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A Brown Man Thinking Hard Retrospective On The 2008 Presidential Election
Thinking Out Loud: A Brown Man Thinking Hard Retrospective
Thinking Out Loud: A Brown Man Thinking Hard Retrospective of The Obama 2008 Campaign, is published by RKB Digital Media. Cover art is courtesy of Joel Dietle of France. Except where otherwise noted, the contents of this e-book is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 license. You are free: to Share — to copy, distribute and transmit the work Under the following conditions: Attribution — You must attribute the work in the manner specified by the author. Noncommercial — You may not use this work for commercial purposes. No Derivative Works — You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work
Many thanks go out to S., my parents, and other family and friends who have endured the long hours of inattention I’ve paid to other areas of my life in order to get this book finished. A special thanks to QuarkXpress for making a trial version of their software, QuarkXpress 8, available to layout the text into an easy to read document. Subscribing to Brown Man Thinking Hard, via RSS feed or email delivery,takes a few seconds, is 100% free, and constitutes the best form of payment I can think of from a reader.
Thinking Out Loud
A Brown Man Thinking Hard Retrospective
RKB DIGITAL MEDIA Atlanta
INTRODUCTION The Primary Season When I Reached The Tipping Point Rejecting The Conventional Wisdom Of "Electability" Race & Class - Here We Go Again Tone Deaf Campaigning Ready To Join The Club What The Raw Numbers Suggest My Eyes Are Tired The Sixty Four Thousand Dollar Question Better Than The Super Bowl!! Under The Hood Of The O-Train For The First Time In My Adult Lifetime... Watch Out For The “Jedi Mind Trick” Good Old Fashioned Letter Writing Simplifying The Positive I Want A President Who Is Smarter Than A Fifth Grader No Puppet Math Any Ten Year Old Can Do On Obama Not Going To Memphis Math Any Ten Year Old Can Do Attending An Obama Fundraiser The Chit Chat Hour Does Obama Need To Come Out Hard Against Rev. Wright? This Is Not A Horse Race Right Back Where We Started From 183 To Go 177 To Go Assassinate - Rhymes with "playahate" The Last Primary Office Politics Keeping The Tally From Our Eyes Half Dollars and Half Delegates Puerto Rico Voters Will Lay Low On Sunday "Im-potent" People Versus The Grand Poohbahs "Im-potent" People Versus The Grand Poohbahs - Part 2 Upsetting The Natural Order THE SILLY SEASON Let Me Hear It Just One More Time Guess Who's Coming To The White House Obama: Metaphorically Black or Literally Black? Thinking Out Loud Off The Record Secret Black Frequency Claiming The Chinese
8 10 11 13 14 16 17 19 20 21 22 23 24 24 26 27 27 29 30 31 31 32 36 38 39 40 41 42 44 44 46 48 49 51 52 54 55 57 58 59 60 62 64 66 68
Barack Obama: The Hunchback of Cyberspace Descended In Blood And In Spirit Where Is A Flag Pin When You Need One? Training The Boss "Mike Check, One Two One Two" Hit The "SEND" Button One More Time 18 Million Cracks Votes Dollars Obama Beats The Street Obama Is My Slave Obama: Speech Creator-In-Chief Obama and Ludacris: Apples to Apples? Obama, America, and Race How Many Licks Does It Take To Get to the Center of Barack Obama? "White House Is The People's House" Does Obama Need To "Man Up"? What Do We Want? A Five Part Series Obama's Racial Ambiguity: A Blessing Or A Curse? Obama and Racial Ambiguity: Acting White Does "No Negro Left Behind" Trump "Yes We Can"? How Much Redress For Past Wrongs Is Enough? Recarving Our Cultural Totem Pole You Don't Have To Drink The Kool-Aid I Wore My "Obama 08" Shirt To Work Friday I Won't Be Getting A Text Message From Barack Obama Right Off The Bat Obama VP 3 AM Text Message Trails Networks The Punditocracy Goes To Denver Brownskinned People Won't Tarnish Presidency I Already Know Michelle Obama The Punditocracy - Keeping You Uninformed "Uncertain" - Word Of The Day The Kids Can Stay Up Tonight The O-Man Cometh No More Rope-A-Dope For Barack Obama The Talk That Really Matters Critical Thinking Is The New Black Deal Or No Deal, John McCain Elephant In The Room Last Night Not GOP Mascot They Can't Kill All The Indians This Time FOR ALL THE MARBLES Palindromic Free Verse - "I Love Me, vol.1" Oprah Stands Her Ground "Reckless Reporting" Is The Rage These Days Yada Yada Yada Won't Get VP Job "Sarah P. - BOO-yah!"
70 72 73 75 75 77 79 80 81 82 83 85 86 87 89 90 91 93 94 96 98 100 101 105 106 107 108 110 110 112 112 114 114 116 118 119 120 121 123 126 127 129 132 135 137
Resisting The Evil That Dwells Within Keeping Our Heads On Straight SEC Fails To Regulate "Me, Me, Me" Brokerages Homeownership Philosophy Americans Believe In Deeply Flawed Sticking It To "The Man" Debate Delay Dicey Decision "Negro, Do You Know Who I Am?" Are You Suffering From Electile Dysfunction? White Americans And The Politics Of Race: A 4 Part Series Can We All Just Get Along Already? The Tipping Point and Racial Ambivalence Afraid Of The Dark : Racial Animosity "Negroes Smell Like Copper": White Racists No Vice Presidential Candidate Left Behind Barack Is Back New Voters "Money In The Bank" For Obama McCain Succumbs To Obama Mojo During Debate Obama's Kryptonite Crippling McCain Campaign You Know You Flipped That Switch, John McCain This Is Not A Horse Race - Again For Those Who Have A Hard Time Believing In Obama’s Chances When The Polls Are Not Enuf No Intellectual Peacocks In This Debate Cut That Zero, Get With This Hero Doing The Colin Powell Bounce H.N.I.C. Rebukes G.O.P. GOP "Legion of Doom" Shrink Black Vote Will Democrats Nationalize Your 401(k)? Focusing on the Fear of an Obama Presidency Obama Controversy # 137 Replacing The Hate I Feel With Hope Getting The Early Vote Lead: Vote TODAY! GOP "Hack-A-Shaq" Can't Stop Obama Things I Have Learned This Election Season 415,631 Black Men In Georgia HAVE NOT Voted - Do YOU Know Any Of Them? Brown Man Thinking Hard Featured On TV One Election Coverage Yes We Did!! Barack Obama - PRESIDENT!!!!! The Best Email I Got Yesterday POSTSCRIPT INDEX
139 141 143 146 147 148 149 150 151 153 155 158 160 163 164 165 166 168 171 172 173 175 176 178 179 180 182 183 186 189 191 192 194 195 197 198 198 199 201 202
Thinking Out Loud: A Brown Man Thinking Hard Retrospective INTRODUCTION
I started off so casually as a blogger, I almost didn’t become one. The idea of “simplifying the positive” was my main goal. “Simplify The Positive” became the original name of my blog. But it took awhile to get into a write and post rhythm that worked for me. Careful revision was my watchword, with many hours spent agonizing over word choices and sentence structure. Blog posts, by contrast, were meant for quick consumption. I guess it was my raw honesty, more than anything else, that had the few people who visited my site regularly in the spring of 2008 hanging in there for eight hundred word or thousand word or sometimes even twelve hundred word posts. I told a buddy of mine, a lawyer, about one of my early posts, and he just about came through the telephone. “You posted THAT?” he said. I could see him in my mind’s eye, shaking his head. “My man,” I said, “this is the internet. Nobody is coming to my blog to read the kind of stuff they can get at the New York Times.” Indeed, the things people wanted to read about were mired more in the right now than in twenty four hours ago, given the relentless pace of today's real-time, up to the minute news cycle. As a fiction writer, I’d aimed for clarity. As a blogger, I learned, slowly, to aim for relevance. I was just a guy with a keyboard and an internet connection, trying to figure out why the candidacy of Barack Obama for the presidency of the United States meant so much to me. Somewhere during those first couple of months, I got tired of telling people the name of my blog, only to watch their eyes widen as they tried to figure out what such an esoteric phrase actually meant. But I couldn’t think of anything else that appealed to me. It wasn’t until I tooled through some of my archived notes about a fictional character I was trying to create that a phrase – “brown men thinking out loud” - hit me right between the eyes. The words “Brown Man” resonated so naturally with my subject matter, as well as with my own self image, I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t thought of it sooner. Over the last year and a half, it has become my alter ego of sorts, even though the sensibilities and the predilections and the bombast of the Brown Man are all mine. Kris Broughton November 2009
Thinking Out Loud: A Brown Man Thinking Hard Retrospective The Primary Season
I had a hard time watching talking head news soon after the 2008 primary season started. The blogging community's more active and obsessive members had raised the bar by providing reams of accurate and up to the minute reporting of local election processes and results, in many cases days before the mainstream media delivered similar information. I have respected the power of the internet for some time - I will have to say that for the first two months of 2008 I was in awe of the power I had to literally be "on the ground" every night in Texas and Pennsylvania and Wisconsin and Ohio. Were many of these blogs biased? Yes, as far as their opinions went. But the care with which many of the better blogs treated their reputations, whether they were getting raw data straight from the source or updating and correcting errors on the fly was simply astounding. One of the other things I really appreciated about the dramatic presidential primary was the way that people were talking TO other people about the things they cared about, things that weren't sanctioned by NASCAR, the NFL, the NBA, the NHL, the MLB, the PGA or the WWF. I can't remember in my adult life that many Americans who were INVOLVED in a national drama that didn't revolve around death or terror. Even those who weren't engaging in any public discourse looked more alive, more vibrant, more aware. I was already reading, researching and emailing my findings to friends and family members practically every night. And even though I’d sworn that I would never start to blog - “too time consuming for someone who wants to be a writer” - it wasn’t long before I was checking into the ins and outs of setting up my own blog. I was hooked.
Thinking Out Loud: A Brown Man Thinking Hard Retrospective When I Reached The Tipping Point Saturday, January 7, 2008 For the record, I was an Obama skeptic for quite some time. Back in October 2004 I wrote the words below: I watched an interesting interview earlier today on TV One. Cathy Hughes, the black woman who owns this network, took charge of the microphone herself on her cable channel to interview Barack Obama, the heir apparent to the junior Senate seat in Illinois. I've heavily paraphrased her below. "The Republican Party has traditionally been seen by the African American community as a party that has no real interest in promoting an agenda that includes us or our concerns. Yet I see Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice, Rod Paige, and others who are prominent members of the administration, in positions of real power and influence. The Democrats, on the other hand, court us assiduously during their campaigns, but their interest seems to vanish, as if they have amnesia all of a sudden, after an election. The best the Clinton administration could do was field one black man, Ron Brown, who, after engineering Clinton's victory, reluctantly took the post of Secretary of Commerce after being turned down for the job he wanted as Secretary of State. Are you concerned about the absence of blacks in real positions of power in a Democratic presidency? Will you use your influence as a Democratic Senator to help correct this?" Barack's answer was tepid, flighty, and rhetorical - he needs the backing of the national DNC to keep his political career on track. But what she said is what plenty of people of color - black, brown and yellow - ask across the nation. Why does the Democratic Party have so little minority participation at its upper echelons? How can a party claim to be the home of the "morally outraged", or the "intellectual" party, or the most "inclusive" party, when it excludes us from the inner circles of power? They say the proof is in the pudding. But there wasn't enough chocolate in the last batch of Democrats in the White House to even pretend to be a swirl. Black folks like Hughes, who have to balance their own books to keep their companies afloat, are increasingly interested in seeing the Democratic Party balance its own. So am I.
When I Reached The Tipping Point
And until last month, if you stood in our kitchen, or ran into me at the cigar shop, I would play devil's advocate all day long. There were several things that got to me lately. The main thing, or as Malcolm Gladwell so aptly describes, the “tipping point”, was probably the predisposition of the media at that time to crown Hillary as the de facto winner of the Democratic primary before a ballot was cast. One of the other things that started to get me hot under the collar was the way the black political establishment, here and elsewhere, was going to play the same old game they've always played, with same old negroes leading the march behind the Clintons, just as I was trying to assemble for the umpteenth time my short story collection about redefining what it means to be black in America without the baggage of the past weighing us down. And now that I've seen the movie The Great Debaters (terrible title), which S. swears is a Oprah Winfrey propaganda piece designed to help make smart black people more palatable to the public, it has hit me, hard, that everything we African Americans have achieved up to now is really just window dressing when the same old white guys can say the same old shit - "America isn't ready for this yet" - without blinking an eye. Which America is this? Obama is still a little weak in the knees - in some instances, he reminds me of John Edwards four years ago, back when he seemed a little light in the britches for this. He's not a natural fighter, which we've come to expect in our politicians. Duking it out in the trenches isn't his style. He looks a little uncomfortable having to spout the type of bullshit rhetoric a seasoned politician can deliver on cue, knowing damn well it can all be ignored when we aren't looking, which is most of the time, and obfuscated for those few times that we are. And there are moments, when I watch him stumble over the answer to a question for which he has not properly prepared, when I wonder if it is too early in his career for him to be running. If this was the original Clinton, running for the first time, I don't think Obama would have a chance. Not against a hungry, ambitious, young Bill. But against Hillary and Edwards? At this point, lightweight or no, I think he has earned a significant part of his success. How much of it is attributable to Republicans who are sabotaging Clinton in hopes of fielding a much more vulnerable opponent is hard to say, but unless you were born yesterday, you know there is a lot more going on behind the scenes. So I've thrown in with Obama, stuttering, cocaine sniffing and all.
Rejecting The Conventional Wisdom Of "Electability" Monday, January 7, 2008 The Dems are The Three Stooges when it comes to organizing their electorate. But the fundamental problem they have from an ideological standpoint is the things they stand for work against the mechanics of building an efficient vote producing formula. Having to serve so many diverse interests makes it that much harder to create a simple playbook their troops can follow. We talk a lot about the white vote, the black vote, the woman vote, the AARP vote - what about the "other" vote - the naturalized immigrant and first generation voters from Asia, India, Mexico, the Caribbean isles? What about the Western Europe transplants with populist roots? If Obama can sidestep the "left wing liberal" label I see sprouting from conservative political websites, and position himself, a la Bill Clinton, as a moderate centrist, he has a fighting chance. Ross Perot was crazy and he got almost 20% of the vote when he ran - 19 million people, most of who were NOT new voters who were tired of the same old shit. I don't know where the Republican machine is these days - no idea whether they still have it in them - but with a costly war lingering in the background alongside a smoke and mirrors economy that is starting to hurt their base constituency, they have an uphill battle ahead of them. All I know is, if Oprah Winfrey can get hundreds of thousands of white women to buy a book in which the first words are "They shoot the white girl first", [Paradise, Toni Morrison], I am willing to bet that the right appeal to HER base down the stretch will generate a lot of split ticket households. The difference between Obama and Edwards is like the difference between stocks and CD's. With a CD, you know how much interest you're going to get. The question is, is it going to be enough interest to meet your needs? With a stock, it could go up, it could go down, it could drop like a rock at the slightest hint of bad news, but man, when you get one that's on the move - the bottom line is despite all of these short term fluctuations, and the potential for total disaster, you've got to believe the upside of an Obama candidacy is worth the risk you’re taking with your vote. Are we that afraid of failure that we can't take a chance? Every election I've seen since, which is every election since Ford ran against Carter, has been framed as if our country will descend into chaos if my side loses. A Republican was in office when abortion became legal. A Democrat managed the biggest wartime conflict we've ever been in. A Republican brought the country to war over slavery and states’ rights. A Democrat dropped the nuclear bombs on Japan.
Rejecting The Conventional Wisdom Of "Electability"
Conventional wisdom would have prevented our ancestors from rubbing those two sticks together back when we were huddled together against the cold night air. It would have discouraged anyone from thinking of how to get a machine to fly through the air. If we can put a man on the moon, I don't see why we can't put this man in the White House. The thing that really gets at my gut these last few days is the refrain "the country's not ready yet". The country wasn't ready for slavery to end. The country wasn't ready for segregation to end. This mythical "readiness" does not exist. So if you believe, just a little bit, in all the things you say you believe in when it comes to race relations, then you need to do what you can to stand up for the principles you claim to hold dear and reject the conventional wisdom of "electability".
