Senator Barack Obama’s pastor has caused a lot of upset.
He said in a sermon that the United States is “a country and a culture controlled by rich, white people.”
Looking back at only the period since the Civil Rights Act of 1964, I considered America’s powerful leaders: presidents, secretaries of state and treasury, speakers of the House of Representatives, presidents pro-temp and majority leaders of the Senate, chief justices of the U.S. Supreme Court, governors of large states (hell, any state), chairmen of the Federal Reserve, CEO’s of the top corporations and financial institutions, owners of the major media, sports and entertainment franchises, etc.
Mostly men and all white, with the exceptions of Secretaries of State Collin Powell and Condaleza Rice (a statistical “two-fer”), a governor of Virginia and now one in New York, not elected.
Did I miss anyone? So, why the upset?
As near as I can tell, because the pastor put his point with some passion, even anger, and this has upset who?
Now, I’m neither a Roman Catholic, nor a Jewish mother nor a left wing intellectual and I don’t do guilt. Guilt will not motivate me to tackle, for example, the plight of American cities like Philadelphia and many others where more African American boys are likely to pass through the criminal justice system than to graduate high school.
But a properly American and Christian sense of justice tells me that is not a just state of affairs, and an educated self interest tells me it is potentially ruinous that so much of America’s social capital is being lost to gangs, guns, drugs and despair.
And it is expensive. I’m appealing to Republicans, too.
In his speech last week, Senator Obama tried to explain his pastor’s thinking and anger and put it in context, to allay the resentment of whites. I thought he did a masterful job of it. There was more intellectual content in that speech than I have heard from any American politician for a long time.
Always risky. We Americans have come to like our politicians glib and sometimes tough, but intellectual?
The result? Well, to the great glee of Senator Clinton, the race issue that her husband tried so shabbily to interject into the election is now there front and center. It plays to her advantage that Obama, neither black or white, is now so closely identified with African Americans and an issue that most whites do not understand and that makes them uncomfortable.
If Clinton triumphs because of the race issue, African Americans will never forgive her and will sit out the general election. McCain will carry the independents. That will combine to put the south and many battle-ground states in his column for a decisive electoral vote victory.
Clinton’s only hope will be to keep playing the race card to woo back African Americans, thinking they are so easily manipulated that she will get to have it both ways in the time between the convention and the general election.