Political Positions

James L. Taylor: Voting for Barack Obama

Political Positions

"Casting a vote for Obama is the cheapest way to fundamentally change the way Black Americans see America," says James Lance Taylor.

In this week's installment of Political Positions, Taylor offers an essay titled, Voting for Barack Obama: Is It the Polls or Poles?

Taylor is associate professor of politics at the University of San Francisco and president-elect of the National Conference of Black Political Scientists.

When W.E.B. Du Bois wrote Souls of Black Folk just over a century ago, he discussed frustration with how others seemed to look at him, and blacks in general, as if to ask, "How does it feel to be a problem?"

The success of the Obama campaign seems to be stirring a renewed sense of confidence among segments of the larger African-American population. I cannot say for sure how widespread it is, whether it is mere anecdote or just a superficial impression, but many Americans of African descent seem especially locked into the implications of an Obama candidacy for their social standing in America.

Obama Addressing Crowd
Barack Obama addresses a crowd at a January 2008 campaign rally in Hanover, New Hampshire.

Michal Czerwonka, AFP/Getty Images

Long ago, Alex de Tocqueville argued, that if democracy were ever to be real in America, it would be through the improved social and equality statuses of blacks in the country; their status, then understood in terms of the whole group, would be the best evidence of the democratic capacities of the American social and political system.

The newest CBS/New York Times poll suggests that African Americans are enthusiastic over the Obama candidacy and campaign, but still pessimistic about the broad state of race relations between the major groups, namely blacks and Caucasian Americans.

Ironically, whites are more optimistic about the state of race relations and levels of racial discrimination than blacks. But three of ten are far more skeptical about Barack Obama and his potential presidency.

By a full three percentage points (91 to 88 percent), white respondents said that they would vote for a black candidate more than did black respondents. When compared to white voters, by one percentage point (six to five percent) blacks said that they would not vote for a black candidate. But they overwhelmingly support Obama. What gives?

It should be remembered that black American men and women were initially more enthusiastic about the Bill and Hillary Clinton campaign than the Obama campaign. Black women, by more than 10 percentage points, supported Hillary Clinton over Obama, who nevertheless had the support of three out of four black women.

Once Obama passed the "electability" test in Iowa, African Americans — across categories of gender, age, region, class, and ideology — became more open to the possibility of what, in the 217 years of the Office of the American President, was believed impossible in the lifetimes of most living Americans.

But we stand less than four months away potentially from one of the most important moments in, not just American, but Western World history; for only in Cuba (Batista is alleged to have had African ancestry) and Mexico, have men of African descent governed a non-African, Caribbean, or Haitian country in the modern world.

African Americans stand poised to evaluate, in Michelle Obama's words, "how we relate to this democracy." Nevertheless, hidden behind Blacks' enthusiasm for Obama's candidacy at a relatively low 83 percent — Bill Clinton was more favored in 1996 — is the detail that only six in 10 blacks are "enthusiastic" for Obama, with the remainder expressing that they are "satisfied, not enthusiastic," for Obama.

For whites, the same item showed only 19 percent having enthusiasm, while 36 percent expressed satisfaction without enthusiasm. Poor John McCain doesn't inspire double digits on the question among either group.

If the poll is to be believed, then there seems to be some rather complicated dynamics at work. Black Americans seem to be optimistic about Obama, but would be less inclined than their white counterparts to vote for a black candidate in general; even though it would transform, at least emotionally and psychologically, their relationship to American society.

Whites, who do not like Obama as much, are more inclined than blacks to vote for a black candidate. White respondents, at 55 percent, said that race relations in the country were "generally good," while 34 percent said, "generally bad." Blacks on the other hand, at 29 percent, said that race relations in the nation were "generally good," while 59 percent feel they are "generally bad."

Latinos, at 52 percent, feel relations are generally good and at 38 percent, felt they were generally bad. Does this suggest that Obama is not perceived as a "Black candidate,"? I don't think so. Could it be that African Americans have fallen in love with Obama? No, their enthusiasm is not as white hot as it is portrayed in the media. And the perception that he, according to Jesse Jackson, Sr., and others, panders to whites by "talking down to black people,"; his altered position on FISA; his un-nuanced position on Israel and Palestine; and reluctance to speak to concrete social justice issues, most which disproportionately effect lower-income people of color, might explain why Obama does not enjoy greater enthusiasm among Blacks.