Race & Class - Here We Go Again Sunday, January 13, 2008 White America puts the characteristics of black people in an imaginary box they carry around with them. I know they do because I carry the same box. Despite all my efforts to discard it, it's there, right next to the ones I carry that hold the characteristics of Hispanic America, Asian America, Eastern European America, and India America. But insert the phrase "middle class" in front of all these monikers and half the stuff in these imaginary boxes are irrelevant. Add "upper middle class" and you can put every supposed difference that's left into one box. I have a client who came into the office on Thursday to drop off some documents for her loan. An Indian woman, her husband is the stateside CFO of a midsized Indian corporation that does a lot of business in the US.
Race & Class - Here We Go Again
We talked for awhile about the loan while I made copies and filled in some blanks on the forms her husband had signed. A vestige of the tension remained from the negotiations over fees earlier in the week, which is pretty natural. So I put it out there just to get the issue of lingering distrust on the table. "Are you comfortable with this loan the way we've got it set up?" She replied that everything was satisfactory, but of course her job was to secure the best deal for her family. The way her eyes looked, the way the corners of her mouth were indented, it seemed even as she spoke to the contrary that something else might be wrong. Or she was dropping another package off at a competitor when she left my office, with the intentions of making it a horse race. I gave her a copy of her appraisal report. We went through it. I made the appropriate gestures towards the decor of her home as we looked at the pictures, because flattery still works. I put all the copies she needed into a folder and presented it to her. While she tucked it away in her carryall, she mentioned that the house was pretty big "for three people". So I asked about the child. It turns out her daughter is in high school, and wants to be a doctor. I ask where she's looking to go to college, and she mentions my alma mater. "They have one of the best medical schools," she says, the pride in her voice showing as if her daughter has already been accepted. When I tell her that it has gotten a lot more expensive since I graduated, the look in her eyes changes - to what exactly I don't have the time to describe, but if you have any accomplished black friends they can tell you what I mean. The next ten minutes she peppers me with questions about how to get her daughter in, about how to apply for various programs, as if I have a hotline to the admissions office. I have to literally drag her out the door to get her to leave. When I tell her as she heads to her car that she is in good hands, she looks as if she actually believes me. In this instance, class consciousness was more prominent than race, although most middle and upper class Indians feel they are a cut above African Americans. Barack Obama and his wife are both lawyers, Harvardites no less, products of solidly middle class families who obviously valued education and a strong work ethic. But if I were to substitute the name "Scott Burks", you would probably assume from that sentence that this is a white family. The New Negro is different. They are under 50. They have white friends that are higher on the friendship totem pole than a lot of their black friends. They have the means to enjoy the freedoms the sixties opened the doors to - because "you are now free to move about the country" doesn't mean anything if you can't buy a ticket. But the main thing is, they are not angry ALL THE TIME. They have an arm’s length relationship with the imagery of Jesse Jackson and Maxine Waters and John Lewis, black leaders whose very presence
Race & Class - Here We Go Again
seems to bring in that gospel background music on cue, as if they are stuck in a time machine. The sixties were almost FIFTY years ago. And so far, Barack is doing a fairly good job of leaving them there. It will be interesting to see how much of that comes out in South Carolina - because in politics, to say "MLK" is the quickest way to say "I won't forget you, brother". But the pollsters need to get their shit together, because there is no more "black vote". Stand ten black folks in a line (or in my kitchen, which is I where I got the numbers I am about to give you) and you will get 4 for Clinton, 3 for Obama, 1 for Edwards, 1 for Jim Huckabee and 1 for McCain. Even in South Carolina, my home state, people are learning to think for themselves a little. We shall see.
Tone Deaf Campaigning Tuesday, January 15, 2008 Hillary has the same problem our governor here in Georgia had last year - relying on advice and counsel from staffers who are probably ill equipped to understand the vagaries of the kind of black people who make up the majority of South Carolina's electorate. I am watching this next primary closely because SC is my home state - I grew up with some of the Lowcountry pols who will be getting out the vote, and my father went to South Carolina State College around the same time as Jim Clyburn, the congressman who was "disheartened" by Hilary's supposedly disrespectful commentary about MLK. Given the risk/reward ratio, the Clinton camp needs to leave the "what I think is important to you people" rhetoric at home - her camp runs a very, very high risk of hitting the wrong chord. One imagined slight, one catch phrase, one Tommy Hilfiger type rumor, one naked growl at the black man who is running for president - that's all it takes and she's back to being Miss Ann, the same Miss Ann whose thumb these folks just got from under LAST WEEK. With almost two weeks to go, I think she is going to the typical Type A white guy thing - when all else
Tone Deaf Campaigning
fails, just charge right ahead - and miss the boat entirely. The Deep South, even today, is not exactly what it appears to be at first glance. Hillary, that white guy with two degrees and an American Express card in his pocket that you pay 20K a month to give you advice has no way to connect with the vibe in the hoods that ring Charleston, in the barracks that populate Columbia, in the swamps that cover the Pee Dee, in the foothills that push into the Piedmont from North Carolina and Tennessee. These are the little guys, who have been hornswoggled and finagled out of their fair share of opportunity and their hard earned wages all their lives. It doesn't take much to rile them.
Ready To Join The Club Sunday, January 27, 2008 My phone rang off the hook last night. My mother called as I sat in the basement, watching Barack and Michelle wave to the crowd while the enervating strains of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” blared from the surround sound. I was actually on my cell phone with my best buddy, pointing out the South Carolinians I still remembered who stood behind the candidate as he made his speech, when S. walked across the room, the house phone to her ear , mouthing the words “your mother”, her eyes dancing. I told my buddy my Mom was on the line and took the phone from S. “We won!” came through the earpiece as soon as my mother heard me say “hello?” My mother, who hasn’t exercised in God knows how long, who has been retired for years, a woman who just turned sixty nine on Friday, sounded like she was twenty years old again. We talked about the returns, the super early projections by the networks that came out practically the minute the polls closed, the candidates who had filled the college auditorium in my home town of Orangeburg as late as a few days ago, the sentiments of the man on the street – it was as if the electric charge in the air in South Carolina was being transmitted through the phone line. The irony of it all – her enthusiasm, her jubilance, even the statement “we won” – is that she and my father have been Republicans for over thirty years.
Ready To Join The Club
The thing we talked about the most was the “O” Train – the Obama phenomenon as a result of a craftily constructed and EXTREMELY well managed cadre of top notch political operatives. In Horry County, the only county of 46 that Clinton won, she only did it by 6% - 39% to 33%. Instead of swallowing the pablum that commentators love to swill on morning talk shows and news blurbs, most of the people I know do what I do - hit the raw numbers, extrapolate them against raw census figures, and see what patterns emerge to us. After half an hour, my mother gave me the number of one of my father’s contemporaries here in Atlanta, an old DC bureaucrat who’d retired down south. So I called him. “Man, this thing is getting interesting,” he said. He and I exchanged greetings, then I proceeded to listen as he deconstructed what he saw as the high points and the low points of the Democratic presidential primary. “I’ve given money to the DNC for years,” he said. “And I was pissed – pissed at Bill Clinton for showing his ass because his wife wasn’t getting a free pass, and pissed at Dean (Howard Dean, chairman of the DNC) for not reigning Bill in. So I called up there to talk to somebody and let them know how I felt about it.” He and I both just about fell all over ourselves as we gave Roland Martin, a back bencher (ain’t that a bitch – all the black commentators on CNN were in the back row) a metaphorical high five for saying something along the lines of “Obama appeals to the hip hop vote - the young white voters” without blinking an eye as he looked into the camera. The thing that has been making me hot under the collar the last few weeks came back as I listened to the post primary spin from ex-president Bill Clinton. I might as well be one of the extras listening to the radio in the movie The Great Debaters back in the 1930’s. What the hell is this “well you know, Jessie Jackson won there in ’84 and ‘88” shit? He might as well would have told Obama, “Nigger, you need to get your ass back in that barrel with all them other niggers. We’ll let you back out when we need you.” What the hell is that finger waggle at the camera, finger waggle and sanctimony – is that the finger you sunk into Miss Lewinsky, you post pubescent poon hound? Is that the finger you stabbed at the air as you stared into the TV camera and said “I did not have sex with that woman?” Why do I feel like we need another March on Washington every time Hilary comes on TV looking like Miss Ann who is going to tell us black folks “she knows what’s good for us nigras?” I don’t know what “experience” means. Maybe it means Hilary Clinton should be able to handily whip an upstart politician with a wisp of national exposure. Maybe it means when Obama is able to pull t gether a team that can go to a full court press on a county by county basis in EVERY state against Hilary, she should be able to shift more troops into place to get more support. Or maybe it means that
Ready To Join The Club
she has a deeper treasure trove of insults, put downs, veiled references and racial code words to dig into when the heat is on her ass. I hope Bill Clinton keeps running his damn mouth. The more he talks, the more he is likely to say something stupid. I hope Obama continues to utilize Muhammad Ali’s “rope-a-dope” fighting style and let these two talk themselves out of contention. Although I think the Tiger Woods method is better – just ignore the sum bitches and play your own game. I’m not interested in overcoming. I am ready though, like a lot of the rest of my brethren, to join the club.
What The Raw Numbers Suggest Tuesday, January 29, 2008 The old "you have to be twice as good" adage seems to be true as Obama finds himself running against two Clinton candidates, one actual, one de facto. The thing that I find reprehensible as I cruise the internet to get a sense of what the mood is in the country is our insatiable need to label everything: red state, southern bloc, women vote, pro-lifers, evangelicals, as if we sprout an ideological single issue third arm during elections with which to cast our ballots. The great thing about America is its unpredictability. Otherwise, I would still be on the back of the bus. If you look at the raw numbers without the spin that the talking heads put on them, especially on a county by county basis, going all the way back to Iowa, you will realize, the way a football coach who went 7-9 last year often does, that many of the ones that were lost were not lost by any considerable margin. At this point, the registration of new voters seems to be working to the advantage of the challenger - it seems to be the biggest factor in these results that defy prediction. Between the furious level of campaigning, the Democratic National Committee's 50 State Strategy to enlarge the electorate that Howard Dean initiated a while back, and the small shifts in demographics over the last four years, I would not be surprised to see a lot of the current conventional wisdom regarding the each candidates primary performance at the state level overturned.
My Eyes Are Tired Friday, February 08, 2008 My eyes are tired, but that's just about what it takes to get beyond the loaded phrases, couched terms, arched references, veiled threats, tilted arguments and foregone conclusions to see what is really going on these days. I email a small cadre of friends a missive every couple of days that seeks to piece together in one place a complete look at the primary races. Even though I live in Georgia, the South Carolina race was closer to my heart - after all, it’s my home state. I eyeballed the returns county by county, cutting and pasting them into a Word file. Then I took a look at the most recent census figures I could find that broke down each county's residents by race, age, and gender, cutting and pasting them in underneath the corresponding county's primary returns. What you saw there two weeks ago is what you are seeing now - but only if you looked at the raw data for yourself, because the media spin doctors, who attempt to pass themselves of as journalists, create more spin than the professionals the campaigns are paying. After seeing several of my emails, my best buddy called me one day and blurted out "the media is bullshit" before I could say hello. I don't even watch the talking heads much anymore. I am spending way, waaay too much time trolling the polling sites and the county by county results in each state to sort of "take their temperature" with my own thermometer. Obama running neck and neck with Clinton is a lot like the Giants hanging with the Patriots all the way to the two minute drill. "This guy/these guys aren't supposed to be here." I give kudos to the Obama campaign strategists - they have broken this down to man-to-man defense, running a full court press in practically every state against Goliath, and it is working. Couple that with Howard Dean's 50 State Strategy he put in place the last couple of years and the brand new voters the party has been helping to cultivate are coming out of the woodwork, people whose habits have not been tracked before, people whose influence is being measured after the fact for the first time. It’s going to be a dogfight to the end. The only way to know this, though, is to scroll past the pie charts and moving average graphs to the raw numbers themselves - they tell you what's really going on.
The Sixty Four Thousand Dollar Question Sunday, February 10, 2008 I think the thing that the Obama camp has used masterfully to their advantage is the perception that they are supposed to be the weak sister in this race. I don't think anyone on the outside trying to look in can understand the enormous amount of preparation that had to go into just the decision of whether or not a brown skinned man could be a viable presidential candidate. The hardest job for the Obama inner circle was the sales pitch they had to make, both to themselves and the key staffers they were asking to sign on. The kind of people they have carrying the water for them do not sign on to lose. Making them believers must have taken an extraordinarily calculated and detailed plan of attack, knowing as they must have the amount of opposition these people would face from families and colleagues alike. These people are not doing a job. They are on a mission. Their sensibilities are likely to be extremely heightened, understanding as they do that any misstep, large or small, could doom all their efforts. Running a campaign like a corporation, looking for the easiest and quickest way to win the most delegates, only works when you and your opponent have the same type of game plan. I believe the Obama campaign, understanding from the beginning that they were likely to be the tortoise in this race, looked at the mathematics of gathering delegates differently. If you take the two candidates faces away for a moment, you've got Harvard Law versus Yale Law, in my mind. At the end of the day, though, after all of this high-minded conjecture, the sixty four thousand dollar question is pretty much the only one nobody wants to say out loud - does Obama, with his black face and funny name, frighten enough people to make Clinton the nominee? All I can tell you, from my own roost here in the metaphorical land known as Afro-America, for a lot of people this is pretty much the turn of the century version of the Joe Louis fight for his first heavyweight championship. It’s almost like the thirties again, except TV's have replaced radios, and the rounds are weeks instead of minutes. But blood is in the air now, same as it was then. It will be a sad day indeed in the Clinton camp when CNN has to post her name BELOW Obama's. To have to look at that graphic day in and day out for the next three weeks will be pure torture. Right now, I would imagine that she is feeling a lot like Phil Mickelson on one of those Saturdays when he is leading a tournament with Tiger two strokes behind. If there ever was a time to put your money where your mouth is, it is now - if I were in the Obama camp I would empty the coffers to get people on the streets of Texas and Pennsylvania. If you look at California, a lot of the votes were cast weeks before the actual election date - hard to say what might have happened had most of them been cast on the same day. My TV is getting tired - I need to let it cool off. I haven't watched TV this much in fifteen years.
Better Than The Super Bowl!! Saturday, February 16, 2008 This is better than the Super Bowl! This is going down to the wire! It kind of reminds me of my run for student body president in high school! ( I lost). I will be in front of the TV ALL NIGHT Tuesday!
Clinton, Obama in close 'Super Tuesday' races.
WASHINGTON, Feb 3 (Reuters) - Democrats Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are running neck-and-neck in California, New Jersey and Missouri two days before the sprawling "Super Tuesday" presidential showdown, according to a Reuters/C-SPAN/Zogby poll released on Sunday. Obama has a slight lead in California and is virtually tied with Clinton in New Jersey and Missouri heading into the biggest day of voting ever in a U.S. presidential nominating campaign, with contests in 24 states. Obama, an Illinois senator who would be the first black U.S. president, also has a comfortable 20-point lead in Georgia fueled by a more than 3to-1 advantage over Clinton among black voters. (Writing by John Whitesides; editing by Todd Eastham) (For more about the U.S. political campaign, visit Reuters "Tales from the Trail: 2008" online at blogs.reuters.com/trail08/)
If you look at the actual states that are holding primaries, you will see that there’s not much polling data publicly available on Utah, Tennessee, Idaho or North Dakota. My own analysis says that in addition to the states mentioned in the Reuters Poll above, Alabama, Connecticut and Colorado are statistical ties – less than five percentage points separate them. Add Georgia and Illinois, two states that are currently seen as being “in the bag” for Obama (which means I’ll believe it when I see it) and you’ve got eight states in play. As a side note, Alaska, Hawaii, Minnesota are caucus states – not very many delegates in Alaska and Hawaii, but the caucus process lends itself more to peer pressure – will be interesting to see what the outcome is in these states.
