Monday, January 07, 2008

Obama and the "race card"?

The prospect of the nation's first African American president is exhilarating and we shouldn't underestimate its significance. The racial dynamics of Obama's candidacy, internally and externally, are myriad and fascinating. Some have debated his "authenticity" as a black man while others have argued that America is/is not ready to elect a black president. Some claim Obama's success proves we are "moving beyond race" while others claim Obama's multi-racial identity offers a new racial paradigm for a new era. Still others have criticized the Illinois senator for not being more boldly "racial" in his political rhetoric and style and both Rush Limbaugh and (strangely) many white progressives have united in criticizing Obama as a "magical negro" who doesn't threaten whites and who is around mainly to make white people feel better about themselves. And, in other places, people debate whether Obama is the first "post-civil rights" black candidate.

Regardless of how you come down on these and other important questions, I think it is important that we each think long and hard about all of the racial implications of election '08, considering what they mean not only for Obama's campaign, but also for us all as a nation.

The last day or so has brought a few interesting media tidbits on this racial front:

• Following Obama's Iowa win, Roberto Lovato from New America Media (an "ethnic media" group) asks an important question: "Is color blindness the model we want for diversity?"

• Simon Rosenberg asks if an Obama nomination and win in November might mean a welcome end to the racially divisive "southern strategy" that has propelled Republicans to dominance over the past thirty-odd years:
"On Obama, Race and the End of the Southern Strategy"

• Back in March of '07, the Los Angeles Times published an opinion piece by David Ehrenstein, an LA-based writer on Hollywood and politics, where he suggested Obama " lends himself to white America's idealized, less-than-real black man," a.k.a., "the Magic Negro." Afterward, notorious B.I.G.O.T., Rush Limbaugh, picked up the idea and created a parody song on his show, titled, "Barack the Magic Negro." Now, strangely, I've heard more than a few so-called progressive whites use the trope against Obama.

• James Carroll, of the Boston Globe, writes about the transformative possibilities of an Obama presidency in "Obama and the Ghosts of Racism"

• Over at the conservative National Review, Jonah Goldberg illustrates the racial fears lurking beneath the surface of an Obama nomination by suggesting that if Obama were the Democratic nominee and lost in the general election "certain segments of American political life will become completely unhinged," leading to "social unraveling." Over at Salon, Glen Greenwald skewers Goldberg's "ugly innuendo." Incensed by the anti-Obama slime, Amanda Marcotte, an Edwards supporter, suggests switching to Obama as a stand against the racist right's smear machine.

• Earl Ofari Hutchinson, a Hillary-lover and Obama-criticizer, reminds us that "A President Obama No Proof that America has Finally Kicked Its Racial Syndrome"

• Throughout the primary campaign a variety of nasty anti-Obama emails have been circulating that smear him in really nasty ways... some are racist. Some play off his middle name or his childhood in Indonesia to pollute the political ether with Muslim fear-mongering. Others include sexual innuendos that are laced with racial undertones. Shortly after Obama's Iowa victory, the following email began to show up in Democratic email-boxes. It is simply a small taste of what is sure to come if he continues to have success in the process... Of course, most of this ugly crap will take place in the shadowy behind-the-scenes world of politics and the formal GOP will feign shock and offense. But it ain't just the GOP. Recall that Hillary's people have been smearing Obama for weeks now, too! Here is the text of the latest hatefulness:

Did the weakest Dem candidate for the general election won tonight? I think so.

By sending forth Hussein Osama out of Iowa, Democrats have unwittingly weakened their general election prospects.

Hussein's exotic mixture of radical liberalism, Kwanzaa Socialism, antipathy towards the unborn, and weakness against his jihadi brethren will all come back to destroy him against almost any Republican opponent, even the snake-grope from Hope.

I think we as Republicans should be celebrating tonight at the coronation of Hussein, in whose presence millions of Democrat women, from elementary school teachers to journalism majors to law school grads to dykes on bikes will go weak in their knees.

As defenders of this great Republic, and of the pinnacle of Western civilization that it represents, we should all come together tonight and agree on a common strategy that will keep the White House from becoming a madrassa.

God Bless America, Land of the Free.

• And, finally, on a more rosy note, Gary Hart writes about "Obama and the Courage of Our Convictions" and Arianna Huffington explains why Obama's Iowa victory gives "every American cause to celebrate.">


  1. No time to really engage this, but I want to point out that twice you pair "criticize" with "magical negro.'

    Rush Limbaugh isn't on my radar but the converstaions I've heard in this area (among "progressives") have been along the lines of analyzing Obama's appeal. If there is any criticism it is directed more at the supporters than the candidate.

  2. Actually, this has not been my experience with white liberal/progressive/lefties on this issue. Their comments, while critical of Obama's white supporters, also almost always tag him, too, as helping to create this view of himself... You know, he is not angry, he is professional, highly intelligent, happily married, "non-ideological," "clean," "articulate," etc... aka, "safe."