But if they are cool on Obama, they are cold on the prospect that his potential election would trickle through the realities many experience in the cities and rural areas where they live. For instance, when asked, how they viewed race relations in their own communities, at 79 percent whites responded that they were "generally good," with 18 percent stating "generally bad."

Latinos responded at 73 percent that community relations were "generally good," and 34 percent, "generally bad." Black respondents expressed significant pessimism at 58 percent that things were "generally good," with 37 percent expressing that relations were "generally bad." The same poll shows that African Americans, at 59 percent, are the most skeptical of the three groups to believe that significant progress has been made among blacks since the 1960s; whites responded at 80 percent, while Latinos registered at 71 percent.

In fact, blacks also expressed most strongly (at 47 percent) that Latinos and other minority populations were fairing more poorly since the 1960s, with whites (at 58 percent) and Latinos (at 49 percent), believing other groups have faired better.

One possibility is that blacks are just a negative lot, generally. Another is that whites, and to a lesser extent Latinos, are just too damn happy. But who could be happy in this war-economy standing in line trying to get money out their banks before they go under? Or paying for $5.00 per gallon gas (I live in the Bay Area) in order to drive home to a house in jeopardy of being foreclosed on due to a subprime loan?

There is nothing novel about the responses in this poll as they relate to how different groups see race progress. Black Americans have been perennially skeptical of group to group relations, no matter how individual African Americans might excel in society (e.g., Tiger Woods, Oprah Winfrey, Condoleezza Rice, Bill Cosby, or Barack Obama).

Obama Supporters
Obama supporters celebrate as a television screen announces Obama as the winner in the South Carolina's primary.

Emmanuel Dunand, AFP/Getty Images

In this fast-paced, ticker on your TV, round the clock news cycle media world we live in, the trauma of Hurricane Katrina — which ideally, all Americans felt in 2005, but didn't — might be easy to forget. No event so traumatized African Americans as a collective since perhaps the assassination of Dr. King.

The ubiquity of protests aimed at national media outlets that referred to black New Orleneans as "refugees" and "looters" reinforced longstanding feelings which African Americans, as a collective, have expressed. The high profile shooting of Sean Bell 50 times by NYPD and the officers' exoneration are yet more of the same. The general condition of poorer and low income housing, public education, employment, and daily violence and punishment experiences feed their reticence.

And no, I do not think in terms of a corporate, monolithic blackness that is unproblematic. In fact, despite the vast diversity of sexuality, gender, class, region, education, associations and so forth among black American individuals, their political attitudes and opinions tend to be stable on the kinds of questions raised above.

What might seem to be contradictory views on voting for a black candidate other than Obama and pessimism about racial progress — whatever that looks like — might suggest to us that blacks, despite being cynical about overall group relations, see some glimmer of hope, specifically in an Obama presidency.

That perhaps if Barak Obama became president, their relationship to the American society and body politic might improve. This was expressed among African women when Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected in Liberia, recently. It was expressed among blacks South Africans when Mandela was released and apartheid dismantled in 1990.

It was experienced by Catholics when JFK was elected in 1960. It was expressed among physically disabled Americans when David Paterson recently became governor of that state. So what if this is only "descriptive representation"? Have we already forgotten what several generations of women expressed concerning the symbolic meaning of a woman president; even if that woman was Hillary Clinton?

If white voter support for Obama translates into some transformed meaning of racial politics in Americans, it will have to be something that people actually experience — on the ground, rather than by virtual reality or through cable TV. Casting a vote for Obama is the cheapest way to fundamentally change the way Black Americans see America; it is not akin to supporting protest demands for affirmative action, busing, or say, reparations.

Only the most cynical of the cynical would be inclined to suggest that Obama's election is just another election; that it would mean the same to immigrants from El Salvador as to African Americans; that it would mean as much to his enthusiastic college-aged white supporters, as to a 65-year-old Black Georgian who had to sit in the back of the bus before the Civil Rights movement.

Obama Supporters Cheer
Supporters listen as Barack Obama speaks following victory in the South Carolina primary.

Emmanuel Dunand, AFP/Getty Images

The Obama candidacy is almost collateral to the unresolved voluntary social distances between African Americans and whites (in churches, clubs, residency, many schools, in technological access); it has every thing to do with him, and it has nothing to do with him. Obama almost functions as a pawn in a game between the different groups that had been stalemate until his candidacy.

At the risk of being too philosophical, it is sort of as if both groups — whose DNA run through his veins — stand poised to speak to one another, racially, through Obama. After centuries of hate, distance, and dueling, a "love child" of the White Hatfields and Black McCoys, is trying to bring both sides of his family together.