Under The Hood Of The O-Train Sunday, February 17, 2009 I wanted to know what the real deal was behind the “O-Train”. Is it the smile? The near Sidney Poitier level of courtliness? The much vaunted “charisma” that seems to work its way into the opening lines of any article about Barack Obama? Or could it be simply - superiority. Because he seems to have a superior level of fund raising, superior advisors, superbly crafted speeches – from the outside looking in, it appears that he has met and exceeded his challengers at practically every organizational detail… …that’s what I really want to know – what do the nuts and bolts of their operation look like? A little research turned up the playbook and the beginnings of its execution. Again, hats off to this wonderful internet (which I’m sure will be more closely regulated in the future) for providing access to ACTUAL INFORMATION when a brother wants to know how things work. 'Camp Obama' Trains Campaign Volunteers "It's not rocket science," [Reimer] says. "What we have to do is give them the tools to create a plan and just keep in touch with them as they create their plan and execute it. Winning an election is just a matter of breaking it down into manageable pieces, so we show them what those pieces are, and then turn them loose. As long as we can do that, there's no problem. They can make it happen." Stories and Numbers - a Closer Look at Camp Obama The purpose of this weekend training, Ganz explained, was not only to learn skills, form teams and get organized--but much more importantly, to learn how to tell our own stories, how to "put into words why you're called, and why we've been called, to change the way the world works." Those "stories of self" and "stories of us" were to be the most powerful tool for these campaigners--along with the ability to teach others how to tell their stories--back home recruiting and motivating volunteers and building relationships. The Obama Camp Has Its Own Memo... We will have the strongest organization and deepest financial base in the Democratic field. If we have more momentum than other leading candidates heading into February 5th, it will allow us to marry the success in the early states with our organizational superiority, a potent combination in what will be a quasi-national primary by that point.
Watch Out For The “Jedi Mind Trick” Sunday, February 17, 2008 This quote: “White folks, and white men in particular, have always found ways to alter, bend, or just totally ignore the rules they've made up when something doesn't suit them.” from my very own The Black Folks Guide To Survival resonated - DING! - inside my skull as if I had been hit over the head with a frying pan while reading THIS QUOTE from Mark Penn, the Clinton campaign's chief strategist: Two days later, after Obama’s eighth straight victory, Penn told reporters: “Winning Democratic primaries is not a qualification or a sign of who can win the general election. If it were, every nominee would win because every nominee wins Democratic primaries.” Dude! One of the boldest uses of the Jedi Mind Trick (trying to get me to believe the opposite of something I know to be true) I've seen in recent days. "Winning" is now meaningless. Damn! The amount of chutzpah it must take to be able to say this with yet another likely loss staring you in the face has to be incredible. This guy has got the wrong job - he should be selling ice to the Eskimos. But back to my own words. This section of The Black Folks Guide To Survival: "alter, bend, or just totally ignore the rules THEY'VE made up" strikes at the heart of what we see when we look at politicians and corporate chieftains - an unwillingness, in many instances, to deal squarely with the facts as they stand before them.
For The First Time In My Adult Lifetime... Wednesday, February 20, 2008 I guess I'm "fired up" and "ready to go" - and I'm not talking about what's happening on the campaign trail either. I could knock Jeffrey Toobin's smarmy, over paid ass all the way back to the kibbutz he crawled out of - his disingenuousness about Michelle Obama's recent comments makes Hillary's crocodile tears seem sincere.
For The First Time In My Adult Lifetime...
How does he and his ilk sit there on national TV, as well educated and connected as he and his brethren appear to be, and say with a straight face that Michelle Obama's line "“For the first time in my adult lifetime, I am really proud of my country" is an aggrieved pronouncement that strikes a "discordant note" in an otherwise well orchestrated campaign by her husband? Because if you are black, or brown, or yellow (although Asians in America have a propensity to self identify themselves as equal to being white) the thing you are feeling right now, that thing that threatens to tear through your chest, is the same thing she's feeling, because it looks like some of the diversity rhetoric we’ve heard for years is about to be matched for the first time by actual deed. When Ed Rendell, the governor of a major state, can stand in front of a microphone and say with a straight face that "I think there are some whites who are probably not ready to vote for an AfricanAmerican candidate", he is stating a fact - there are still many parts of the country where my brownness is only tolerated. The thing that is in some ways more disgusting than Hillary's efforts to set the agenda as she endeavors to frame her arguments as if she is still the front runner in this race are the attempts by the gaggle of reporters from the major news venues covering this phenomenal political drama to marginalize the success of the superior campaign run by Senator Obama. I almost feel like I am watching the scene from the 60's movie In The Heat Of The Night where Rod Steiger, who plays a southern police chief, has learned that Sidney Poitier, who plays a detective from Philadelphia, makes more money than Steiger's character does and has a better education – at that point, Steiger's only answer is to belittle Poitier and to remind him of his limitations as a black man in the south. The tension in that scene isn't much different than some of the tensions I see fifty years later as black people become better educated and more affluent. I can understand the discomfort if I look like a gang banger, or a rap star, but when I wear the same clothes, display an advanced mastery of the King's English, possess at least one post secondary degree, and have an equal if not greater understanding of the way our laws work and how our economy functions, I have no choice but to blame the white man's discomfort with me squarely on him. Given that everything else is pretty much equal - well connected, well versed, well funded Ivy League trained lawyer versus well connected well versed well funded Ivy League trained lawyer - can the country accept the idea of having a brown man as their next commander in chief? If leadership depends in part on a certain level of submission by those who are being led, can our country submit to the leadership of a brown man, even one as well educated and accomplished as Obama? Ken Chenault is the CEO of American Express. Stanley O'Neal was the head of Merrill Lynch until a few months ago. Colin Powell has been Secretary of State. But no one is on TV more than the president of the United States. If it is Barack Obama's brown hand that ends up waving to the world from behind the podium at White House press conferences, he will represent all of America to the world. I cannot begin to tell you how much that moment will mean to me and those who look like me, who have waited too, too long to be fully accepted into the fabric of American life in its totality.
Good Old Fashioned Letter Writing Thursday, March 06, 2008 Nothing like good old fashioned letter writing to share your thoughts when the person you are trying to share them with isn't someone you can just call on the phone or chat with while you are getting your mail. I figure if I send enough of these the staffers in charge of reading the emails at www.barackobama.com might see about getting these to the Boss Lady. March 6th Mrs. Obama, I will admit that I have been a little disheartened the last couple of days as I watched the Clinton campaign do the victory dance over and over again on the leading news websites. Two things have bucked me up. The first is something your husband said fairly frequently a couple of weeks ago - "we weren't supposed to get this far". You, your husband and his staff have done a TREMENDOUS job of bringing to life a credible, well organized, full fledged presidential primary campaign that appears to have been designed from the outset for the daunting task of attempting to get a brown skinned man selected as the nominee of the Democratic Party. I am proud to support the well oiled machine that allows Barack Obama make getting here look easy. Which brings me to the second thing that keeps me going - a belief that whatever vile trash, ridiculous bullshit, or utter nonsense is thrown at Mr. Obama, he has the temerity to resist lowering himself to responding in kind. The moral suasion we were able to rely on and ultimately triumph with in the sixties stemmed in part from the indelible images of our best and our brightest, their will embodied in the forthright thrust of their chins, their class displayed in the quiet elegance of their Sunday best attire, the entire attitude of their bodies and their beings telling their opponents that they were in it for the duration - and that their only option was to prevail or die. I've talked to several of my friends today and tonight, and it seems we all agree on the same thing that your husband has to remain as far above the fray as humanly possible. Do whatever it takes to get his swagger back - the regal air about him when he has it makes Mrs. Clinton look like a cross between Joan Collins and Roseanne Barr, complete with all their cackle, hiss and sputter. Your strategists are top notch, but America is already reluctant to accept the possibility of having a black president - "delegate math" is not going to be convincing unless the gap is big enough, and there is a definite perception that Mrs. Clinton has lost steam. So for God's sake, break the bank in Philadelphia and North Carolina. Spend all you have plus ten percent, because baby, we really need this - not just me, not just black people, not just Democrats, but the entire country, even those that don't realize it yet, REALLY, REALLY need the two of you to get over this last hump. It'll probably get lost in the shuffle, but I'm going to send it anyway. It will make me feel like I got my two cents in.
I Want A President Who Is Smarter Than A Fifth Grader Friday, March 07, 2008 There is something I've had on my mind that I've wanted to express all day, but I wasn't around anyone who was going to take me seriously ( it's a bad sign when you are surrounded by the great unwashed all day). We ask people who are arguably much, much smarter than the average citizen, at least these days (and I will include your president George Bush here, because even if the conventional wisdom pegs him as a retard, he is STILL smarter than most of the populace, however you want to slice that) to "dumb down" when they run for office. Putting the limitations of having an average IQ aside, it is very possible to communicate in a meaningful way with someone who has less intellectual firepower about complex issues and ideas if they are presented in a manner that shows a logical progression at a speed that allows proper mental digestion by the recipient. But we don't want that. We want to be experts on the professional draft pick prospects of HIGH SCHOOL seniors who are four years away from being eligible to play in the NFL. We want to be experts on the origin, care and feeding of hand rolled cigars. We want to become intimately familiar with the intricacies of human growth hormone and its possible use or abuse by professional baseball players. We want to memorize the property settlement details from Shaquille O'Neal's divorce so that we can accurately debate them at a cocktail party in the future. We want to be oenophiles capable of selecting the best wine even when we are subjected to a blind taste test. I am constantly amazed at the amount of minutiae people master that will have absolutely no effect on the lives they live. Meanwhile, they are often prone to base their knowledge of political proceedings on the last three sound bites they heard while they were flipping the channel between a Kobi Bryant jump shot and a Roger Clemens fastball. I just needed to get that out.
Simplifying The Positive Saturday, March 8, 2008 Mr. Obama Mrs. Obama Obama ’08 Campaign March 8, 2008
Simplifying The Positive
I’m just a guy in Atlanta who has been spending waaaay too much time in front of his computer this last week in an emotional stupor because…well, because the guy I voted for back in the Georgia Primary, the same guy I get to see on TV every night, the one who looks more like me than any presidential candidate ever - yes, you, Mr. Barack Obama - seems to be in a quandary. “Seems to be” is the operative word here. I know the hundred thousand watt minds running your campaign are probably burning brightly enough to light up all the buildings in downtown Atlanta, but the thing is, in regular America, the one that organizes its week around “American Idol” or “Lost” and plans bathroom breaks during the commercials – to this America, anything more than a momentary pause in your campaign’s activity is a negative. The great unwashed, with whom I work everyday, fill coffee breaks and smoke breaks with the top sound bites from the day before. “Looks like your boy has had it,” has been a common remark this week. So I’ve gone through all the sports analogies – Muhammad Ali’s “rope-a-dope”, Tiger Woods malevolently self-contained A-game, Michael Jordan’s soaring “Air Jordan” style of play - trying to come up with something that can help get you back in the saddle going forward. These guys were not dirty players, they didn’t break the rules of play – your kind of guys. The things these three have in common, though – speed and quickness, combined with superior execution of technique – is only half of the equation. The other half of what made these guys so dominant was how their personalities accentuated their styles of play. Even though I am tempted by the image flashing through my mind of your long brown arm stretched above a canvas ring, the Everlast glove at the end of it smushed against the jaw of Mrs. Clinton as you, your head turned sideways, smile broadly at the camera, I will reel myself back to reality. The political arena is more like a golf tournament, replete with overflowing galleries, battalions of photogs, designated meet and greets, and elevated teeboxes, which serve as the players podiums when it is time for their clubs to speak. I wish it was as simple as putting on a red shirt because it’s Sunday and you have the fifty four hole lead, but you’re not trying to come in with the least amount of votes at the end of the day. You opponent has simplified the negative. You can simplify the positive. Have some fun, man!!! I do not want to see your dour face on TV every night, not because you can’t be dejected, but because I don’t want Mrs. Clinton’s supporters to see you like that. And because your face lights up when you genuinely laugh – that beats the Clinton wrinkled staredown everyday of the week. The main thing is, DO NOT let these ten cent hustlers from Arkansas define you. There are many, many ways to create positive sound bites to crowd out the garbage the Clinton campaign is pushing. But if garbage is all people have to go on, you are screwed.
Simplifying The Positive P.S. Also, get the press release count up. The weight of all that garbage floating around the internet and the news media weighs heavily on the weak minded, who are looking for an excuse to fall back on the very real “I told you his ass was too black to make it” sentiment that is beginning to raise its ugly head around the water cooler at my office. From the ‘burbs of the ATL
No Puppet Wednesday, March 19, 2008 After listening to the speech Barack Obama gave on Tuesday for the second time tonight, I feel the need to say something, even though, in the wake of the masterfully crafted speech that this presidential candidate ostensibly wrote himself, I am sure that whatever I write will come up far short of what he accomplished over the last few days. To speak about race and America in the way that he did, with all that he has at stake, was simply beautiful. From the stark, even tempered delivery to the calming royal blue background to the massing of the American flags in the background, it all was calculated to add a large measure of gravitas to the words he spoke. His cadence was conversational rather than the halting declarative style we have come to associate with political speeches. His eyes were serious most of the time, a look that is not one the public is used to seeing grace his countenance. The plain-spoken affirmations Obama made: "I can no more disown him [Reverend Wright] than I can disown the black community." "I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother" "That anger may not get expressed in public, in front of white co-workers or white friends. But it does find voice in the barbershop or around the kitchen table." "But the anger is real; it is powerful; and to simply wish it away, to condemn it without understanding its roots, only serves to widen the chasm of misunderstanding that exists between the races."
No Puppet "And yet, to wish away the resentments of white Americans, to label them as misguided or even racist, without recognizing they are grounded in legitimate concerns – this too widens the racial divide, and blocks the path to understanding." direct, forthright, and without equivocation - this is no puppet, as so many black politicians have become, or some beige sensation who appropriates the exotic essence of the African American experience and ignores the rest, but a candidate who is firmly in charge of himself and his message. The boldness of his rhetoric reminded me in many ways of a lot of the things I have written on this very board to you guys - but without the spotlight of a hundred TV feeds or the glare of a rabid press corps waiting to dissect my every word. As he proceeded to go on to describe white resentment to black anger, I felt that he was having the ultimate metaphorical conversation with the two halves of his own identity. I don't know where this thing is going, but I am DELIGHTED to have such a capable representative of the darker slice of this American pie in the running to become the next president of these United States.
Math Any Ten Year Old Can Do Saturday, March 22, 2008 I was just on the phone this morning with a friend here in Atlanta. I’d called her to inform her about the recent death of a young man we both knew, because we hail from the same town in South Carolina. It turns out she happened to be home this weekend, and had just found out herself. She was actually in the process of getting ready to go to the funeral when I called. “Yep,” she exclaimed, “I know it’s got to be hard on his daddy. I guess I need to go sit in the church today. For his father.” We traded a few remarks about the dead son. We spoke about the funeral, and where it would be held. “You know the pastor can’t let you leave a funeral without making sure he’s taken you there,” my friend said. “He’s going to preach to us until he thinks we’ve got the spirit.” In the next breath, she brought up the controversy with Reverend Wright, Barack Obama’s pastor. “Speaking of pastors – how long you think they’re going to keep our boy on the ropes with this thing?”
