It's hard out here for Black pundits/analysts/commentators who haven't come around to drinking the Democratic presidential nomination front-runner Barack Obama is the best-thing-since-sliced-bread-how-did-we-ever-exist-as-a-nation-without-him-this-is-our-last- best-chance-to-elect-a-Black-president-so-we-better-support-him-see-I-told-you-racism-is-dead Kool-Aid. I have learned an unfortunate lesson in observing the Democratic presidential nomination fight: In too many segments of the country -- black and white -- to express any skepticism about Barack Obama is considered political heresy. I'm blown away by this discovery, because it suggests a dangerous group think: Obama is the only agent of change and to not praise him at every opportunity is to support the status quo (And, oh, by the way, Hillary is the devil!).
This is a strange position for me to be in, as I think he has the instincts to be a really good president. I don't consider myself an Obama critic, just someone unwilling to critically analyze his candidacy. I am a progressive registered as an Independent and my preferred candidate is not in the race, so I get a little touchy when callers and blog respondents assume that because I'm not yet ready to drink the Obama Kool-Aid, that I must be in the tank for Hillary Clinton. Not true. I think it's narrow-minded to think that just because one is lukewarm to Obama that they must want Hilary to win. Between you and me: I'll take Al Gore over either of them in a heartbeat.
I realized all this during a radio interview in Atlanta the day before the New Hampshire primary. I had the temerity to suggest that we shouldn't overreact to his Iowa win. I reminded listeners that Jesse Jackson won Vermont -- a state every bit as white as Iowa -- 20 years ago and that many white Democrats have been voting for Black candidates for years, so we shouldn't jump up and down over Obama's caucus win. I knew I was in trouble, though, when the music bump before the interview began featured a caller who said she supports Obama "100 percent" and would vote for a black man over a white woman every time. I thought: "wow, by that logic, you'd vote for Ike Turner, Alan Keyes, and Clarence Thomas over Hilary Clinton." How ridiculous.
While I got slapped around by a few callers (and gently by the host, an Obama supporter), one caller was particularly unhinged. He called himself an "Obama Republican," which struck me as oxymoronic (or maybe just moronic), and went on about how Obama showed leadership in the Illinois legislature in opposing the war and that I was out of line for not giving him credit for this. I reminded the caller that Obama has not opposed one nickel of Bush spending to continue this travesty, but, alas, I was deemed unduly critical of "the Brother," not to be taken seriously. By the way caller: Do you know how easy it is to oppose something when you have no skin in the game? Can anyone say for sure that he would not have voted to authorize Bush's foolishness in Iraq if he were a member of the Senate in 2002? I'm willing to bet that Obama would have done as all the Senate Democrats who wanted to be president did: vote to support Bush so that their Republican general election opponent couldn't say they were soft on terrorism.
All I've tried to do is add some reason and caution to the over-the-top response that many voters have for Obama. And I'll keep doing it. I have thick skin, so it's no big deal to me.