If, after leaving the voting booths in November whites say a collective "Yes We Can!" enough to give Obama victory, then I suspect the wonderful shock to many ordinary African Americans might be something like, "I can't believe they did!"

This is as much about forging racial love where modern racial distance has replaced old naked racial hate. White people voting for Obama — despite being lukewarm on him in the polls — would heal all kinds of deeper anxieties African Americans express about their place in society, in the polls.

See, it is only now, after African Americans forged a Civil Rights Movement for the right to vote for white men, that we are hearing the stupid talk about a "post racial" America, signaled by whites finally opening up in being willing to vote for a Black candidate; Blacks have voted for whites since the 1860s, whenever they were permitted to vote.

Such a cherished but cheap price to pay — a vote for Obama — could potentially rewrite the past and future of America. One in which African Americans are no longer pariah to others, or pariah to themselves, because of the message his election and inauguration would convey.

The Obama campaign and candidacy has given renewed energy to conversations in the churches, barber shops, classrooms, book clubs and beauty parlors, nightclubs and juke joints, and on CNN. It is rather unscientific and anecdotal, but I have observed energy among many ordinary African Americans across the cities and states to which I have been traveling lately; a sense that major positive change is on the horizon.

Participation in the Democratic Party primary was unprecedented; voter registration and campaign contributions among Blacks have set records. Men are talking to one another about being responsible to their children. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton have been eclipsed.

Obama T-shirts are as ubiquitous today as Malcolm X caps were in the 1990s. Is Obama the solution to the drive-by? Unemployment and joblessness? Dead-beat dads? Failed education? The absence of hope that permeates too many Black communities? Will young people in the 'hood begin to relate more to their potential in Obama's America? I don't know. I hope so. Has anything else worked?

If conservative intellectuals are correct in arguing that America will not change its view of black people until black people change (particularly in the area of crime), then an Obama election might inspire that work among ordinary people.

People who have given up on and "quit America," as did Du Bois, Richard Wright, Josephine Baker, and Randall Robinson, might be inclined to believe in America — again — or, be proud of being in it for the first time in their adult lives, like Michelle Obama.

Next week, CNN will present two days of discussion in a program called Black in America. I am afraid to watch it, because I doubt that they will tap the full meaning of what that has felt like for many people, but whatever it meant or means, it will not be the same should Barack Obama become President of the United States.

And maybe Du Bois's question of "how does it feel to be a problem?" might change to, "how does it feel now to really be an American?"

— James Lance Taylor



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Are you nuts? If white Americans voted for Obama in droves, it still would not heal existing racial rifts in America, or rewrite history as you claim. Healing, building, and/or maintaining relationships takes everyday, consciencious effort from all parties, and there are no substitutes!

Sent by LAW | 11:09 AM | 7-18-2008

LAW: Nuts? Re-read the article. Like the quote below, you apparently missed the point. "cheap" suggests that a great deal more will have to be done to erase centuries of racism and it's effects. Re-write history? wear is that in this article? If you are going to make a comment, make sure you read and UNDERSTAND what you are commenting on. The article is about how Black people might be affected, and how that might influence their alienated relationship to America. The vote take very little hard work. Just like the civil rights movement proved. Whites, after initial resistence, conceded the right to vote to blacks. But the harder work of getting to a society where what it means to be black in america is not a "condition" as it presently is for many, then that is likely to be resisted; just like King experienced after he tried to move beyond the vote (easy for whites to concede) and economic equality (think of the general white opposition to affirmative action and social welfare). Get it?

"If white voter support for Obama translates into some transformed meaning of racial politics in Americans, it will have to be something that people actually experience -- on the ground, rather than by virtual reality or through cable TV. Casting a vote for Obama is the cheapest way to fundamentally change the way Black Americans see America; it is not akin to supporting protest demands for affirmative action, busing, or say, reparations."

Sent by miko | 5:27 PM | 7-18-2008

Whites reasons for voting for Barack will vary by individuals...don't think there's a monolithic voice...so who knows what reliable meaning or consensus if any can be drawn...but I don't think healing or erasing centuries of racism will be the reason for the majority of those who do vote for Obama.

As a Black person feeling no alienation, my concern about any effect is based on the extent that an Obama Presidency can address the following:

1. restoring our international clout & reputation after 8yrs of these criminals in office.

2. avoiding right-wing judges

3.Overhauling & new-forming our educational systems to reflect a modern economy.