Math Any Ten Year Old Can Do Saturday, March 22, 2008 I proceeded to talk about what the lack of diversity in the places that matter in America really means – that the overly homogeneous press corps we want to rely on as a Fourth Estate who represent ALL of our interests seem to only attend white churches. If there were more than a token amount of minority journalists and news reporters in this group, I asserted, maybe we would see some stories about kinds of churches she and I grew up around, where preachers understood that their job was to entertain as well as enlighten in order to maintain and grow their congregations. She asked me if I thought it was a death knell for Obama – if the loss he was anticipating in Pennsylvania would put Clinton back in the lead. “BACK in the lead? Lead of what?” I practically shouted into the phone. I proceeded to tick off the facts – “math any ten year old could do” is actually how I put it – that strongly suggested that this race would end up after the North Carolina primary the same way it did after the Texas/Ohio contests – with no net change to either candidate of delegates won, and no net change in the number of actual votes – now standing at 700,000 – by which Obama was leading Clinton. “You need to turn that news off,” I continued, “and just use the links I send you to keep an eye on the raw numbers. If you listen to these people in the media, they will have you believing that 9 is greater than 10. That 1246 is greater than 1414. That 12.5 million is greater than 13.2 million.” She laughed. “I see your point.”
On Obama Not Going To Memphis Friday, April 4, 2008 Being black in America is not a punchlist - we are as capable of remaking our own realities as anyone else. It would be nice if Obama could pay homage to every tradition the black community has, but if he doesn't, does that make him less black? Less committed? When I hear Tavis Smiley complain when Obama doesn't come to the Black Summit conference he hosts (although Michelle Obama was offered as a substitute), or read an op-ed piece by Cornel West berating Obama for not laying a wreath on Martin Luther King's grave, I have to wonder if these two have been hypnotized by the green light atop the television cameras that seem to be constantly trained on them. I would hope, especially among our most educated class of African Americans, that we have the ability to understand that some battles are less important than others when we are trying to win the war. If we never honor Martin Luther King again his spirit would be alright, especially if we are making the kind of headway he himself dreamed about. A martyr who believes that his memory shall retain the
On Obama Not Going To Memphis
same importance in the grand scheme of things forever isn't a martyr. King knew the cost he would have to pay. He understood what he would have to give up - his life - in the struggle he was committed to carrying out. I can't speak for what he would say today, but as a thinking black man, I know that if it comes down to it, I am comfortable enough with Obama's cultural identity and the choices he has made in his life regarding black america that if he feels he needs to campaign for more votes and put being black on the back burner for a little while, that is fine with me. Whatever he does in the short term, he will be black for the rest of his life.
Attending An Obama Fundraiser Monday, April 7, 2008 S. and I went to a fundraiser here in Atlanta for Barack Obama yesterday – a lunchtime gathering atop the Suntrust building just where Midtown meets downtown, at the corner of 10th Street and Peachtree. In some ways it was a homecoming of sorts. S., who years ago was a downtown lawyer, now works out of the house, in an alcove upstairs that gives her a view of our suburban street through the large window that runs from the first floor to the second. She is usually in a sweat suit, the speakerphone blaring the acronyms of the arcane business practices of her employer. The dog sits in the corner of the couch behind her as if he is a miniature bodyguard, his eyes closed but body alert. I, who used to work out of the house, have been back in the office in the mortgage business for a year and a half now, and seem to spend my days in a never ending episode of Welcome Back, Kotter, except these sweathogs are not teenagers, and they are not acting. So I took the morning off, since going to work for an hour didn’t make much sense, and took a leisurely stroll around the internet, a leisurely shave, and a long shower – all of this was so unhurried that I end up rushing to get dressed so we could leave on time. S. put on some real clothes for a change. I threw on a blazer to dress things up and we were off. One of the amazing things about Atlanta is you can live just twenty miles from downtown in the suburbs, but it will take you an hour door to door to get to your destination. The closest exit to the event was closed, so we took a detour that had us traipsing through one of the many construction zones in the city. “When did they build that?” was a constant refrain, as if we were tourists visiting someplace we haven’t been in awhile. New skyscrapers, new condo developments, newly renovated streetscapes that opened up the sidewalks and made them destinations had brought new life to what used to be deserted industrial warehouses and sterile office building facades. I hadn’t seen that many people on the streets in Atlanta in the daytime ever.
Attending An Obama Fundraiser
As we walked into the lobby of the building, a greeter asked if we were looking for the Obama event. She turned out to be a lawyer that S. had known in back in her downtown lawyer life. She pointed us towards the elevator bank. We ended up waiting for the elevator with the mayor of Atlanta, Shirley Franklin, and her body guard. All of five feet tall, Ms. Franklin was extremely approachable, and she and S. ended up talking about their children and a school they had in common while we were whisked skyward. We ended up high above the street in a large room overlooking Piedmont Park. Ordinarily, it would have been a great view, but I don’t think I looked out the window twice the whole time I was there. Shit, I was in there! David Plouffe, Obama’s campaign manager, the mastermind behind this incredible campaign, was going to be the keynote speaker! I was so hyped I forgot to be pissed at the type of overdone hobnobbing that usually goes on at these kinds of gatherings. My best buddy from college waved from across the buffet table, full plate in hand. “What’s up, dude,” I offered back to him as I shook the hand of someone S. introduced to me, someone whose name I didn’t really hear. My buddy was glad to see me – I only had to shake hands with the two people he standing next to him before we could chat for a minute. While I was getting my plate, I noticed the name tag on the woman across from me. her last name was the same as mine. Her voice said what was on my mind. She had the kind of eyes that were made to draw men in to her, the kind of eyes she’d had to tone down to fit into this scene, her life, her career. They got away from her for a few moments, though, as we worked our way down the opposite sides of the buffet table. Her husband ended up being from South Georgia – no direct relation, although his ancestors may have originated from the same plantation. S. was going full bore, working the room like an old pol before running into some young lawyers from Louisville. We all ended up parking our plates at the same high cocktail table, standing and eating and talking. There were the usual suspects – the state senators, the legislative aides trailing behind their bosses, whispering in their ears that they needed to keep an eye on time since the Legislature was nearing its last day in session. There were the usual black folks – mostly lawyers, mostly women, mostly middle aged, although far fewer of the blondish haired greenish eyed pale skinned black cognoscenti that you normally saw at something like this. The white people there were not the people I was used to seeing at these kinds of things. Some of the older ones, especially the trial lawyers, were full of bluster, used to mingling with anyone, all of them with an eye on who was who and how it might help them down the road. The younger ones were exuberant, expectant even, as if their participation in the campaign of an outsider candidate was a way to balance their lives of privilege. It was the forty and fifty-something white lawyers from the downtown firms who seemed to be the most out of place. Many of them appeared to have lost some of their legal vigorousness when they came in the door. Instead of the normal air of superiority they operated with, they seemed to be resigned to whatever the fate of casting their lot with Obama might bring their way. One of these guys ended up at our cocktail table. He had worked with S. years ago.
Attending An Obama Fundraiser
“You know,” he said, his fork full of chicken, “I’ve got four daughters. I was for Hillary, you know – I figured she would be a good role model for them.” The chicken threatened to slide off the end of his fork as he shook his hand to underscore his words. “But lately, the way she was campaigning…I just couldn’t see how she could win this thing. So I guess I’m for Obama.” I looked around as I ate, trying to see where Mr. Plouffe was. It hit me as I settled on the mayor and her entourage that he was probably the young white guy talking to her. He looked exactly like I thought he would – dark haired, with the kind of five o’clock shadow that would make Jack Lemmon look like a eunuch, a slender, sharp eyed man who was always in motion, even when he was listening. The crowd got louder as more people entered the room. Those who were networking looked a little disappointed. The cost of admission was not paying off. These weren’t decision makers, the networkers were discovering, but well dressed corporate and political flacks, pinstriped and cuff linked, pomaded and perfumed, a Ralph Lauren ad with middle aged people in it. My buddy and I were shooting the shit with some hungry looking lawyers from Savannah when the person introducing the speaker asked for our attention. We faded to the back, making our way back to the vicinity of our original table, where S. was holding court with two other tall women. Mr. Plouffe came on like gangbusters, without further ado, without some long, drawn out acknowledgement spiel to pay tribute to every elected official in the room – basically, he thanked the mayor and the super delegates in attendance and started into HIS stump speech. I leaned over and whispered to my buddy – “he’s more Obama than Obama”. This was it – I was looking at the guy who pulled the levers, the guy who deployed the troops, the guy who stayed up all night every night so the candidate could look like he was well rested, the guy who probably knew more about this Democratic presidential hopeful than anybody else in the world but his wife. How much, I wondered, did you tell your campaign manager, if you were the candidate, about the things in your closet that nobody knew about yet? How close to the truth did a campaign manager want to get when a faux pas from his candidate's past surfaced? The mayor sat down in a chair near the front of the room but off to the side. She went from practically invisible to gone among the six feet and over crowd, her hulking bodyguard the only indication she was still in the room. David Plouffe was Turbo Barack for the first hour, speaking about three times as fast as the candidate, his sentences sounding as if they were downhill sprints, his hands, his head bobs and his volume the only indicators of any intonation. It was as if I could see my last three months of following Obama online coming alive as he referenced just about every highlight and low moment of the recent campaign history and the reactions by the press. My chest swelled a little. I looked around the room at the black people. Some of their eyes (including S.’s) were moist as Plouffe stated emphatically “he will be the nominee in June”. Many of their faces held smiles so wide I thought their brown skin was going to split. Even the seasoned black pols had an extra twinkle in their eyes. And then there were those who were simply beatific, as if they had known all along the Rapture was coming. After an hour of standing, though, the natives got restless – like me, they were not the kind of people who sat still or stayed quiet this long in the course of a normal workday. Plouffe was staring to wind
Attending An Obama Fundraiser down, promising, as he pounded the Obama themes, that he would take questions. His throat must have gotten very dry – a thin, white string of saliva appeared, stuck to the roof of his mouth and his tongue, elongating with each word, mesmerizing and repulsing me at the same time until he swallowed it. The higher ranking elected officials – the longtime state senators, the mayor, the next candidate for mayor – were bored in the way a professional politician got bored, standing stock still, head held high, lips pursed in a permanent smile, their eyes the only thing that gave them away as they scanned the room, calculating how much longer they had to stay to make their presence official. The rest of us were restless the way indulged children were restless, fidgeting, texting, whispering to our neighbors, shifting our weight from one leg to the other. I surveyed the landscape, taking notice of the two or three long legged beauties around the room, but my mind wasn’t on women this Wednesday afternoon. This was business. It was almost maudlin, standing there in room high above the city, besuited, bejeweled, listening to a man talk to us about the ideals of a grassroots campaign, about the power of the small donor, about the door to door canvassing efforts – things that very few people in this room were going to do after writing a check. The questions were predictable – some funny, some serious – veering from the Reverend Wright controversy to the Fox News bias. The younger questioners tended to want to know how they could put Georgia in play for the Democratic Party. The answers were amazing – exhaustive campaign rhetoric mixed with a “you didn’t pay to hear that shit so let me tell you what I really think” directness that was about as close to a straight answer as you can probably get from a campaign. The question that set the tone for the last ten minutes or so of the gathering was “what are you doing to raise Obama’s numbers with the blue collar voters in Pennsylvania and Indiana?” An earnest faced white woman had asked the question. Plouffe looked a little constrained, as if he wanted to say out loud what it looked like he was thinking – “we have been fighting an uphill battle to try to get lower class white voters to vote for a black man.” He slowed down for the first time all day, and managed, over the next five minutes or so, to share some of their broader strategies about how they planned to increase Obama’s chances among this mythical heartland voter without saying the word “white”. The closest he came was when he offered that “these people” were not like the people before him – that they needed a different kind of inducement to be persuaded to take the Obama campaign seriously, one that, in his opinion, was going to rely heavily on centers of influence from within their ranks who could legitimize Barack Obama and what he stood for by fomenting discussion among their peers. I was struck, as he said this, by the combination of the perverse, the profane and the profound that make up the political landscape, and our naïve efforts to attempt to segregate these elements, as if we could somehow purify this process, taking out the bad and leaving the good. In an hour I would be back among those who had never given a dollar to a political campaign in their lives, who couldn’t spell “gerrymandering” if you spotted them the first ten letters, people whose political knowledge came in sound bite increments on talk radio. S. would be back to answering the same emails she got last week and joining conference calls to offer expert advice that would be rejected for something more expedient. The dog would be back to work, his eyes closed, but his bark at the ready.
The Chit Chat Hour Tuesday, April 29, 2008 All the churches I've regularly attended have had black pastors. My mother's father was one of the founding members of the Methodist church her sisters still attend. It sits in the middle of nowhere, on land that was unsuitable for farming, next to the turn of the century school building where my grandmother taught school. I went there in the summers for Vacation Bible School. I've been there for regular services many, many Sundays. I've attended funerals there for three of my aunts and uncles. The thing about the Methodist church that seems to keep a pretty good balance between the needs of the parishoners and the aspirations of the pastor is the rotation system the Methodists have that move the pastors around every few years. The church is associated more with its leading members than with its pastor, and they have been successful, at least so far, in putting the resources of the church more towards the needs of the members in their regular lives instead of larger buildings. The sermons kept your attention sometimes and put you to sleep sometimes. The pastors tended to be educated, and most of them prepared actual texts for their sermons. The church my father's parents attended was Baptist. It was at the county line, under a stand of huge oak trees, a wooden building with no air conditioning. The minister was old and wizened, with a smile that seemed pretty devilish for a man of the cloth. He farmed during the week and preached on Sunday. The thing I remember about him is the way he used the bible verses as a guide to a stream of consciousness chant, a sing song rythmn that he emphasized with a stomp of his shoe upon the wooden floor. It seemed to end up being the same chant week after week. The churches I see here in Atlanta probably aren't that different from Reverand Wright's old church in Chicago, except here they preach black prosperity. After a church gets a few hundred members, the pastor becomes a manager. After a church gets a couple thousand members, the pastor becomes an administrator. More than five thousand members and the minister is an executive, leading an enterprise with cashflows and payrolls more reminscent of a mid-sized business. Leaving all that power and adulation has to be hard. What I can't understand is how such an educated man like Reverand Wright, who has dedicated his life to uplifting black people, can put himself in front of the press and the TV cameras at this moment, knowing full well what his continued presence on TV sets around the country can do to thwart one of the most uplifting experiences in black American history to date. There are more than a few black people in America, college educated people who have never owned a gun or struck anyone in anger, who would be willing to draw a bead on Reverand Wright today. The old adage "black people are like crabs in a barrel" stayed with me all through the night. Even now, a day later, I feel like I'm in a movie. Of all the things that could happen, this is the LAST thing I would have thought anyone with half a brain would do, let alone a learned and accomplished man who has risen above some of the same challenges Obama is facing.
The Chit Chat Hour
Everyone else has stepped back except Rev. Wright and Al Sharpton. Wright knows that there has been a noticeable absence of rabble rousing by the usual rabble rousers the last few months. More importantly, he knows WHY this is so. The chit chat hour has begun in my office - Rev Wright's antics are being debated by a couple of people about ten feet away - they are incredulous, even though they understand that much of this grandstanding is calculated. I'm not in a civil enough mood to join the conversation right now. The irony is, I've posted statements similar to the some of the ones Rev Wright has made on this very website. What I am afraid of is the public at large. I can't get to the place yet where I can trust that enough of the voting public is able to successfully parse fact from fiction in a way that does not obscure the good things about the Obama campaign. I'd like to believe that I am smart enough, am sophisticated enough, to not need to have a hero, but I succumb once in while to the rapture of what could be, to the shining light of possibilty. The machinations required to sustain the candidacy of this black man running for president of the United States has caused me to be more introspective than I have at any time since I was a teenager. Am I able to be more than I am? Am I doing what it takes to be more than I am? Are my life goals perched high enough? Have I done anything that was really worthwhile in these forty one years I've been alive? I can understand the need to confront the ugly truths that are an important part of America's history. But to me, some of the same people who are putting $10 and $20 a week into the Trinity collection baskets on Sundays are some of the same people who are finding ways to send Obama $5, $10 or $15 when they have it. To risk squandering the hope of those hundreds of thousands of people all over this country who have never given to a political campaign before is mind boggling to me. In a couple of days this will pass. I'll revert to the things I know to be true. There will be no real surprises in the upcoming primaries. But until then I will shake my head in wonder every few minutes as I try to see the utility value in Rev Wright's recent actions.
