, jokeefe, what on earth Hillary Clinton's path has in common with Bella Abzug's, Betty Friedan's, Gloria Steinem's or Shirley Chisholm's? It's really hard for me to see the feminist pull to Clinton, other than the almost incidental fact that she lacks the y chromosome.

Well, she got into Yale Law School in the Sixties. No woman did that, back in those days, without a lot of, if you'll pardon the expression, balls. From what I understand, a lot of her base of support comes from women like me-- an older, educated demographic. I've been trying to work that out in the last few weeks; is it because we still feel, somehow, that she's one of our own, because she became a lawyer-- and a very successful one-- in days when that was a huge accomplishment? Is it because we remember the court battles which struck down quotas on female students in Ivy League colleges? Equal pay for equal work, all those fundamental decisions made in courtrooms that were huge victories?

So, yeah, it might be different if I had a vote and all, but the thing is: I don't see exactly where Obama's policies differ all that much from the mainstream Democratic platform. He's not a genuine alternative (correct me if I'm wrong) in terms of his platform, only in his personality, his presence, his capacity to be iconic.

If he really presents an alternative to Clinton-- who, say what you will, could probably handle herself in a Congressional knife fight where Obama might be seriously out of his depth-- let me know. I mean, I don't want to hand in my socialist credentials anytime soon.
posted by jokeefe at 5:25 PM on March 18, 2008


I've been thinking about why people hate Hillary, and the conclusion I've come to is that they hate her for things they'd admire in a woman. She's too manipulative, too strategic, is possessed of a will to power. You could say those about every single president ever, including her husband. We're still finding it difficult to break free of the notion that hard-charging, motivated women are somehow not like regular women.

Culturally, I think fear of powerful women goes a little deeper. Males are dominated by each other only because they are allowed to dominate women. The male sell-out to hierarchy begins in these little subroutines. It's the cultural prize for supporting the hierarchy as a male. Voting for a woman is like voting against an invisible system of control that most people are comfortable with, whether they are male or female. Most will find reason enough to be afraid of Hillary, but it isn't about her at all. She represents a change that males like to suppress about themselves, which is that they are really "slaves" of a sort, not little kings at all. Picking Obama over Hillary is a desperately safe choice for some men who aren't ready to give up their hope that they are superior as males.
posted by Brian B. at 5:35 PM on March 18, 2008 [1 favorite]


You just did. And again several more times. And then you address President Clinton as 'Bill.' So you would think to address a former president and a current senator by their first names.
posted by tkchrist at 6:24 PM on March 18


I'm not giving a speech, nor am I addressing her. Obama was giving a speech in a public forum in the context of competing against her for a job. I assure you, if she showed up in this thread, she'd become Senator. I see this kind of thing all the time when people are discussing highly motivated women at work. "What do you think of Ms. Davis?" "Well, Theresa's really great, etc." Like she's a teenager. It's, ironically, a way of not properly objectifying them as professional, but rather making them seem overly familiar and therefore less serious. I can't possibly be the only one who's noticed this.
posted by Pastabagel at 5:49 PM on March 18, 2008


Picking Obama over Hillary is a desperately safe choice for some men who aren't ready to give up their hope that they are superior as males.

I guess you left yourself an out there with your use of the critical "some". Otherwise, that might well have been the most over-reaching, pseudointellectually asinine comment I have ever read on the Blue. And that's saying something.
posted by psmealey at 5:56 PM on March 18, 2008


say what you will, could probably handle herself in a Congressional knife fight where Obama might be seriously out of his depth

That may well be the case, but I doubt it. I haven't, to date, seen any evidence that Obama is in any way Hillary's intellectual or tactical inferior. Hillary certainly has a strong (and Al Gore-like wonky) command of the issues, but then so did Carter and Nixon. Beyond that, she doesn't seem to have much of a gift in reaching those other than count themselves among her converted, something critical to our next president, and I firmly believe that Obama does have this quality. At least his numbers, if the polls taken back last fall are to believed, seem to bear this out. Hillary's have done nothing but shrink over the same period.
posted by psmealey at 6:04 PM on March 18, 2008


I guess you left yourself an out there with your use of the critical "some". Otherwise, that might well have been the most over-reaching, pseudointellectually asinine comment I have ever read on the Blue. And that's saying something.

psmealey, I came too close to really upsetting you! PHEW!
posted by Brian B. at 6:14 PM on March 18, 2008


Why does Obama never get referred to as "White"? Last time I looked he was, by parentage, exactly 50-50

Another example of how racism is so entrenched in American culture - to the extent that even the definitions are biased. "White" is an exclusive (what's new?) descriptor, whereas "black" is inclusive.
posted by Neiltupper at 7:01 PM on March 18, 2008


I came too close to really upsetting you! PHEW!

Only to the extent that I find such utter inanity in the Blue upsetting. Otherwise, not so much.
posted by psmealey at 10:12 AM on March 19, 2008


Tim Wise has a new article re: Wright and Obama.
posted by lunit at 6:54 AM on March 20, 2008


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