Just another Reality-based bubble in the foam of the multiverse.

Friday, February 16, 2007

The Paucity of Hype

You might have heard many African-Americans do not like Barack Obama.

You would have heard right.

...He offers no boldness. Dr. King set out to change the social, economic, and political structures of this country. He described the change as a "third way" beyond capitalism and socialism. King's "third way" is far different than Bill Clinton's "third way," promoted by Obama and all those around Hillary, who tout the Clintons as the second and third coming of Camelot.

The Clinton "third way" is Republican Party politics in slow motion. Under Bill Clinton, U.S. troops weren't trapped in Iraq, but just as many, if not more, Iraqis died as a result of his policies. His destruction of the welfare system, his embrace of capital punishment and other punitive and discriminatory crime policies, his bowing to Wall Street all made him palatable to Republicans.

The hope in Obama's title is for a mixture of Kennedyism, Reaganism, and Clintonism packaged as the new face of multicultural America. At its core, this is what The Audacity of Hope promotes, instead of any fundamental progressive change.

Nonetheless, it comes as no surprise that The Audacity of Hope is a New York Times bestseller. The book arrives amidst the hype of an upcoming and wide-open Presidential race, the collective angst over the country moving in the wrong direction, an economy that working people know isn't as good as they are being told it is, and a war that has washed away - at home and abroad - the country's preexisting false sense of moral superiority. As the line in Ethan and Joel Cohen's 2000 movie, Oh Brother Where Art Thou, goes, "Everybody's looking for answers."

Yet, does Obama's book provide any real answers? It there anything in it that will help stimulate measurable change? Or, is it all just talk, posturing, and positioning for personal political goals? Is it an orchestrated, consciously plotted pretext to inoculate a politician from the perceived liabilities of race, lineage and inexperience?

The answers are no, no, yes, yes...

Give Obama credit for copping to the fact that his "treatment of the issues is often partial and incomplete." Overall, the treatise reads like a very, very long speech of sound bites and clich├ęs arranged by topic and issue and connected by conjunctions, pleasantries, and apologies. Pleasantries like wishing for a return to the days when Republicans and Democrats "met at night for dinner, hashing out a compromise over steaks and cigars." Or, leading with apologias to describe painful parts of United States history or softening a rightfully deserved blow as when he describes racist southern Senator Richard B. Russell as "erudite." Or accusing his mom of having a "incorrigible, sweet-natured romanticism" about the ‘60s and the civil rights era as he waxes romantically about Hubert Humphrey's Democratic Party. It's like he did not have a clue about the 1964 struggles of Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party.

The shame of Obama's lack of depth is that Hamer's conflict over representation pretty much set the table for how the Democratic Party deals with blacks today. But of course he was only three years old and living in Hawaii when Lyndon Johnson went on national television to give a speech so that Hamer's image and the MFDP challenge would be off the airwaves. Hamer's fight was a precursor to the candidacy of Shirley Chisholm, the first black to seriously run for President in 1972 (if you exclude Dick Gregory's 1968 bid). Chisholm continued Hamer's fight for a greater black and female voice in politics and government.

Throughout, Obama proffers an unnaturally romantic view of the Democratic Party for a person of his age. His appreciation of party seems as times deeper than his understanding of the civil rights movement, which comes across as antiseptic. And he goes out of his way to comfort whites with a critique of black Americans that could tumble out of the mouth of William Bennett. "Many of the social or cultural factors that negatively affect black people, for example, simply mirror in exaggerated form problems that afflict America as whole: too much television (the average black household has the television on more than eleven hours per day), too much consumption of poisons (blacks smoke more and eat more fast food), and a lack of emphasis on educational attainment," he writes. "Then there's the collapse of the two-parent black household, a phenomenon that...reflects a casualness towards sex and child rearing among black men..."


Or this post:

...African Americans will pay a special, historical price if a corporate-molded Black politician becomes the titular leader of an unreconstructed U.S. imperial state - and, make no mistake about it, Barack Obama is an imperialist. No one but a deep-fried imperialist could describe U.S. behavior in Iraq as "coddling" the Iraqis, as Obama said to an establishment foreign policy gathering in Chicago, late last year. His Iraq War De-escalation Act, carefully calibrated to make him appear slightly less belligerent than Hillary Clinton, allows the U.S. to wage war until March 31, 2008, at the very least, and to maintain a military presence in the country thereafter. It is a sham measure, more helpful in buying time for Bush than in encouraging effective dissent.

At his core, Obama is not opposed to U.S. violations of other nations' sovereignty; he simply opposes "dumb wars" - as he told a reporter for the Chicago Reader - meaning, aggressions executed by less-than-bright American Commanders-in-Chief. U.S.-designated "interests," not adherence to international law, are paramount - the fundamental tenet of imperialism...


Or this:

Both Barack Obama's Republican opponents and the centrist Democrats who support his presidential candidacy agree on one thing. They all agree that black opinion on the senator is both uninformed and irrelevant.

To hear the mainstream media, black dissatisfaction with Senator Obama is all about his black African father, his white American mother, his light complexion and his Columbia and Harvard Law degrees. The day after Rush Limbaugh called the senator a "half-frican" on the air, the term was in the mouths of ignorant black talk show hosts in multiple cities. Black America was then admonished and chided by white Republicans and Democrats of all colors for not embracing Senator Obama based on some foolish standard of black authenticity.

This is a racist calumny and slur of the first magnitude against all of black America...

In many quarters of black America there are sane, solid and sensible reasons for black voters to question whether Barack Obama will represent them at all. Many remember that his first act as a US Senator was to refuse to stand with California Senator Barbara Boxer in opposition to Ohio's nullification of hundreds of thousands of black votes. Obama's second, third and fourth significant acts were when he declined to ask any difficult, pointed or revealing questions of Condoleezza Rice and two of the president's disastrous Supreme Court nominees, and he actually voted for two out of three of these. Obama's sixth and seventh important acts as a senator were to vote for a bill that made it nearly impossible for ordinary people to sue giant corporations who rob, defraud, maim or kill, and another vote to renew the hated Patriot Act which he vigorously campaigned against. And though Senator Obama now claims to oppose the war in Iraq, he remains advocate of bombing Iran to start yet another.

This commentator was at Obama's 2004 Illinois primary election victory party. The white and black people there that night imagined that they had elected another Paul Wellstone or a Harold Washington, a senator who would bring their concerns to the halls of power, whether the powerful were ready to hear them or not. One wonders what they think today.

Black America is rightly worried. We are an eighth the nation's population and half its prisons, but we cannot get a member of the black caucus, Senator Obama included, to question the nation's policy of racially selective mass incarceration in public. We do have issues that matter to us, and if Barack Obama does not address them, he is truly somebody else's candidate, not ours.


I bet I know one person, not black, who's not worried. Karl Rove.

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