I like Senator Barack Obama and I think that he continues to mature into a formidable politician. But I’m not ready yet to jump on the “Obama bandwagon” as some Black folks have. His stunning win in the Iowa Democratic Caucus ignited in Black America a sense of pride and hope that is the result of a people so disillusioned with a paucity of Black leadership that they acted as if the Presidential elections were next week. The fact that he put a decisive licking on a bunch of white establishment politicians also helped the downtrodden to conclude that at long last here was a true leader who “looked like us.”
Lost in all the hullabaloo over his Iowa win was the fact that his “Political Coming of Age” had absolutely nothing to do with Black people whatsoever since his “political vindication and anointing” was done in a state where 94% of the population is white. The conclusion therefore is that Barack Obama is a candidate who just happens to be Black – a mulatto in reality – gave Blacks new pride and hope after winning the approval and endorsement of white people. Sanitized and white-washed by white Iowans Obama was now “acceptable” to Black people. Indeed, he appeals more to white voters than Blacks as both the Iowa and New Hampshire (with its 1% Black population) events demonstrated.
For a race of people longing for a strong leader and a replacement to the lack luster Civil Rights Era jaded Black leadership Obama is a refreshing ray of hope and promise. Black people are tired of marching and burning shoe leather and achieving little from a group of middle class leaders who have embraced the politics of accommodation. Like Rodney King they all just want to get along. And for those who still have a modicum of integrity their biggest weakness is that their method of struggle has not changed since the Civil Rights Era. They continue to use the same old, out of place, worn out techniques over and over again.
And it is this utter lack of creativity in political struggle that has turned off millions of Black voters whose interests and problems have not been addressed either by the Democrats or the Republicans. In fact, it is this political alienation and the dithering of our Black elected officials that continues to turn off Black voters and the population at large. In Barack Obama Black Americans have dared to dream again.
While Barack Obamna is no messiah the symbolism of his candidacy has rekindled the hope in Black people that maybe, just maybe, things will get better. His appeal is that he is young, does not carry the excess baggage of the present set of Black pretenders to leadership, and his middle-of-the-road approach and message does not spook white people.
You see, he waxes eloquent on Israel’s right to self-defense, makes the right kind of right wing noises on Iran and Pakistan, plays the Iraq card adroitly and carefully, while saying absolutely nothing on the humanitarian crisis in Darfur, the looming genocide in Somalia and state of unrest in his father’s homeland, Kenya, for fear of angering the “red-necks” in the south who now see him as a “good boy.” Cognizant of the fact that he needs the southern vote to win the presidency Obama is playing it safe. Its good politics but it makes him look like a coward.
So without reaching out to the Black community – except to preach his version of “tough love” – Obama has achieved his national position by deliberately distancing himself from Black America and promising little or nothing. His policy positions on Black America can be boiled down to a careful, academic criticism of Black behavior. In that he’s in good company since none of the presidential wannabes – Republican and Democrat alike – have bothered to address Black issues perhaps the sole exception being Democrat John Edwards.
These issues range from the Third World levels of poverty that plague the Black community, high unemployment rates (48% in places like New York City), the continued destruction of the Black family, and the high rates of incarceration of Black males. The political reality of the 2008 United States Presidential elections is that the Republicans don’t want the Black vote – and don’t need it – and the Democrats offer Black people nothing ands ignore Black America because they assume that they already have the Black vote.