4. Reforming a broken justice system.
5. affordable or universal healthcare
6. ending the war on drugs
7. ending the war
8. a workable sustainable energy policy that reduces dependency on oil and incorporates alternative energy.

9. rebuilding our infrastructure and adding a European style high speed rail system.

10. technological equity.

I don't hold on to the belief that somehow a vote for Barack will heal or make up for anything or transform racial feelings in anyway.

The White racist will never 'get it' and continue to be racist. Those Blacks who feel alienated will still clamor for healing & apologies both continuing to put the other at the center of their lives.
Their identities are too dependent on the other and those old familiar differences. They NEED each other. It informs who they are.

If one day, miraculously, there were no Blacks....or if in one swoop there was no racism, neither group would have a clue about what to do.

But one thing for sure, you can bet CNN's little series will be fluff.

Sent by Jon J | 11:44 PM | 7-18-2008

Crime has no color and yet what leads local newscasts across our nation? Black on black crimes, black gangs, black women having multiple children by various breeders who evaporate. If the black leadership would listen to the Bill Cosbys of the world and quit pointing fingers at whites, quit demanding entitlements without making any efforts to deserve them and recognize the fact as Pogo said, "we have met the enemy and they is us!" Although I have seen with my own eyes the cruelty imposed on blacks back in the fifties and sixties, I have also seen and experienced since then the magnificent success of so many blacks in all walks of life especially in my field of television as I work with some of the finest and most professional. Success by those who did not whine and kill at the drop of a hat for dissen' of my momma, or demand a free handout but who had "the dream" of MLK,Jr, who rose above black racism against whites, who obtained an education, who proved that they belonged by virtue of their character and their accomplishments. Yes, performance, integrity not color count! I live in a town with more than 140 different countries represented, there are celebrations of various cultures throughout the year, there is an international day at the fairgrounds where thousands mingle and enjoy each others diversity not the nastiness and danger of the evil souls that unfortunately are a part of any culture. Hey, God knows I simply mean I pray that the good, decent, hard-working people in the black community as in any community would be "color-blind" and bind together with all forces white and black and brown and yellow in an effort to achieve a quality of life for all by defeating those forces that continually try to tear it down. That's all. Just some thoughts from a 73 year old guy who loves people who love and cherish the good things of life and rise above the disappointments that do happen. Joy and agape'...Joe Pinner

Sent by Joe Pinner | 12:35 AM | 7-20-2008

yeah Taylor is kinda nuts but then all professors are by default...corrections to the essay in terms of history...

General Fulgencio Batista y Zald??var of the island nation of Cuba is said to be mestizo -of mixed ancestry or in street talk, he was the love child product of an African slave woman on a sugar plantation and a raping [perhaps and most likely] European male overseer. It is said he may have had Chinese heritage as well, Batista. The dilemma here with him is one of patriline vs matriline view and his mestizo ancestry as an African qualifier. Mr. Taylor's needs to clarify that point since the mother versus father line is crucial.

The reference to perhaps Vicente Ram??n Guerrero Salda??a - considered second president of the Republic Mexico according to the eurocentric history timeline [whose heritage is ambiguous] but like Emiliano Zapata he may have been from mestizo roots as well. Art of the two men show clearly African roots in there current present depictions.

But what about Haiti, Mr. Taylor? Did you know that the African, Fran??ois-Dominique Toussaint Louverture liberated Haiti and became its first independent president in 1800 or so.

So, technically, Mr. Obama by not having a primary African matrilineal
succession roots line and mestizo to boot, does not quite qualify for the historical honour that you are attempting to heap on him. We need to first set the demarcation points and definitions before one commences to re-write the history wrongly.

I hold African men like:
Toussaint Louverture
Emiliano Zapata
Patrice Lumumba
Amilcar Cabral
Samora Machel

in a high regard for liberating their African peoples from european subjugation.

Recently, Mr. Obama has taken it for granted that he has all of the votes of descendants of African heritage firmly in pocket. He has even gone so far as to rant against formerly, slave descendant African men to be "more responsible" in terms of eurocentric values of family and responsibility paradigms without looking at the systemic roots of why the abysmal state of the state exists for African males. What were African male roles during slavery and the sharecroppers reconstruction aftermath? What group was denied education and in roads into commence and business for self and then demonised as "criminal" element when having paper money became equal to being deemed economically bona fide to be acknowledged as a "upright citizen"? Instead of blaming the victim and playing the Booker T Washington of the year 2008 in his quest to appeal of white citizenry, why does Obama not forge a rights of passage paradigm and dialogue committee and chair sessions on how to effect a change in the trend of African malehood away from eurocentric programming that does not fit to one more in line with the people whom he is calling to be more responsible. Running for a political office and going to a African slavery endowed educational institution dripping with African blood and slave cane juice is not in my view setting a exemplar example of "right path to success for an African male".