Does Obama Need To Come Out Hard Against Rev. Wright? Wednesday, April 30, 2008 My buddy and I went at it this morning. He wants Obama to come out hard - not to denounce Wright, or dissassociate himself from Wright, but to tell Wright publicly that he needs to "shut his mouth" for the good of the campaign. I couldn't believe I was hearing this come out of my pal's mouth - he is an accomplished lawyer who has been the campaign manager for a couple of local judiciary elections himself. "Dude," I said, "there is NO way he can say that." "What do you mean he can't say that? If he can't show the American people that he can handle one loud mouth negro, then why should they believe that he can rule the country?" "Come on, man," I said. "You cannot manhandle a negro like this. He doesn't have anything to lose. And he will use whatever you do against you, to show how he has defied yet another attempt by 'The Man' or his surrogates to silence someone who is speaking truth to power. That's the new black political phrase, you know - 'speak truth to power'." We went back and forth awhile, until the need to get back to work intruded on our argument. There is a reason Jackie Robinson integrated baseball, Sidney Poitier was Hollywood's first leading man, and Obama is likely to be the first black Democratic nominee for president, the same reason that Michael Jordan still gets more love from NBA fans than Shaq, Kobe, and Iverson combined, the same reason that Tiger Woods has the fans twenty deep around the greens. My buddy wants Obama to show some teeth to Wright. I think its a waste of time, that the news cycles are so short now that this will die back down next week of its own accord, especially after the primary results come in and everyone has to re-handicap Hillary's odds of winning the nomination. Now, if Obama had gotten to where he is today by being direct, by being forthright, by confronting issues head on, I might have had some kind of reason to agree with my buddy. To ask a man to do something against his nature is the worst kind of political pandering, especially if its sole reason is to "look presidential". We haven't had a coalition building president in a long time. I am finding it refreshing that we have someone who does not have to resort to he-man antics to get his point across. The warrior king is a relic. Our presidents these days are exactly what the title says they are - chief executive officers. If Jackie Robinson had thrown things back at the people who threw things at him from the bleachers, had hunted down those who made death threats against him, had taken his bat to the players who taunted him on the field with racial epithets, he wouldn't have lived as long as he did - hell, he wouldn't have played as long as he did. If Michael Jordan had supported Jessie Jackson for president - publicly - if he had divorced his wife years ago and dated the kind of chicks he really wanted - a lot of the air would have been let out of His Airness's image. Obama and his strategists have done pretty well so far. I think they can get things back on track and continue to execute their gameplan without overhauling the Obama personality at this late date.
This Is Not A Horse Race Thursday, May 1, 2008 One of the fallacies that has been propped up by our main stream media journalists for the last month and a half is that this primary is still a horse race. What almost all of them conveniently ignore is the tremendous amount of energy, time, money, and an improbable shift in the actual demographics of the remaining states that would be needed for the Clinton campaign to garner more than the 50% total of the outstanding pledged delegates she is projected to get based on current state by state estimates. Which is why if you are unfamiliar, as most Americans are, with the way delegates are actually accumulated through the proportional vote totals of individual congressional districts, we are more likely to think that this thing works the way it does in sports – that Clinton COULD upset Obama if she could “run the table” in the remaining contests. But “running the table” – Obama having no net gain in delegates – is impossible. He would have to get less than twenty percent of the vote in each of the remaining states for Clinton to get within spitting distance. Most of the larger congressional districts out there have 4 to 6 delegates at stake. 62.5% of the vote in that district is needed to go from 2-2 or 3-3 to 3-1 or 4-2. In order to blank an opponent, the opponent has to have a vote total that is below the threshold needed to gain at least one delegate, which is usually 15%. The thing that is maddening to me is that every journalist in the country who is on the political beat or is a political columnist sees this kind of information about each states delegate allocation methodology all day every day. Yet their headlines suggest that Obama is hearing Clinton’s footsteps as she gains on him. These are the numbers as of yesterday, which is already off when you include the guy below for Obama: Clinton is 430 delegates short of the 2025 needed to nominate and has to capture 62 percent of the 408 pledged delegates yet to be selected and the 286 superdelegates yet to commit in order to get there. Obama needs just 295 delegates of any stripe to close it out. 295. That’s it. There are 191 delegates at stake over the next 6 days (May 3rd and May 6th). From where we stand right now, Obama looks to pick up 95 – 100 of them. In the 14 day stretch after that (May 20th), there are 131 delegates at stake. From where we stand right now, Obama looks to pick up 55 – 60 of them. There are only 86 pledged delegates left to fight over between May 20th and June 3rd. From where we stand right now, Obama looks to pick up 35 – 38 of them. If you add 95, 55, and 35 – the low end of the estimates – you get 185, which puts him 110 delegates away.
This Is Not A Horse Race
In this scenario, Clinton gets the balance of the 408 delegates outstanding – 223. If my math serves me correctly, from where she is right now, this would put Clinton 207 delegates away – only a hundred delegates but twice as far from the prize. Something tells me there are more than 110 superdelegates who are wearing an “O-Man” t-shirt under their dress shirts. There are a lot more people who will be ready to get to the end of this thing in the next two weeks. 110 and counting.
Right Back Where We Started From Monday, May 05, 2008 Judging a political contest is like handicapping a horse race – you study a horse, know his strengths and weaknesses, how fast he is, what kind of track he runs better on, and stack him up against the rest of the field. Then you do it again for each horse in the field. The real question today is whether Hillary Clinton can raise enough cash to keep her in the race – as to the concept that perception is reality, if she can win big enough in Indiana (whether by one point or ten, its hard to say what the magic number is today) she can continue to beat the fund raising drum. Even as I write that last sentence, though, I know as well as anybody that her big donors are tapped. Her internet cash haul is growing, but as Obama’s people will tell you, it takes a lot of effort to garner all those small donations week after week. If she can pull Indiana out and win North Carolina (about as likely as my hair growing back) then the O-Man is on the ropes, even though he would still be closer to the goal – the tea leaf readers will sense shifting momentum and trumpet it across the airwaves. I don’t see Obama winning Indiana, and I don’t see Clinton winning North Carolina – if Obama’s urban congressional district routs hold up (that’s where the highest delegate counts are), though, he could net 10 more delegates than Clinton tomorrow… …which would put us right back where we were two months ago.
183 To Go Wednesday, May 7, 2008 183 to go. That’s the number I stayed up until three o’clock in the morning ON A WEEKNIGHT to find out. That’s the number of delegates of any variety – pledged, super, rocky road, mint chocolate chip – that Barack Obama’s campaign needs to be able to plant the flag of victory at the Democratic National Convention later this year. If you watched the Hillary Clinton victory speech in Indianapolis last night, you saw what I saw – a woman who was going through the motions as she spoke, her voice hollow, her posture limp, her eyes vacant as she willed herself to recite the meaningless campaign rhetoric to a crowd who could barely fake the listless level of enthusiasm they showed. Her husband’s face was red, his crimson cheeks and cherry colored forehead much more revealing than the professional politician’s innocuous smile he wore as she droned on about her will to win, her resolve to stay in the race, and her need, now more than ever, for more money to continue her odyssey towards the nomination. I was on the phone with my brother as she spoke, spinning an alcohol-induced conspiracy theory about the lone county in Indiana that was refusing to report ANY vote totals as we got closer to midnight. I stopped in mid ramble – “Dude, this sounds like a concession speech – let me call you back!” – as her halting words came through the speakers. I didn’t need the detail of high definition TV to see her in a way the majority of the political commentators tried desperately to avoid describing accurately. 183 to go. I think in a lot of ways it is harder for those of the pundit class to accept the fact that Hillary Clinton has absolutely no chance of earning – I’ll say it again here, EARNING – the Democratic nomination as the candidate the party will back for the presidency of the United States of America than it will be for the man in the street. These people have had to face the thing that the rest of America has been able to avoid up to this point – that in November, if you want to support the Democratic presidential candidate, you will be touching that screen or pulling that lever or checking that box for a man with brown skin. If its still hard for me, a confessed political junkie these past few months, to deal with the enormousness of a black man who is one step away from being the president of this country, I know it must be three times as hard for those who have always expected to be led by someone who looks like them instead of someone who looks like me. 183 to go. The Clinton campaign has canceled Hillary’s round of post primary public appearances on TV and radio that were scheduled to begin in a few hours. If you heard what I heard in the tone of Hillary Clinton’s voice as she claimed victory for the Indiana primary, you would recognize the sound of a woman who is wondering what just happened. I know the feeling myself.
183 To Go
Although the campaign I ran for student body president of my high school almost twenty five years ago was not in the same league as a presidential bid, the dynamics were similar. I was the favored candidate, with lavish red, white and blue trimmed campaign boaters my supporters fought over, professionally rendered campaign posters, a slick slogan, and access to the school intercom as a voice behind the morning announcements. My opponent was a girl from across the tracks who was never organized and always late to everything. In a student body of two thousand students, I lost by twelve votes. The student council advisor was almost in tears. “I counted them three times,” she said to me. “I’m sorry.” I had been so sure of victory that I had worn one of my campaign boaters to her office. How could I have lost? What went wrong? Who the hell were the thirteen idiots who couldn’t see that I was the better candidate? After the anger faded I was embarrassed, ashamed that I had thought so much of myself, and humiliated by the thought of being beat by someone with less advantages on her side. It took awhile for me to see the things I’d done wrong. The things I’d ignored. And to understand that I had put more faith in symbols, like campaign hats, than the kind of substance that could make a few more students believe. Mrs. Clinton has lived in another world, one that some have dubbed HillaryLand, for the past fifteen months. Emerging from the confines of this cocoon will be painful. It will be embarrassing, even though she will try not to show it. She will survive. Meanwhile, the O-Man will continue on his quest – on our quest – to be seated behind the desk in the Oval Office. No red, white and blue trimmed Styrofoam boaters required.
177 To Go Friday, May 09, 2008 177 to go.
177 To Go
My phone was ringing off the hook last night from friends and acquaintances who know I am up to my ears in the minutiae of this primary. "Why hasn't she dropped out yet?" "What more do they want from him?" "Why isn't this thing over yet?" "What trick is the Clinton Camp going to pull next?" For people who don't follow the political goings on in their own town, for those who could normally care less about the national political scene "because they are going to do what they want anyway", this is a harsh introduction to watching big time politics. There are so many conflicts within the Democratic Party right now - young versus old, black versus white, the future versus the past, the many versus the moneyed few - that it will take a while for all of these things to settle down. I wouldn't want to imagine being Hillary Clinton right now. This would have been an easier pill for Obama to swallow - remember, as he puts he, he wasn't supposed to get this far. But to be the front runner, the favorite, the one to beat - to already know what changes you were going to make in the White House bedroom to get rid of the stuff you didn't like the last time you lived there - it has got be one of the most horrible political and personal experiences a candidate has gone through in generations, somewhere up there with the"Wilkie Wins" headline THAT presidential hopeful went to sleep on. I've told my friends to turn their TV's off - to go do something fun, or get some sleep, or reconnect with their families, or whatever it is they normally do to kill time - because everything else from here on out is just noise, mindless chatter to fill the airwaves until the conventions. And for my more conspiratorially minded associates, I've had to reassure them that there will be no secret ballot, no "stealing" of the nomination, no magic wand that will help her snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Rest easy, I've told them - Barack Obama will be the Democratic nominee. "You can take that to the bank." 177 to go.
The Last Primary Friday, May 23, 2008 The phone calls have tailed off. The emails have slowed. The constant, near maniacal search for any information about Barack Obama’s chances in the next state level contest has petered out. “I guess it’s over,” a friend of mine said yesterday. “You know,” I said, “when you cut the head off of a snake, you’ve still got to be careful, cause that sum bitch is liable to bite your ass for quite a while afterwards.” This is the part that Hillary has been waiting for – an arena in which she and her cohorts can do what they do best – plead, cajole and arm twist a small group of like minded people until they get what they want. And if you are black, you are probably going to do what a lot of my friends will be doing next week – wondering if she can really come back from the dead and burst the bubble on this fairy tale. There is practically NO way Hillary can come out ahead. The "popular vote" may be "popular", but that has no real bearing on how the Democrats choose their convention delegates. The thing that makes me stay up too late every night, tapping away at this keyboard, is the anger I can't let go watching her campaign heavyweights trot out this "mangy dog with fleas" idea that Florida and Michigan are ENTITLED (yes, I'll say it out loud) to be a part of their political party's selection process.
Assassinate - Rhymes with "playahate" Saturday, May 24, 2008 My flabber has been gasted. I am fresh out of rage. Hillary Clinton has graduated from simply calling "a spade a spade" back in South Carolina to reminding us that "I am leading among working class white voters" after Virgina to hauling out the granddaddy of them all, the "let's just burn/shoot/stab a negro because...well, he hasn't done anything wrong, but...well, because we can." I don't know whether this latest episode "screwed the pooch", "jumped the shark", or was an example of "all balls, no brains." But what I do know is that Hillary Clinton is first and foremost a lawyer.
Assassinate - Rhymes with "playahate"
My best buddy is a lawyer. Hell, S. is a lawyer. And if there's one thing I know about even half assed lawyers, they are much, much more cognizant of the importance of what comes out of their mouths than the average citizen. The thing that pisses me off more than what she said is the way the news pundits - AKA "the people who interpret the news for those too dumb to think for themselves" - gloss this over, paraphrasing the Clinton spin doctors - "her reference to Mr. Kennedy's assassination appeared to focus on the timeline of his primary candidacy and not the assassination itself" - in order to soothe the masses. I watched the tape of her interview with the Argus Leader in South Dakota. There was no dependent clause after "We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California" to modify the declaration that stand-alone sentence made. Don't try to PLAY us with that throwaway sound bite shit, Mrs. Clinton. And don't sit there circling the wagons around your girl when she goes too far, those of you in TV pundit land, with that ridiculous conjecture you don't even believe yourselves about why she said what she did. Hell, I couldn't even see Baghdad Bob saying the kind of things she is capable of saying with a straight face. Hillary, you don't fight against sexism by making snide remarks or having a "I can't believe you people are letting this happen to me" attitude written across your face every time the camera turns your way. If you need a quick tutorial on this, you can turn to your husband, a man who can LITERALLY charm someone's pants off, a man who intuitively knows, better than just about anyone, that you catch more bees with honey than you do with vinegar. If Clinton's campaign coffers had more money in them or IF THE DELEGATE COUNT WAS CLOSER my dander would be up. Waaaay up. But these things that have come out of her mouth lately remind me of a two year old who threatens to do something terrible if you don't give them what they want. I'm not all that current with urban slang, but I'm pretty sure I can get this closing thought right. "Don't playahate, congratulate." As the notorious comedian Katt Williams asserts in one of his monologues , "Haters hate. That's what they do." So hate on, Hillary. Hate on.
Office Politics Wednesday, May 28, 2008 49 48 47 delegates to go. I was leaving work fairly late last night when I ran into two co-workers standing around the receptionist’s desk (which is usually empty because we don’t have a receptionist), talking about Obama. I couldn’t quite make out what was being said, but the man was very emphatic, gesticulating as he spoke, his head shaking a little as he brought home his point. The woman smiled when I passed them heading for the door. “What do you think about this…this…this liberal flip flopper Obama?” the man asked me. He continued before I could answer. “He would turn us into a socialist state. Am I right?” “Politics in the office isn’t a good idea,” I said slowly, although I was very curious about their conversation, and how he had gotten to the idea of a “socialist state”. Although I had my hand on the door, I wasn’t moving. The woman grabbed her handbag. “I need to get home to my son,” she said. I stepped back so she could get through the door. “Alright,” I said to my co-worker, “there’s nobody else here. So where did you get this idea that we were going to become a socialist country if we elected Obama?” “Actually, either Obama or Clinton will take us there. Hell, McCain might too if we take our eyes off of him long enough.” His voice was rising as he spoke, but the way he looked at me was a bit wary, as if he was gauging my reaction to the things he was saying. “What are you basing that on?” “Look at their plans. Look at their platforms. All this stuff they want to provide – who’s going to pay for it? They don’t have the money in the budget now, so they must be planning to raise taxes. Do you follow me?” I frowned. “A lot of what they plan to do will never get off the ground. You know that. Kind of like one tugboat trying to move an ocean liner. It doesn’t move it very much. That’s about all the president can do – move us a little bit left or a little bit right.” “Well, when you’ve got a guy who has sought out the most radical, the most extreme socialists and communists and anarchists all his life, you’ve got to wonder what’s going on in this guys head, don’t you?” “I’ll admit, I haven’t read more than a few pages of either of his books, but I am pretty familiar with the timeline of his life. So when did all this happen?” “When he chose to go to the most corrupt, most liberal educational institution in the United States.” “What school was that? Columbia?” Now I was puzzled.
