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|The Day White America Won|
|Saturday, 21 April 2012 22:00|
Writers' Note- The article below was first published four years ago, in the wake of the Obama victory. With the US presidential race heating up, I believe that a republication of it is timely.
Next week I will expand on a few of the issues raised in this article as it relates to upcoming US presidential election.
Last Tuesday night, into Wednesday morning, something truly remarkable happened. My teenaged son stayed up to look at something on television that was not professional wrestling. Perhaps even more astounding, the thing that he stayed awake to watch concerned politics, and he was informed enough about it to tell me that once one of the candidates secured two key states, he was assured of victory.
I am of course referring to the US Presidential Elections and the candidate that needed the two states was Barack Obama. That night, I was too tired to wait up for Obama's acceptance speech but my son did and understandably so. You don't just listen to an Obama speech, you are irresistibly moved by it.
I remember being first impressed by his now famous "Audacity of Hope" keynote address to the 2004 Democratic National Convention, in particular this section where he says:
"It's the hope of slaves sitting around a fire singing freedom songs; the hope of immigrants setting out for distant shores; the hope of a young naval lieutenant bravely patrolling the Mekong Delta; the hope of a millworker's son who dares to defy the odds; the hope of a skinny kid with a funny name who believes that America has a place for him, too."
While that speech was largely in support of the John Kerry-John Edwards campaign, four years later it has proven both ironic and prophetic that America has shown that the very place that it denied John Kerry, it reserved for him. This is remarkable when you consider that the Kerry's policies on taxation, health care coverage, outsourcing, energy independence, job creation and the war in Iraq are virtually identical to Obama's.
It is easy to point out that Kerry was not running for President in times of economic crisis, but compare the advantages and disadvantages Kerry vs. Bush against those of Obama vs. McCain and John Kerry appeared a virtual shoo-in for the Presidency.
Barack Obama on the other hand has had to fight first a vicious Democratic primary against Hilary Clinton – who I am an ardent supporter and admirer of still; then against an amalgamation of forces (despite public disavowals) that included the McCain-Palin campaign's increasingly absurd and desperate attempts to tie him to reformed "terrorist" Bill Ayres; the neo-conservative campaign against his supposed 'rampant' liberalism; and pure unadulterated Middle-American ignorance and bigotry.
Wherein Fox News pundits, for example, have this consciously over-the-top support for Republican politicians and disdain for Democrats which often seems a parody of itself, the venom that hosts like Sean Hannity, Bill O'Reilly and Rush Limbaugh reserved for Obama was unprecedented. Fortunately, it was also ultimately futile.
Another issue I would like to touch upon in this article concerns the fact that the Democrats have not (yet) achieved the filibuster-proof Senate that they are currently just a few seats short of. I am sure at this time Obama is hoping that he does not get a Senate with 60 dyed-in-the-wool Democrats. If anything, he has been preaching, since 2004, a message of unification and togetherness, particularly in Washington: a 60 Democrat Senate while a Democratic President was in the White House would go against the grain of the balance of power which is fundamental to the American political system, and pose serious problems for anyone with a bipartisan agenda. With specific reference to the current situation it would see Obama, whom I believe would prefer to be a centrist as President, at odds with a Democratic Senate pulled increasingly left by senior Democrats like Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, and Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean.
One of the remarkable things I note about Obama is the way his racial background is really only incidental to his appeal. As far back as his "Audacity of Hope" speech, he placed far greater emphasis on the dual nationality of his parents than his ethnic identity as biracial, or 'Blackness' by the American definition, as the self-reference to the "skinny kid with a funny name" illustrates.
Yet, despite his unwillingness to place emphasis on his 'Blackness', his ascension to the White House is without a doubt the most significant milestone in African-American (and by extension American minority) history since the end of segregation. When Booker T. Washington, as has been noted by several American news pundits, was invited by President Theodore Roosevelt to the White House a little over a hundred years ago, it caused a national scandal. Even a pro-Civil Rights John F. Kennedy was aghast when an aide defied him and invited Sammy Davis Jr. and his white wife to a White House dinner. The Obamas' occupation of the White House has therefore shattered either the glass ceiling for blacks in America or the myth of it. It may not change the institutionalized racism which exists in America overnight, but it removes the excuses for complacency, the welfare mentality, which affects much of Black America.
When it comes to US race relations, African-Americans scored a great victory with Barack Obama being elected to the Presidency. However, they were not the biggest winners – White Americans were. It was known that Barack Obama was going to get the 90 plus percent of the Black vote in the race. But the world waited, many people cynically, for the so-called Bradley Effect, which is basically a fancy term for White America giving lip service support to a Black Candidate in a poll and then doing an about face when they are in the voter's booth. The Obama win was anything but affirmative action: it showed that White America has reached a certain level of social maturity, something it has been arguably lagging behind the Minority races in for decades.
Finally, there is one other demographic that I believe Barack Obama has stirred up, and not only within America: the young. Whether it is the "Barack Obama is my homeboy" t-shirts to the enormous support on social networking websites like Facebook, Obama has galvanized the imagination of young people the world over. One could only hope what this translates to, once the euphoria of the big win is over, is a greater sense of civic responsibility that is not just reflected in the necessarily periodic high voter turnouts but also in their informed engagement in the politics of their respective countries. I'm optimistic - my teenage son displaying as much interest in the US Electoral College as he does in WWF Monday Night Raw is just the sort of hope I need.
In closing, there is much to analyse about Barack Hussein Obama's election to the US Presidency, too much to be covered in one column. Next week, therefore, more on the Obama victory and its implications.
|Last Updated on Saturday, 21 April 2012 23:31|
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