And less he has forgot, there are a whole lot of walking wounded African men out there who are products of fatherless, upbringing and homes just like he. And, some of us may have gotten lucky to over come that and the subliminal hate for our unpresent fathers that may have been present in the upbringing from our love torn mothers [playing secondary victims to the hate] and others of us are walking around trying to play adults with no love in our child past from father nor mother but we got raised. You need a foundation to build a house if you want it to stand the test of times and climate. If your foundation is unsound then so too your abode but dont cast blame on the squatter in the midst. One might spend one's whole life just constantly picking up the pieces of a marred childhood raising. And that may be all one can muster up in terms of responsibility. Not that it is right nor wrong, it is just what it is being a patronized African male in the west.

By the way, Africans have always voted for white males when allowed to in select numbers within this nation-state of native american terrain due to a lack of political education and being steered by so-called leaders and those mostly from religious institutions. The only viable African that would have been an electible candidate to the vast mass of African descendants across all categories would have been el haji el Malik Shabazz [Malcolm] between 1963-65. For it was he, well before Martin who would speak of Africans and human rights globally. It was he who would tie the racism against Africans in the united states with the racism of Africans on the continent struggling with neo-colonism and it was he would tied all that to the struggles of Asians and Latins for economic and political emancipation as well. He presented economic and political platforms that tied the domestic concerns into the global sphere. Martin L King did not really do that until 1967 [two years after el Haji was assassinated] and Mr. Obama has yet to do so either except to keep taking about "change". But in sign of the times, I want Euros and GB pounds in my pocket/financial account and not "change" nor dollars that are so over printed as to be worth nothing but "change".

Sent by K Mjumbe | 1:49 AM | 7-21-2008


I appreciate the ditto on something about my thoughts being "nuts," though I have not read a single comment here that demonstrates anything other than as set of ideas with which anyone is free to agree or disagree. But I guess there is the famous "nutty professor" stereotype we get. Like the previous comment of LAW, you have apparently gotten lost in the trees and ignored the forest. In mentioning Mexico and Cuba, the point was to make it clear that as historic as an Obama election would be for the United States, it would not be wholly unprecedented given the ethnic lineages of the individuals you correctly mention. Namely, Mexico's second president Vincente Ramon Guerro--a true (Black Indian) African revolutionary in the early 19th century. This was not a treatise on "FIRST BLACK PRESIDENTS" in the Western World, as much as it was an attempt to explain the poll cited in the article and the conflicting (and skeptical) attitudes which African Americans have expressed in recent polls and that have been reported on-line and in the mass media. The polls, as the article clarifies, showed enthusiasm among many black likely voters--though at numbers lower than one would think given the significance of a potential Obama election. It showed great skepticism among Blacks for what its implications might be for "really lived" domestic-American race relations. And the data bear this out almost unanymously.

You add no "correction" to the article's historical analysis because:

Mexico, Haiti, the Caribbean, and Cuba were passing references. Most people offering analysis on the implications of an Obama election TOTALLY look at any African descended individuals who do or have administered "Latin American" states as irrelevant altogether. My comments were informed by these other historically relevant "firsts". I did not ignore them and act as if Obama's election would be the opening of the heavens to Black people on earth--quite the contrary. I am of the view that an Obama presidency would be more of the same, in Black face, and that he would be better for an extension of American imperialist ambitions than he would be for Black people.

I am fully aware of Toussaint L'Ouveture and if you read the article carefully, I do mention Haiti fully aware of L'Ouverture and (more importantly in terms of fulfilling the slave revolution there at the same time that Guerro was fighting Spanish imperialism in Mexico, Jean-Jacques Dessalines). But this was not the point of the article. While we are dropping names, let's mention Hugo Chavez's confirmed African ancestry.

What is not nuts, is that no matter how much subsequent and necessary work will be needed to "make real the promises of democracy," for all its people--an Obama election would be as significant across the world as anything any modern American has witnessed; especially because most of the world would prefer a more just, humane, civil, and mulitlateral foreign policy in the next administration of the American state. This is not to diminish Latin America, the Caribbean, or Haiti, but it is to say that even comparing--again this was not the focus of the article but on what you focused--these other "African" presidencies, is by comparison as significant as those presidencies are in the so-called post-modern, late capitalist world to THE AMERICAN PRESIDENCY. Point blank. It is not just the "what" Obama is that is significant, but more to the point of the "what" he is aiming to do. And I am no Obama apologist at all. I agree with just about everything else you write. You are correct on Obama's duplicity concerning what he says to whites and what he says about blacks in the BTW mode of leadership.
But you adding the names or details of the heritage of some Afro-Latino individuals is collateral to my main point.