“No, Harvard.” “Harvard? You mean Harvard University? Do you know what kind of people go to Harvard? The kind of people who want to get somewhere in a hurry. The kind of people who strive for big things. The kind of people who want to ‘join the club’.” I was simply amazed that in fifteen minutes, this man, who looked white but had a Cuban mother, a man who was the son of a college professor at a university here in the Deep South, had painted a picture for me of a candidate I did not recognize. It was as if he had overlooked all the good stuff, the things we could verify and substantiate, to focus on the conjecture, the rumors, the innuendo, basing his entire view of Barack Obama on these fevered musings of the discontented. We had been dancing around it for awhile now, so I decided to put it out there, to see how far I could get his eyebrows to jump. “You know what I think the real problem is?” I think there is lot of America that really didn’t pay much attention to this primary – yeah, there’s a black guy running for president, good for them – until now, when the reality is, this guy is likely to win the nomination and be on the ballot in November. Pushing that button is going to be hard.” His eyebrows didn’t jump, they flattened out. His chin tilted down. “It’s gonna get ugly. That’s all I can say. It’s gonna get real ugly. You’re going to see people saying things they haven’t said in a long time to each other. At each other.” “Something like the sixties, I would imagine.” The wariness continued as we went back and forth, trading euphemisms and vague generalities, until he charged in with a declaration. “Political correctness,” he said as his eyebrows inched skyward again, “is ruining the way we can communicate with each other.” We stared at each other for a minute, both of us looking as if we were imagining the coarser ways, the violent ways, the misogynistic ways blacks and whites have communicated with each other in this country over the years. A few more exchanges and I was out the door, headed home to an internet full of anonymous people who were very, very happy to show the world how politically incorrect they could be. But can this trumpeting of the dark and vile thoughts within your heart, a trumpeting that I too am guilty of participating in, can this be considered communication? Or are we staking out our territories for the battle ahead? With only 49 48 47 delegates to go, I should feel good. I should be exuberant. But the struggle, it seems, has only just begun.
Keeping The Tally From Our Eyes Thursday, May 29, 2008 "As you sow, so shall ye reap" All these machinations that we will be privy to before the Democratic Rules and Bylaws Committee meets this weekend to decide how to handle the mess the Michigan and Florida state delegations have become will probably give us some new numbers to live by. The end result of all the posturing and protesting that will take place Saturday at the Marriott Wardman Park Hotel in Washington, DC will most likely be the emergence of a new goalpost – maybe 2208 delegates this time – that Obama or Clinton will have to acquire in order to claim the nomination. I have heard this story before. Growing up, my father used to tell us colorful yarns about his uncles and aunts and cousins who grew up around him in the country. One of the stories that has stuck in my mind for years was the one about an old plantation, located a few miles from my grandfather's house in the Lowcountry of South Carolina, that became a sharecropping operation after their slaves were freed. His cousins had lived on this plantation's grounds for generations. They were still there at the middle of the twentieth century, even as the civil rights movement was fomenting around them. They worked the landowner's land by day and lived in the landowner's shacks by night. Stores for groceries and clothes were far and few between – moreover, you needed to have cash money to purchase any goods. But sharecroppers didn’t need to go to local stores – the landowner had a store he operated especially for his help. This commissary was a place were the sharecropper could buy clothes and food on credit until harvest time, when his share of the crop went to market. The theory behind sharecropping suggested that the tenant farmer had an opportunity to earn enough money to pay off what he owed to the commissary and put the rest aside. In practice, this never happened – no matter how much money your efforts yielded, the amount you owed was always higher than what you earned. The ledger was not open for inspection – it was this part of the story, more than any other, that made my blood curdle every time I heard it. This power the landowners had, an authority so vast it allowed them to alter the details of previously agreed upon terms, a control so absolute it permitted these landowners to change the amount of money these hardworking men and women owed to them with nothing more than the stroke of a pen - this kind of power scared the hell out of me as a child. My father would pause here, letting his description of the commissary arrangement sink in for a few seconds, answering questions from me and my brothers - why didn’t your cousins have any MONEY? - as well as my mother - you mean to tell me your cousins were still on the old plantation IN THE FIFTIES? Then he would plunge into the Brier Rabbit part of the story, relating to us how his cousins, having had enough, vowed to leave at the end of the next harvest. And the only way to leave was to pay off
Keeping The Tally From Our Eyes
their debt. So the head of the family went to the commissary that fall and received his allotment from the harvest. It was weighed, a figure was arrived at, and he carried his scrip to the commissary, where he applied it to his bill. But this time, instead of taking a verbal accounting of how much more he owed, he asked the landowner to write it down. The landowner handed him a slip with a figure on it. That’s all he walked out with – no flour, no sugar, no coffee, no salt pork, no rice, no toiletries – nothing but that slip of paper. My father’s cousins went to work in earnest then, making what they had last as long as possible, borrowing what they could not do without from relatives like my grandfather, going back to basics as they hunted, fished, and gathered practically everything they ate for the next twelve months after toiling in the fields all day. So the next fall, when it came time for harvest, when it came time to settle up with the landowner, my father’s cousins had amassed enough scrip to settle their tab. It is this part of the story that I have probably romanticized above and beyond the imagery my father provided, adding extra heft to the pasteboard suitcases they had packed to the gills, extra shine to the moonlight as they trudged away from their empty shack under the cover of darkness, an extra gleam in their eyes as they headed for the main road, their next stop the train station, their destination, New York City. It is stories like this, stories told and retold, most of them containing more than a kernel of truth at their center, that make me and people like me wary whenever we see business that is meant to be public conducted in private, whenever we see men with knowing smiles emerge from smoke filled rooms… whenever we sense that someone is keeping the tally in the metaphorical ledger book from our eyes. The Democratic Party Rules & Bylaws committee has a hard job to do. I don’t envy them. The piles of delegates Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton are standing on aren’t much different than the plantation token pictured above this commentary. Whether or not these delegates will retain their original value or be assigned a new unit of measurement is entirely up to the landowners, oops, I meant committee members, who will convene this Saturday, just before the candidates begin to harvest the fruits of their campaign labor.
Half Dollars and Half Delegates Friday, May 30, 2008 Who these people on the Democratic Party Rules & Bylaws committee are and why they are important appear to be glossed over by the mainstream press – giving credence to Hillary Clinton’s aggressive efforts to sway the outcome seem to be their only interest. The Americans I talk to seem to see something different – to them, Camp Clinton has begun to act
Half Dollars and Half Delegates
like a band of desperadoes who have fought the long arm of the law off as long as they could, and are now holed up in their hideout, their supplies running out, their water running low, about to mount their final fusillade of bluster and conjecture. But the posse, 28 strong, who will be wearing the sheriff’s badges tomorrow are the members of the RBC. Thirteen of them publicly support Camp Clinton, which means there is an enormous amount of last minute arm twisting going on behind the scenes. 15 votes will be needed to pass anything, with two additional at-large members on hand in case there is a tie. The RBC will conduct its business school board style, in front of an audience of several hundred spectators and members of the press. I cannot imagine what deliberations they will have to hear, or what evidence they will have to examine, but the committee chairs have already requested that the committee members retain their rooms “in case we have to reconvene on Sunday”. The dilemma the committee faces reminds me of a story from my childhood that took place back when I was about five or six years old. We used to go visit my mother’s mother fairly regularly back in the seventies. My grandmother was pretty old at the time, and was often bedridden. There was a ritual we went through whenever my parents announced that we were about to leave that involved making one last trip to grandma’s bedroom to say goodbye. She’d say a few words and then wave me and my brother over one by one to present each of us with a Kennedy half dollar. There was nothing in the world that made me feel as rich as I did holding that big silver coin in my hands. Once, when we were leaving, my grandmother said, “I haven’t been able to get out lately, so I’m going to give you a paper dollar this time.” I was ecstatic – a whole dollar! Then she told me WHY she was giving me a whole dollar. “You give half of that to your brother.” I immediately turned to my brother, held the dollar up in front of his face, tore the bill cleanly in two, and handed him his half. It is a story my aunt’s repeat even now, laughing at the naiveté of a child who didn’t understand that having half of a dollar bill was like having nothing at all. Camp Obama has offered to compromise with Camp Clinton over the Florida and Michigan delegations – either recognize half the delegates from each state, or recognize all of them, but allow them to have half votes. Which would pretty much put Camp Clinton in the same boat my brother and I were in that day we stood in my grandmother’s bedroom, each of us holding our own worthless halves of a dollar bill in our hands. The DNC's lawyers, much to Camp Clinton's chagrin, have recommended just this week a course of action much along the same lines Obama's group has laid out. Which is why when you turn your television to CNN or Fox News or MSNBC anytime during the next twenty four hours, you will probably hear that Clinton supporters are going to be demonstrating outside
Half Dollars And Half Delegates
the hotel hosting the meeting. "With a click of a mouse in the mid-Atlantic, we could get thousands of people there," Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, told reporters yesterday. "But in the interest of party unity, we are not encouraging a protest. We don't think a scene is helpful as we try to bring the party together." The meeting Saturday might last all day. It might even go over into Sunday. There will come a point during the proceedings, however, where the RBC committee chairpersons will realize it's time to get to the end, much like my parents used to do on those Sunday afternoons at grandma's house when they announced it was time to go home. They will very likely award each candidates half-delegates to take home with them, much the way my grandmother handed her grandchildren those Kennedy half-dollars she had saved during the year.
Puerto Rico Voters Will Lay Low On Sunday Saturday, May 31, 2008 Back to basics. While the drama of who will receive how many delegates from Florida and Michigan gets underway today, Puerto Rico gears up for its primary tomorrow. Their polls are open from 8 am to 3 pm. My man Nate Silver of FiveThirtyEight.com gives us his take on what the voter turnout is likely to be: And as such, taking the high and low end of the range, we'd estimate that somewhere between 34.7 percent and 64.0 percent of Puerto Rico's 1.27 million "likely voters" will actually turn out to vote. That would represent a turnout of between 441,000 and 813,000. Puerto Rican officials expect a turnout of about 500,000. Joe Sestak, who might be echoing the expectations of the Clinton camp, says 450,000 to 500,000. Puerto Rican elections expert Manuel Alvarez-Rivera guesses 600,000. The record for turnout in a Democratic primary is 870,000, when Ted Kennedy made a visit to the island in his challenge to Jimmy Carter.
Puerto Rico Voters Will Lay Low On Sunday
The word around the internet is that the electorate in the PR will be less motivated to get out and vote for a variety of reasons, including the obvious one – this thing is pretty much over already. “Traditionally people in Puerto Rico see the primaries as something far removed from their political reality,” said Angel Rosa, a political science professor at the University of Puerto Rico at Mayaguez. “They don’t see this primary as any kind of opportunity to send a message to the United States.” Nate Silver’s number crunching turned up an interesting phenomena, a sort of Get Out The Vote Catch-22. One of only things Clinton has left to talk about is the “popular vote”. Although it has always been an irrelevant statistic in the Democratic nomination process, it is a concept that seems to have become popular with the public after the 2000 general election meltdown in Florida. In order to get closer to Obama’s popular vote tally, Clinton needs to have a net gain of hundreds of thousands of votes in the last three primaries. Puerto Rico presents her best chance of gaining large numbers of votes. However, as Nate Silver says below: Moreover, there may be something of an inverse relationship between turnout and Clinton's performance. The GQR poll says that Clinton's margin is 19 points among likely voters, but only 13 points among all voters. So if Clinton wants to maximize her percentage of the vote, she might hope for a lowish turnout. However, Clinton not only needs to maximize her percentage of the vote; she also needs to maximize turnout. Basically, it looks like Camp Clinton finds itself entangled in a Gordian Knot, better known as the Democratic primary system. The harder they pull against it, the tighter the party rules Clinton's top advisors spent the last ten years perfecting are going to choke their own campaign. The good thing is, the folks at Camp Clinton only have four days left to torture themselves (and us) the last primary will finally be over Tuesday night once Montana and South Dakota close their polls. Hallelujah!
"Im-potent" People Versus The Grand Poohbahs Saturday, May 31, 2008 I’ve been watching the Democratic Rules & Bylaws committee meeting in DC on C-SPAN for the last couple of hours. This “im-potent” group has adjourned for lunch after hearing oral arguments all morn52
"Im-potent" People Versus The Grand Poohbahs
ing. I ate mine while I watched these clowns, devouring some ribs left over from Monday. They will be back at 4:15 pm, when the “im-potent” committee members will debate among themselves what remedies they will formally consider putting up for a vote. When I first turned it on, I thought what I was seeing was simply hilarious – a cross between the O.J. trial and a meeting of Fred Flintstone’s Moose Lodge, the pace and the television crews reminiscent of the Trial of the Century, the “hail-fellow-well-met” salutations to platform guests that seemed to go on FOREVER suggestive of Flintstone’s lodge brothers and their “im-potent” Grand Pooh Bah. The long lists of high minded introductory platitudes between sworn enemies, knowing that off camera they hate each others guts, had me howling. Alexis Herman wielded the gavel like a high school principal – more accurately, a high school principal played by actress Jenifer Lewis, who has a strikingly similar demeanor and sharp edged Southern drawl. The state representative from Florida who spoke had me thinking he was running for office the way he beat the podium to make his points. Carl Levin, the senator from Michigan, practically breathed fire as he railed against Iowa and New Hampshire’s lock on the beginning of the primary process. The “im-potent” representative who spoke for Obama, Former Michigan Rep. David Bonior was a typical Obama spokesperson – I’m going to have to write his campaign about this weakness they seem to have – a dry, straight forward speaker who was prone to stammering when he was asked a question. The ex governor of Michigan, Jim Blanchard, who spoke on behalf of the Clinton campaign, was about as much of a huckster as you could stuff into a size 48 suit, a man who looked like he learned to backpedal before he could walk. I don’t know if there’s really a difference between the white women on the committee who support Clinton and those who support Obama. Maybe it’s the way the Clinton supporters have to steel themselves before attempting to justify their positions, making them a little anxious as they speak, that gives them a different vibe from the white women who seem to understand that righteousness, at least as it applies to today’s events, is on their side. I was scanning the room as the cameras panned along the rows of committee members, the voice of Michigan’s ex-governor droning on in the background, looking at the faces of the black people who sat around the table, a group that was largely silent while I was watching. I was kind of upset with Donna Brazile, who seemed to be alternately bored and annoyed, for not making any attempt to speak. All of a sudden, you hear her name being called, and then she turns on her mike. Brazile’s face has the scowl she has perfected this primary season on CNN. She makes the obligatory hot air introductions to the "im-potent" peoples. “I know we’re hear today to make some decisions in the interest of the party. Political decisions is what we’ll be making. We all know that. But since you brought your momma up earlier, Governor, I’m gonna bring my momma into this too. I know, since you look like you were raised right, since you have grown into a fine man, I KNOW your momma must have told you the same thing my momma told me - you gotta play by the rules.”
