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OpEdNews Op Eds    H4'ed 8/1/12

Mr. Obama's Return to the era of Jim Crow

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Here, Professor Frederick Harris in his book "The Price of the Ticket," has given us a very thought-provoking summary of Black political actions and strategies since the Civil Rights era. Carefully highlighting its key events and then trying to properly situate Mr. Obama's new "post-racial" and "race-neutral" political approach within that history. 
The author concludes that by publicly "distancing" himself from both his Chicago political mentors (Jessie Jackson Senior and Harold Washington), and his main constituency, black inner city residents, Mr. Obama, throughout his first term, has as at times been aloof, callous, disinterested, ungrateful, gratuitously disrespectful and down right racially calculating, but has never been openly responsive to his most supportive constituency, black Americans. This has made our first black president seem like a hollow prize for those who voted for him at the 95% level in 2008.
Given that blacks have suffered more than most under the eight-year Bush debacle -- losing fully two-thirds of their total wealth, continuing racial disparities in income and education, owning a disproportionate number of under water mortgages, epidemic incarceration and unemployment rates, rampant HIV and the continuing breakdown in the black family, it is not unreasonable that those who supported Mr. Obama at the 95% level would expect (the same as they would expect of any politician they support) at least a signal from him that he would put their issues high up on his presidential agenda? 
Not so, according to this author, in fact, curiously, Mr. Obama, in Professor Harris' view, has been quick to do just the opposite. 
In this careful, nuanced, but uncompromising analysis, the author takes us on an excursion into why this might be so? Why has Mr. Obama, repeatedly "dissed" and gratuitously insulted his black audiences? Why has he openly rejected singling out the need to address the black agenda if by doing so, the US itself is sure to get better? And why has he done so under the demeaning mantra of "I am the President of all the people," when at the same time, he is busy going about the business of addressing Native American issues, Latino issues, Union issues, Wall Street issues, LGBT issues and white women issues? In fact it seems that the only group conspicuously missing from Mr. Obama's list is the group that voted for him at the 95% level, black Americans?  
Thus, here the author exposes Mr. Obama's racial duplicity by raises disturbing questions about the true nature of our first black President's commitment to equality and more racially fairness by failing to address the problems of race and the problems of those who suffer from it most, his most supportive constituency, black Americans.  Mr. Obama's defection from, and ignoring of blacks, the very group that supported him at the 95% level, is such a curious phenomenon for a professional politician, that the author uses this book to examine why this might be so?
The formula he uses to get to the bottom of this curious dilemma is what he labels "the price of the ticket." And as always in American politics, lurking in the background and subtext of this phrase is the 800-pound gorilla of American society, white racism. "The price of the ticket." is a metaphor resurrected from Jim Crow days, when blacks, due to rampant racial injustice, could expect little more than "political symbolism" from their political leaders. The black willingness to settle for "political symbolism" instead of for the same "real political substance" given to others in the mainstream, was an embarrassingly true index of just how powerless they were during the Southern led era of America's racial dictatorship. Accepting this demeaning status of having to eat symbol pie in exchange for no substantive supper, was said to be "the price of the ticket."
I believe that the author makes a convincing case that what we see again today, under our first black president's administration, is a repeat of this cruel and demeaning race-based political strategy, one that was put to such good effect by Southern racist politicians during the era of Jim Crow. 
What the author tells us here is that in every way possible, Mr. Obama and his handlers, have "given black America their middle finger" with a single unmistakable message, one that is in every respect resonant with the same message given to them a generation ago by racist Southern politicians: "You and your degenerative behavior are the main causes of your own socio-economic predicament, and there is nothing I can do about that; therefore, you've got nothing coming from me but whatever trickles down from policies that I implement to address main stream white American problems?  
This is the beginning and the end of the Obama message to blacks, and the end of the Obama administration's black program. After that message, and the silence that usually follows it, blacks then hear in the distance a new more urgent message: Oh, by the way, do not forget to get out the vote for me in 2012, because remember, you really don't have any other option, now do you?
Given that Mr. Obama's reelection chances could well rest on a robust turn out of black voters, and given too that the black vote is now under siege by the full court press to suppress it unfolding within the Republican machinery, one wonders why it is that Mr. Obama continually runs the risk of gratuitously insulting his black constituency, further discouraging a strong black voter turn out? If this does not look like a formula for a self-inflicted train wreck or political suicide, then I have completely lost all my political senses?
After stripping Mr. Obama naked in the first half of the book, in the rest of the book the author then tries to cover his nakedness with the same patch of fig leaves of rationalizations we hear coming from Obama surrogates on MSNBC: The President has been so busy dealing with the economic melt down, that he has not had time to address black concerns. Plus, the policies that he has put in place that help mainstream whites, will also do wonders to help blacks. Indeed, what else would you have the President do for blacks?
However, these weak Obama rationalizations belie the fact that the black socioeconomic situation is dire, near great depression levels, and also only further begs the questions raise earlier by the fact that Obama does not find the need to use such rationalizations (or his mantra that he is the president of all the people) when he is called upon to address the problems of other minorities and special interests groups such as the unions, white women, the LGBT community, Latinos, and even Native Americans, none of whom voted for Mr. Obama above the 55% level.  With these groups he is active and creative, constantly coming up with new ideas and new ways to address their concerns. But not when it comes to blacks, then he needs our help to find solutions? He falls black on trickle down social policy, etc. 
Plus, if you think about it, would it not make much more sense to turn Mr. Obama's trickle-down social strategy on its head: Helping the most severely injured in American society, ipso facto, helps the American mainstream, and not the other way around. What we need for blacks is not more Obama trickle down social policies, but grassroots social policies that can trickle up from the inner cities to the suburbs.
This is political analysis at its very best and anyone who wants to know why Mr. Obama is unlikely to get more than 75% of the black vote this time around, must read this book. A well-deserved, five stars
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Retired Foreign Service Officer and past Manager of Political and Military Affairs at the US Department of State. For a brief time an Assistant Professor of International Relations at the University of Denver and the University of Washington at (more...)
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