Monday, June 23, 2008

Race and The 2008 Election: Judgment Day for Us?

Why do I read Scotland's The Sunday Herald? Because it asks questions like this: Can America handle a strong black woman? My wife thinks Mrs. Obama is an angry black woman. I do not - except when someone starts attacking her husband. Speaking with a fellow Democrat yesterday at the Democratic Convention, race was mentioned as a barrier to Obama's election. Yes, there are Democrats thinking that Obama's race will cause him to lose the election.

The there was Hate Groups' Newest Target from The Washington Post:
Neo-Nazi and white power groups acknowledge that they have little ability to derail Obama's candidacy, so instead some have decided to take advantage of its potential. White-power leaders who once feared Obama's campaign have come to regard it as a recruiting tool. The groups now portray his candidacy as a vehicle to disenfranchise whites and polarize America.
Those Democrats worrying over or annoyed by Obama's race need to read what the Scots read about us:
"AMERICA HAS just had what I call a Blazing Saddles moment. You'll remember the scene. The downtrodden townsfolk are desperate for a hero. That old prospector, John 'Johnson Johnson' McCain has been talking authentic frontier gibberish. Then over the horizon comes riding the coolest, sharpest dude of a sheriff you are ever liable to see.

At the first the townspeople are beside themselves with relief. Then the ancient quells his gibberish just long enough to put out a singular detail. Sheriff Barack is a ni... Unlike Mel Brooks, we'll settle for African-American. We might add, though, that in some quarters the Democratic candidate for the presidency of the US is about as welcome as Cleavon Little in Rock Ridge.

Is he a 'secret Muslim'? Is his patriotism in question because he has sometimes failed to impale himself on one of those stars and stripes lapel badges that are, for American politicians, almost compulsory? Was his taste in preachers not revealing? But here's a better angle for the shock jocks and the lunatic bloggers and Fox News. Doesn't Obama possess an intelligent wife who happens to be capable of speaking her mind?
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Oh, she's black, too. In fact, in some quarters she is already being described as 'an angry black woman'. (Just a thought, but if she's not, Michelle"

***

The attacks on Michelle Obama have been astonishing on several levels. One shock comes from realising how very few people there are who will name racism for what it is. Democrats and "liberals" seem almost to have internalised the fact that the Republicans and their cheerleaders will always smear and savage when the White House is at stake. In a peculiar way they validate disgusting behaviour by accepting that it is, somehow, par for the course. Michelle Obama is, as one right-wing commentator happily conceded, fair game.

It's two-for-one, after all: racism and sexism without the risks involved in a frontal assault on the candidate. It is almost cost-free, too, if you adopt the habitual tactic of Fox - prop. Rupert Murdoch, lest you'd forgotten - in first airing the smear and then offering the token, half-hearted apology when your "fearless journalism" is misconstrued.

But that's the game. It would be tasteless to bring up the long battle waged against an addiction to pills by John McCain's wife. It would be a cheap shot to talk about her substantial inherited wealth. But allege - without a shred of proof - that a tape exists in which Michelle Obama talks of "whitey" and all denials come too late. Before you know it, the husk of what was once Christopher Hitchens will be trawling through a woman's 1985 college dissertation to uncover the word "separationism". Hasn't anyone in America heard what Hitchens was up to in the eighties?

Mercifully, Obama appears to be capable of standing up for herself. On the strength of a handful of interviews, at least, she seems to be quite as sharp as her husband. Nevertheless, if this is the pattern being set for America's general elections, you can only wonder how long it will be before race and attitudes towards race begin to head the agenda. The attack on Michelle Obama has been notable, after all, for two things: a lack of any substance and utter shamelessness.

***

The candidate's ability to steer clear of this issue is going to be tested. That's the strategy. Attack his wife - loving husbands are easily provoked - and do so in terms calculated to make middle America uncomfortable, or more uncomfortable, with the sight of black folks aspiring to the republic's highest office. What truly interests the outsider, however, is a question: are the Obamas to be put through the mill because of politics, or is actual racism bringing this filth to the surface? And is America unable even to broach the subject?
No, there is more and it may be worth it to you to read it all.

I say this election is judgment day for Americans and for the Democratic Party. Micheal Kazin finds another but like me thinks we stand on the verge of a great future. Once this country makes a sham out of a particular set of words then we have lost what makes us Americans and makes Americans special. That particular set of words is:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness....
By denying one person because of their race, we can deny anyone else who is does not have the right look, the right bank account, the right parents, the right zip code, the right hair color, the right eye color, the right height, the right religion, the right ethnicity, the right sex and so on. Yes, because we say Obama cannot be President because he is black, we can deny the white kid whose parents did not put him through Yale.

By denying the equality of opportunity enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, we consign ourselves to an oligarchic republic instead of a government based merit.

Those Democrats who will not vote for Obama repudiate the essential basis of our party. Vote against him because you disagree with his ideas but also do not use this as a dodge for avoiding the race issue. By denying the equality of opportunity enshrined in the Declaration of Independence, you deny your own right to equality.

The time for putting belief into action has come. Now is not the time to shirk but to embrace our beliefs.

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