"Im-potent" People Versus The Grand Poohbahs
She brought the house down. But her ending comment, which didn’t have the same impact because people were still talking about her last statement, was actually more apropos. “And I’m sure your momma also told you something else. That when you change the rules in the middle of the game, or at the end, that’s called cheatin’. That’s right, cheatin’.” All the posturing, message sending, feather ruffling, sidestepping, backpedaling, and lines being drawn in the sand – it all stopped for a minute as Brazile hit everyone in that part of their psyches where the memories of their own mother’s sense of decency and common sense resides. The irony of Brazile invoking the image of her brown skinned mother as a brown skinned man battles for the Democratic party’s nomination must have provoked Alexis Herman – a few minutes later, just as she was about to adjourn the meeting, she stopped to recognize Rep. John Conyers, announcing not only his name but his position as the House JUDICIARY Committee chairman. It’s 4:09 pm. Time to get my peanuts and beer for Round 2.
"Im-potent" People Versus The Grand Poohbahs - Part 2 Sunday, June 01, 2008 This second half of the meeting recap is late – after watching what appeared to be a surreal discussion session by the committee members, during which floor supporters of Hillary Clinton proceeded to show their natural asses, and committee member Harold Ickes progressed from veiled sarcasm to some sort of tepid outburst, working the words “ass” into at least two comments, I took a cigar break, joining S. outside with a glass of wine to decompress after viewing the meeting practically in toto. “Baby,” I said as I puffed on my cigar, “the world is upside down right now. Black people are now the voice of reason, and white folks have lost their minds. I knew this was coming, but actually seeing it happen…damn.” The "im-potent" people who were the stars of the meeting before lunch were quiet now. The screaming Clinton supporters who raged on during statements by the committee members were ridiculous – in the vein of Donna Brazile’s remark, my mother would have said “they don’t have any home training. That’s why they are acting like that.”
"Im-potent" People Versus The Grand Poohbahs - Part 2
If I was Hillary, I’d tell Harold Ickes not to invoice me for this meeting. The thing that got me more than his bizarre performance was the incredible comment by Wolf Blitzer afterwards that made Ickes to be “in a rage”. It was “vintage Ickes” on display, Blitzer continued. Actually, if that was “vintage Ickes” I can see why the Clinton campaign is in disarray. Why did they rely so much on people who have never really WORKED at anything but trading on their names or some great thing they might have done years ago? Alexis Herman was the undisputed ruler of the dais – Roosevelt’s grandson did not have the seasoning Herman had picked up as Labor Secretary in – wait, didn’t she gain her claim to fame years ago in the first Clinton White House? Her expressions were hard to read as she listened to deliberations. In any case, she didn’t have to vote, there was no riot, and they got to go home today after deciding to halve the votes of both the Florida and Michigan delegations, allowing the full delegate slates to go to the convention in Denver. Next stop tomorrow afternoon - Puerto Rico. Can Obama pull out an upset here?
Upsetting The Natural Order Tuesday, June 3, 2008 My best buddy called me mid morning yesterday at the office. While we were talking, I asked him “have you seen the video clip of Rev Pfleger?” Rev Pfleger was the Chicago Catholic priest who has caused the latest controversy as a guest pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ, the church from which Barack Obama recently resigned. “No, I haven’t,” he said. “What’s it about?” “It’s…it’s ah…” I leaned closer to the corner of my cubicle and lowered my voice. “You’ve got this white priest in front of this black congregation, and he –“ I paused as someone passed my desk. “-he is… he’s telling the congregation how he thinks Hillary Clinton sees the primary-“ “Okay.” “Its HOW he’s saying it – it’s like he’s a comedian – like he’s Steve Martin playing a black preacher”
Upsetting The Natural Order
“What!” “I can’t talk about this at work. You just have to see it – I’m sending you a link.” My best buddy, who is notorious for not reading his email, not only watched the video, he even sent a reply to the message – a rarity. ""Where was this guy when I was growing up in Brooklyn?" he wrote, an allusion to the cultural gap between him and the priests of his childhood. He called me back, but I was on the phone with a customer. Then he called me about five o'clock. “What the hell? I mean, what he said is pretty close to the truth…but...” He stopped, sighed, sighed again. “I don’t think America - I mean white America - is ready for this much honesty.” I couldn’t really respond to him the way I wanted to, so I told him to call me later. He did – two more times, in fact, before the night was over. “I didn’t see a priest," I said "I saw a comedian. Remember the part where the reverend paused, then turned to the side and hoofed it across the pulpit, his body bent forward, his right arm trailing behind him as he wailed “it’s a black man, and he’s stealing my show”? That – that was a Jackie Gleason move, straight out of The Honeymooners.” It was seven thirty now, an hour when my buddy was usually spending time with his wife and kids, when he called again. “This stuff,” he said, “– this kind of stuff – you know, the natural order of things is upside down right now.” A somber tone of resignation underlined his words. “Brother,” I said, “the thing about the civil rights movement they never show you on TV is that most middle class black people - people like you - wanted Martin Luther King to shut the hell up. To tone his rhetoric down. I know I’ve been joking about them breaking the firehoses and the dogs out again, but the reality is that this thing is going to be hard. Hard for all of us.” And as I watched the news shows later, I thought about the reasons why I wanted Barack Obama to be the next president of the United States. I hadn’t really gone all that deeply into his website. I had no idea how he planned on handling nuclear proliferation. And I wasn’t paying attention whenever he detailed his strategy for saving Social Security. Whether or not Barack Obama ended up being the worst president in the history of presidents was almost irrelevant to me - what mattered to me most was how having this intelligent black man's face on TV every week would inspire young black boys and young black men to do big things with their own lives. What I really think we desperately need to get from all of this is a realignment of the “natural order” of things, not just in America, but in black America. I want to see our own cultural totem pole recarved, with a smart black man in a blue suit at the top. With black men and women who teach our children, who heal our sick and keep our streets safe just below that image. I don’t want to take the rappers and the singers off of the totem pole – just slide them down a few notches from where they are now.
THE SILLY SEASON
The breathless pace of the primary season was over. Going forward, my buddies ended up playing a bigger part in the posts I wrote, with many of our conversations repeated almost verbatim as we wrangled with the way the public was handling the Obama candidacy, and with our burgeoning feelings about the possibility of having a black president of the United States of America. My brother suggested that I use a picture in every post, an idea which the old fiction writer in me despised at first as the kind of gimmick you needed if you wanted to keep kindergarteners preoccupied. But he was right. Whether the pictures themselves caught the reader’s attention long enough for them to get into a post, or whether the image itself made me do a better job as a writer, I’m not sure, but it certainly contributed to an increase in the number of visitors my blog had. And it increased the time it took to post something. The posts themselves became more analytical and more anecdotal, with the emergence of an authorial voice that combined the immediacy of informal dialogue with the accessibility of common everyday analogies. I was figuring out how to do all of this in a lot less words, although my pieces were still much longer than the average blog post. And I got a lot better at coming up with a final ironic coda, a finishing touch we Americans have become used to in our popular culture. Thanks to the magic of the RSS feed, I was exposing my posts to readers nationally and internationally, courtesy of traditional newspapers like the Chicago Sun-Times and international news giants like Reuters, whose website news editors selected pieces of mine now and again from Blogburst, a blog syndication service, for publication in their internet editions. I was also picking up a few readers who wrote political op-eds for a living from a small but influential conservative website, Culture11, where I had mistakenly registered my blog feed before familiarizing myself with their niche. It felt good to be quoted by the pros occasionally in their columns. In some small way, I felt as if I was actually participating in the national conversation, in a way that I hoped was helping to expand the American political narrative.
Let Me Hear It Just One More Time Wednesday, June 04, 2008 The REWIND button on my remote control is my new best friend. I was still pushing it at two o’clock in the morning, hitting PLAY right where Senator Barack Obama soberly intoned “new and better day to America”, so I could hear him say “I will be the Democratic nominee for President of the United States” just one more time before I went to bed. Usually, on primary night I am eager to see the comments by the talking heads, mainly to give some sense of perspective to the information about the Democratic primaries that I regularly gather on the internet. But last night, after the panelists on the CNN set started dissecting Obama’s speech – “why didn’t he say anything about being the first African American candidate?” – I hit REWIND for the first time, releasing it just after the thunderous applause had died down before the Illinois senator began to speak to the crowd in Minnesota. Having read the text before the speech was broadcast, I’d been struck by the number of times I saw the word “change”. But when Obama delivered his speech, the repetition of the word “change” worked FOR him. It allowed him time to extend his arms, to pose for the crowd and the cameras, After calling my mother – our new ritual this spring, the post primary recap - she and I exchanged a few words. "Why are they worried so much about him acknowledging that he's black? They don't think he knows that? That we know that?" After hanging up I hit the LIVE button. Now the talking heads were concerned with Hillary Clinton. What should Obama do about her? The electricity in the air between the talking heads was palpable. The biggest upset of all time in American political history had just been confirmed, and they had been right in the middle of it all the way. They had been on our TV’s every night, agonizing over what states to count, and which kind of votes counted the most, or arguing over whether the super delegates mattered more than the delegates. Often reduced to spinning arcane theories, spouting bizarre political trivia, or entertaining ridiculous ideas from campaign surrogates, they looked for the most part like they were ready to deal with yesterday’s events. But much of their rhetoric, especially from the late night crew, still seemed to be stuck in mid-March rather than reality. The “what does Hillary want?” dialogue in particular was intruding on Obama’s moment. My moment. Our moment. No problem. My REWIND button was still there. Now, after rewinding, I fast forwarded through the speech to the good parts – the two points in the sermon where Obama began to preach. The first, a run on rant about education that invoked shocking images from the poorest school districts in my home state of South Carolina, got me in the gut because I know just how bad they are. By the time he got to the second and final climax - the “this was the moment” refrain - Obama was good and warmed up. The framework of his stump speech at the ready, he used simple images to stand in for his core issues and allowed himself to open up emotionally – as much as his demeanor
Let Me Hear It Just One More Time
would allow - his speech practically a chant now, completely capturing the attention of his audience. That’s what Barack Obama did last night in St. Paul, Minnesota. He let us see more of his energy than we have ever witnessed from him on a national stage. He used his natural cadence like a metronome, exploiting the authoritative but soothing quality of his baritone voice to help him keep the crowd from devolving into a celebratory spectacle. He showed us, in many ways large and small, that he is ready to fight the hard fight ahead to become the 44th president of these United States. My REWIND button will be getting another workout when I get home tonight.
Guess Who's Coming To The White House Friday, June 06, 2008 I talked to my best buddy on the phone yesterday about Tuesday night’s historic moment. Our boy Obama would be the Democratic nominee in this year’s presidential election. “Were people talking at your office?” he asked me. “Not really. They aren’t the politically oriented type, for the most part. And there isn’t anybody who talks about politics in the office.” “They weren’t saying anything?” “Dude, there are only two black people in my office – me and the other guy. Most of the others are Republicans. Or they just don’t give a damn.” “Man, in my building, everybody was talking about it – in the elevators, in the lobby – and when they saw me, they smiled a little harder. Some of them said they thought this was great for the country.” “Really?” “Come on, man – you know what kind of people are in my building. They’re lawyers, middle-level professionals, the kind of people who are used to rationalizing things. They can rationalize anything so long as it doesn’t change their lives too much.” These people my buddy talked about are right here in Atlanta, but it seems that they match to a “T” the profile of Obama’s strongest demographic – college educated professionals who make over fifty thousand dollars a year. These are kind of liberal-minded parents who raised the army of young cam59
Guess Who's Coming To The White House
paign volunteers vital to Barack Obama’s success. My buddy asked me a question. “So what is Barack going to do about Hillary?” “You remember the movie Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner? “Yeah, yeah, I know that movie.” “The unique thing about that movie was the way the characters related to each other. Sidney Poitier’s character was arguably the most intelligent man in the film – a renowned black doctor. I mean, the thing he had to do to navigate the tensions between him and Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn, who played the liberal-minded parents of the young white woman he wanted marry, was to stay calm, to be forceful but not arrogant, to be magnanimous – kind of the way you do when you want to let an opposing lawyer off the hook, even though you’ve got him by the short hairs. The images from the movie of the palatial San Francisco home that served as a backdrop for the intensely emotional drama of two parents coming to grips with the idea of their daughter in an interracial marriage stayed with me all night. The obvious irony of Barack Obama’s own background was not lost on me – maybe subliminally, I had chosen to use this film to explain what I thought because it was on some level a conversation Obama’s father must have had with his in-laws, even if it was after the fact. After their initial shock, Hepburn and Tracy realized they couldn’t sway their daughter, so they took another tack, asserting that an interracial marriage would harm the children from the marriage. "She feels that every single one of our children will be President of the United States," Poitier defiantly told Tracy. "And they'll all have colorful administrations." The most amazing thing about this movie when it came out was the way Poitier held his ground throughout the entire performance, conceding nothing to Katherine Hepburn, standing his ground ideologically with Spencer Tracy. Through it all, Poitier exhibited the kind of nobility, grace and self restraint that we are being re-introduced to today through Barack Obama as he stars in his own production, Guess Who’s Coming To The White House.
Obama: Metaphorically Black or Literally Black? Monday, June 09, 2008 Surfing through the political-oriented blogs Sunday, I tried to get a sense of the reactions to Hillary Clinton’s concession speech. Frankly, I was surprised by the number of comments from those who
Obama: Metaphorically Black Or Literally Black?
still didn’t think Barack Obama was "black" enough to lay claim to being the first African American presidential nominee of a major political party. The fact that he was raised by his white mother, his Indonesian stepfather, and his two white grandparents has convinced these holdouts that Obama’s upbringing disqualifies him from the right to claim to be African American. Of all the things we as black people have done to ourselves since we’ve been in America, none of them is more preposterous than this need to authenticate ourselves through this imaginary, ill-conceived litmus test, a measurement whose many permutations all contain the same common denominators – to have experienced at some time during your life a certain amount of shared suffering, poverty, or poverty-level subsistence. But if the properties of "whiteness" are mostly mythical constructs, then the opposite must also be true – this thing we know as "blackness" is more circumstantial than factual, more anecdotal than fundamental. If you are black today in America, you are: More likely to be found on the internet than at a dogfight. More likely to shop at Home Depot than at a swap meet. More likely to wear a pair of Dockers than a pair of baggy jeans. More likely to repair a crack in the driveway than sell crack on the corner. More likely to contribute to a 401(k) than collect welfare. More likely to live in a suburb than in a ghetto. It is an "otherness" that a young, beige-skinned Obama experienced, growing up in mostly all-white environments, an"otherness" that all of us who look like minorities share. This is what qualifies his claim to be an authentic black American. The outsider perspective is a valid common characteristic of African Americans. It is the way an individual has been forced to see the world and how the world has decided to perceive him that binds us, not how much grape Kool-Aid we drank as a child. Questioning any of the conventional wisdoms that underpin the belief systems of the mythical "authentic" African American prototype can still bring from some quarters an instant arching of incredulous eyebrows, or an immediate fluttering of fingertips across keyboards, both actions radiating a deep loathing towards anyone even daring to think about re-imagining the darker nation. To these holdouts, both black and white, the melanin in Obama’s skin, a signifier that automatically awards him "outsider" status in the United States, is not sufficient enough to allow him to claim allegiance to his own community. If we can agree that a culture can be shaped - that it can retain some characteristics and discard others over the passage of time - then I will be pushing mightily to throw away the dogfighting, the
Obama: Metaphorically Black or Literally Black?
crack selling and the ghetto dwelling that we have been passing off as black american culture lately. These negative images we have raised to the level of cultural signifiers are a type of metaphorical posing, a commitment to "keeping it real" that ignores the literal truths we see before our very own eyes every day.