That is why I used the phrase cheap. Voting in a booth is a lot less inconvenient than talking about radical redistribution of political and economic resources (as did King after 1965), mending and prioritizing the urban sector of the economy, restructuring public education beyond current recognition, staving real poverty (being lived by millions of children and adults, regardless of race), and so forth.

Black Americans have witnessed a number of "epochal" moments, such as Jack Johnson, Jesse Owens, Jou Louis, and Jackie Robinson in sports. And as cataclysmic as these moments may have been viscerally, the really lived conditions of ordinary people tempered the otherwise wild enthusiasm they initially showed because of THEIR reading of what it meant to them. Symbolic politics DO matter. That is the point of this paragraph:

That perhaps if Barak Obama became president, their relationship to the American society and body politic might improve. This was expressed among African women when Ellen Johnson Sirleaf was elected in Liberia, recently. It was expressed among blacks South Africans when Mandela was released and apartheid dismantled in 1990. It was experienced by Catholics when JFK was elected in 1960. It was expressed among physically disabled Americans when David Paterson recently became governor of that state. So what if this is only "descriptive representation"? Have we already forgotten what several generations of women expressed concerning the symbolic meaning of a woman president; even if that woman was Hillary Clinton?

I have been called worse than nuts, but I would hope someone who "amens" someone else's misreading of my thoughts might be more careful in making hypothetical claims about Malcolm X being elected president of the United States. I am nuts, but you think Malcolm could have been president of the United States, then or now? If you take serious your assertion, just check one little book by a scholar named Gary Marx called PROTEST AND PREJUDICE: A STUDY OF BELIEF IN THE BLACK COMMUNITY. It is an old book now, but it was contemporaneous with Malcolm X's presence on the scene of Black politics. Bottom line, it shows that Malcolm X enjoyed less than 5 percent support (as did Elijah Muhammad, his teacher) among ordinary African Americans. Now THAT would be more impressive than an OBAMA election. Malcolm in the White House--too deep. Malcolm has become more loved dead than alive. And lastly, it is a ideological myth that Malcolm X was MORE radical than KIng--they were both radical for their times, with the demands they were making against the state and society. I am afraid that many people buy the "I Have A Dream" framing of King and ignore his call for radical redistribution of political and economic resources. King was radical. Malcolm was radical. If Obama's racial ballet shows us anything, it is how unelectable any person who comes "speaking truth to power," really and truly is--just keep in mind the rhetoric of Jeremiah Wright and the media overactions. But thank you for your comments and for the details you do offer concerning Mexico and Cuba.

Sent by JT | 7:47 PM | 7-21-2008

First off, Dr. Taylor ain't nuts, he's offering an insightful critique that cautions us not against the audacity of hope per se, but what it means when so many Americans have the audacity to believe a vote for Obama is all it takes to suggest racism is a thing of the past, so "Amen to you my brother!" To be sure, Obama can serve as an example heading in such a direction in the long term, but the work necessary to close the racial gap in access to health care, education, housing, and employment takes more than a president -- it takes the collective effort of the nation -- and more than 4 or 8 years at that. Furthermore, I think it's necessary to consider the significance of the political context variable when deconstructing much of the support for Obama, which some have eluded to as a desperate case of "Obamania." While I certainly do not mean to diminish the success Obama is having running such an extraordinary campaign, I can't help but wonder how much of our enthusiasm for Obama can be attributed to the fact that he's running after one of the least popular presidents of our time during a misguided war In Iraq that has left our country intensely divided. Would Obama have similar success if he ran after Bill Clinton or even George H.W. Bush? In fact, one could argue that Bush 43 provided the means for Obama run the type of campaign he's running - to give rebirth to the Democratic Party as the new and improved leader of the free world as citizen of the world. On the other hand, one could also argue that only someone like an Obama would have such capabilities. There is and will continue to be major shifts in the discussion on race relations whether Obama wins or loses, but one thing is for sure, casting a vote for Obama is not the "be all end all hope for change", perhaps just the beginning of it.

Sent by Menna | 12:31 AM | 7-31-2008


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