Thinking Out Loud Wednesday, June 11, 2008 Barack Obama finally has an enemy he can fight to the death. He has had to handle Hillary Clinton and her husband with kid gloves ever since South Carolina, when they brought race to the forefront of his campaign. He has had to ignore the ghosts of Bill Clinton’s past. He has had to remember Hillary was a woman. But now that John McCain is the target, campaigning for Obama should be lot easier - if they will ever get this thing started. Right now is like the two week hiatus leading up to the Super Bowl, when each league's champions, who have been playing their hearts out week after week, suddenly get too much time off. My best buddy and I talked on the phone Monday night about the state of the American political theater in the aftermath of Barack Obama clinching the Democratic presidential nomination. Now that we were a couple of days beyond Hillary Clinton’s last gasp since she suspended her campaign on Saturday, we could focus on the championship bout ahead between Obama and John McCain. The conversation rambled back and forth between Obama’s strengths and McCain’s weaknesses for awhile before the war in Iraq and the price of oil took over. “Man,” my buddy said, “I don’t know – doesn’t look like gas is coming back down anytime soon, does it?” “Didn’t you tell me your retired uncle went back to work in the Pacific Rim for his old oil company?” “Yeah – he said the money was too good.” “Dude, the oil industry’s got incentive to drill new wells now that the price is up. I mean, think about it – the price of gas has been about the same for almost twenty years. It had to go up sometime.” “You’ve always been an idealist!” my buddy exclaimed. “I’m telling you, man, the price is too damn
Thinking Out Loud
high! It’s got everything going up. Food, building supplies, plane tickets – man, this thing is ruining the economy. You add this war on top of it, nuclear weapons in the Middle East, global warming – you know, I’m not sure if Obama really needs to be getting into office right now.” As soon as that last sentence left his mouth, my mind went into overdrive. “Well, he couldn’t have picked a better time to run. McCain is the weakest candidate the Republicans have had in years.” “You think McCain is weak?” “Come on, we all know he’s a tough guy, but right now it’s about party politics, and McCain…McCain, he’s not the one the party wanted. Which is why he’s having trouble raising any money.” “I guess they figure he’s probably not going to win, so why throw good money after bad? They are Republicans.” “Makes sense.” My buddy was rolling now, his conspiratorial bent beginning to show. “Bush and Cheney are probably packing their shit, packing and laughing all the way back to Texas.” “Cheney’s from Wyoming.” “Wherever the hell he’s from, they’re probably high fiving each other. No, hold up – they’re fist bumping each other! They’re probably saying ‘we’re getting out of here just in time!” The old saying “birds of a feather flock together” is true – I am in some ways more of a conspiracy theorist than my buddy is. “Dude!” I yell. “THIS is the okie doke! They set Obama up! They put up the weakest guy they can with a straight face, then don’t give him any money. How could McCain win with no money? Then everything goes to hell in a hand basket – no jobs, gas $10 a gallon, Iraq is a mess, illegal immigrants coming out of the woodwork, everybody mad at Obama – then the Republicans come back with their REAL candidate in 2012 like the knight in shining armor!” There was a few seconds of silence on the line. “Man, I think this campaign stuff has gone to your head,” my buddy said. “You need to get out more.” “Come on, I’m just thinking out loud.” If I was true conspiracy theorist, paranoid, fearful, suspicious of everything and everyone, I’d have to do some research on this. Although this lull in the drama that has held the nation’s attention for the past five months is a much needed break, it will be times like these when Obama’s campaign is most vulnerable to the idle minds in the public as well as the press who have overrun the devil's workshop.
Off The Record Wednesday, June 18, 2008 In an innermost recess of CNN: "The Oh-bahma Admini-stration-" "Say it slower this time, Charlie. You're our best anchor - the phone will be ringing off the hook if you sound like you're spitting his name out." "The Ohh-bahh-mah Ad-min-i-stra-tion-" "Charlie - I didn't say sound like you were an idiot!" "Dude, I got nothing to wrap my tongue around. Bush? 'Buh.' Clinton? 'Ccc.' Bush? 'Buh.' Reagan? 'Ruh.' THOSE are presidential names. I mean, Jesus Christ, his name starts with a vowel!"
At a presidential campaign headquarters: "That son of a bitch must of worn a rubber every time. You can't find not one woman he abused? Are we even sure he's a man?" "Senator, I understand your-" "He has screwed someone, I mean screwed her and screwed her over - maybe in college - and now she wants to get him back. We just have to find her." "Senator, our investigators are drawing blanks-" "Jimmy, investigators do not draw blanks when their client is running for the presidency of the United States. I don't care who she is, I don't care how much you have to pay her to say he raped her. Raped her and beat her up. Just make sure she's blonde. Blonde and pale."
At a hotel bar after the NAACP national board meeting: "So Roy, off the record, what do you think - is he black or what?" "Gotta a black wife, go to a black church-" "I don't mean that. What I'm saying is, how do we know he won't pull a Tiger Woods?" "That Cablasian stuff? Come on, man - Tiger doesn't even believe that." "Goddammit, Roy, you're beating around the bush. Will he still claim us if he wins?"
Off The Record
At a soul food restaurant/beauty shop/nail salon: "Chile, that Michelle Obama got her a fine light skinned man." "What you talkin' bout fine? You see them ears?" "Chile, he give her girls that good hair. Ain't nothin' wrong with his ears." "I get stuck with a man like that, first thing I'ma do is feed him. Ain't he skinny?" "Chile - that man wear a size THIRTEEN shoe!"
At an American Legion Hall: "I got underwear older'n that Hussein fella `sposed be runnin' for president." "Didja heered Limbaugh say he used to be a drug dealer?" "I still don't unnerstan' how they put that boy in the Senate." "Didja ever know anybody whose mind wadn't OFF once they been on them drugs?" "I ain't got nuthin' `ginst colored, but...you know whut I'm sayin' here..."
In the mall-sized parking lot of a prominent southern Baptist church: "We in the final hour of this thing, and this little redbone negro who call his self a preacher got to SHOW HIS ASS every night on TV." "Why hasn't she dropped out yet?" "I'll bet that little negro is gettin' paid off. Selling us out for a bag of silver." "Why isn't this thing over? You still didn't tell me what you thought about this new dress." "I wish I would run up on him, talking `bout he a man of God. He'll be praying for me to take my hands from `round his neck!"
Off The Record
In a living room in a western state after dinner: "Goddamn Democrats gonna turn me into a Republican! Turn that TV off, will ya honey?'" "Dear, it's going to be alright. Didn't you tell me your new boss is black?" "Yeah, but that's different. This is for the PRESIDENCY...to be the president of the United States!" "Let's see...eats arugula lettuce...dotes on his children...doesn't really like beer...goes to church regularly - even if his pastor was crazy...sounds like a good husband." "What the hell is arugula lettuce? Why are you telling me this?" "Well, other than the thing with the lettuce, he sounds a lot like you, dear."
Secret Black Frequency Sunday, June 22, 2008 Is there a secret black frequency I must tune into when I see other black people in mixed settings? Like Barack Obama, I seem to be getting this African American thing wrong lately, as if a few pages of our Keeping It Real handbooks are stuck together. S. and I sat in a restaurant a week or so ago with some friends of ours, ex-neighbors we’ve known for over ten years. We were in the middle of catching up on who was doing what in our old subdivision when a black woman approached our table. The friends of ours were white, two northern transplants from Pennsylvania and New Jersey whose sensibilities had clicked with our small town Southern and Midwestern selves long ago. The female interloper was black, like S. and I. "Don’t I know you from somewhere?" the woman said, looking directly at S. S. turned and looked more closely at the woman. "I think it was at a party – it might have been a party at our house. Yeah, that’s it, don’t you remember her?" S. said to me. I raised my eyebrows towards our friends, who had been in the middle of an animated discussion about a wedding they were going to attend the next day, and then peered at the woman.
Secret Black Frequency
"No, not really." The woman stood there anyway, as if there was some kind of magnetic force emanating from the end of our table, continuing a line of patter across my back with S. about the mutual friend they shared. S. went on for a few seconds, while I smiled at our friends, who were waiting patiently to get back to their story. S.’s tone began to change, becoming more distant with each word as she attempted to signal to the woman with the pitch of her voice and her clipped responses that this exchange needed to come to a close. The woman kept talking, probing with each word for a sign of solidarity, a sign that we still remembered where we came from. There was something extra in her gaze that seemed to penetrate a little more deeply when she looked at us than we she glanced at our friends. It was the same something implied in the way she paused after certain words she said, as if we were Navajo code talkers, speaking an indecipherable language at a frequency level only black people could hear. Our friends kept smiling, their eyes darting in the woman’s direction every few seconds, until S. was forced to introduce the woman to our friends. We practically had to shoo the woman away from the table. For a few minutes after the woman left, there seemed to be a distance between us and our friends that had hadn’t been there when we had arrived at the restaurant. It slowly dissipated, disappearing all together by the time our food arrived. The friendship we have with our ex-neighbors is one born of proximity that has grown to a level of genuine fondness as we discovered over the years that we had the same sensibilities, the same types of college experiences, the same types of parents. I understand all too clearly that there are things my brown middle class brethren who have self segregated themselves will have to overcome in order to have these kind of friendships. "This is our moment", the Obama mantra that sends audiences into a frenzy whenever he utters these four words, speaks to more than the idea of electing America's first black president. To me, "this is our moment" also means that it is time for us as black Americans to reach out across our own personal boundaries and connect more fully with the larger world around us, like the Irish did, like the Italians did, like the Jews did, like the Asians are doing now. This is one of the things about the Barack Obama phenomenon that the mainstream media culture hasn't picked up on yet. It still seems to be obsessed with the kind of tribal imagery more reminiscent of an old Tarzan movie - African drums speaking to each other across the plains in the middle of the night as the great white hunters sit fearfully by their campfire - than it is of reality. A ridiculous number of hours were devoted to deconstructing the "fist bump" that Barack gave his wife Michelle before his speech in Minnesota to claim the Democratic nomination, as if it were a signal for the rest of us black folks to start executing our secret plan to take over America.
Secret Black Frequency
S. and I know where we came from. We know who we are. Hanging out with black people exclusively isn't going to make us any blacker. Hanging out with white people all the time isn't going to make us any whiter. But even though I feel this way, I can understand the black woman's reluctance to acknowledge that our white friends could be just as important to us as she was. For me to get to the mindset I have today was a constant struggle against ingrained prejudices and a fear of the unknown. To this woman, and to others like her, all I will say is this - the TV commercial promoting Southwest Airlines is absolutely right – "you are now free to move about the country".
Claiming The Chinese Wednesday, June 25, 2008 I returned a phone call to my buddy on the way home yesterday while I was in the car. We chit chatted a bit. “Dude,” I said, “I thought you were at the office late because you were working. Is that a TV I hear?” “I’m just watching the news. I’ve gotta wait on my IT guy to get finished. Oh – I know what it was I called you about. There was this Chinese guy on TV a little while ago, complaining about the price of gas. He said ‘it’s the Americans who are keeping the price so high, driving all those big cars and trucks all the time.” “What sense does that make? There are more Chinese than there are Americans. China is about to become the biggest consumer market in the world.” “That’s what I was getting to – this guy was at a gas station, standing beside his Mercedes S550, watching a guy fill his tank. And he says we’ve got big cars? He had on some expensive shades, some nice khakis – you know, like the guys in our neighborhood wear. The way he was standing, his body language and all, he could have been one of my damn neighbors.” “Sounds like that Indian chick I had a class with in college. You know the one I’m talking about, she was kind of skinny, with a bob hairstyle. She always wore a Polo shirt with the collar turned up. Khaki shorts and K-Swiss sneakers with white socks. You never caught her in anything else. She wouldn’t even give me the time of day.” “There you go again. Every woman wasn’t trying to check you out-“ “No, no, she was too skinny for me. But we had at least one class together. I saw her every day. What
Claiming The Chinese
I couldn’t figure out was how an Indian as brown as her could will herself to be white. I mean, she was dark as hell. Came back from spring break looking like Vijay Singh. But the way she walked, the sorority she was in - she would hide behind those damn aviator shades and act like she fit right in with the white girls.” “I know what you mean. This Chinese guy, looking at him – something was wrong with that picture, man. The world…the world is turning upside down.” “Not really. Think about all the other people who came here as a minority and became white later. Look at the Irish.” “Yeah. You’re right. The Italians did it too. My partner, he’s Italian. His father is almost as dark as me if he gets some sun. I guess they all got in here and hurried to marry somebody paler than them.” I thought of the irony of our conversation – my buddy’s own West Indian heritage has produced features that are vaguely Indian, and his wife is most definitely paler than him. “The Asians are trying to do the same thing now.” “What do you mean, trying? They’re already doing it,” my buddy said. “I mean, if I was in charge of being white, I’d claim the Chinese. The white man’s numbers are getting low, now that all the other imports want to revert back to their original tribes.” “You sound like Dave Chappelle with that “Racial Draft” skit he did on his show. I think the South Africans have beat the U.S. to the punch - they've decided that the Chinese are black.” I had to laugh at myself as I shared this tidbit that I'd picked up from internet earlier, a racial mind bender I'd come across in the middle of my lunch break. “I’m serious. You watch, the Chinese are going to be the newest addition to the white race. I mean, look at the numbers – it’ll keep them in the majority forever.” “This election is going to have us looking at race in a whole new way in this country.” I laughed again as I hung up, but the uneasy sentiments behind our crude commentary showed that the concerns about the uncertainty of change were as real for blacks as they were for whites. The press is already splitting Barack Obama in two - dissecting his background, questioning his allegiance he has to black Americans, spinning theories about what it means to be a black man with a white mother - basically, they are inventing psychological dilemmas for Obama he has already come to terms with long ago. Whether America wants to deal with it or not, the illusory tenets of whiteness have shaped the policies and practices of our nation for just about all our existence. Even now, as the nation gingerly experiments with the idea of a large scale diversification of our viewpoints, it is discovering that a lot of the minority views are in opposition to the version of living the mainstream of America tends to follow. This reluctance, even among those who consider themselves to be open-minded and fair, to accept
Claiming The Chinese
Barack Obama’s candidacy as a fully legitimate outcome of “all men are created equal”, is in a lot of ways a signal of the unease many of our neighbors and coworkers and friends are feeling right now, an unease that is caused by the specter of self-examination. It is not black America, though, that will be under the microscope this fall – it is the limitations and failings of white America that will be called into question as the country examines what this candidacy really makes us see in ourselves.
Barack Obama: The Hunchback of Cyberspace Tuesday, July 1, 2008 Barack Obama has appeared in Unity, New Hampshire with primary opponent Hillary Clinton to put the campaign trail rhetoric behind them. He has given a speech about his personal brand of patriotism in Independence, Missouri to reassure voters that he "believes in America". I guess his next stop will have to be Compromise, Mississippi, where he will engage in an online town hall meeting to quell the internet firestorm that has erupted over his support for the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA). All of a sudden, it seems, Barack Obama has become the cyberspace version of Quasimodo, the Hunchback of Notre Dame because he has changed his mind on how he intends to vote on this bill. The truth is, the number of laws that already weaken the protections of the Constitution are too numerous to count, and our legislators are piling even more on as we speak. If you believe Obama is anything but a consummate politician, you aren't as smart as you think you are. Personally, I’m tired of these one note FISA whiners, these mocka chocka frappacino sippers who probably waste their spare time measuring carbon footprints when they could be brainstorming how to get back the rights they've already given up long ago. If the government already has the NSA, the CIA, and an unknown number of black bag organizations wreaking havoc out there in cyberspace, why are so many people with good sense wasting their breath and their brainpower on this Mickey Mouse bill that doesn't really control anything? We have been watched and listened to for decades, and it will continue, no matter what laws get put on the books, because the people in charge are scared of what we might do when nobody is looking. That's probably what's gotten me riled up the most about these internet protesters who wanted to put Obama’s vote on the hot seat this week. What I am reading is ludicrous - there is no way Obama is going to take his middle of the road self and make a John Wayne stand against anybody. He hasn't operated that way his whole life. He is a finesse player, taking the advantage when he can get it, laying off when he can't. I really think this is a cover for many of my paler internet brethren who were looking for a reason to
Barack Obama: The Hunchback Of Cyberspace
turn tail, much like the rednecks in West Virginia, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Kentucky who hid their displeasure with the hue of Obama’s skin behind their dislike of his lack of “patriotism”. The specifics of what these netziens are saying is immaterial to me - it is the "I am righter than you, I am smarter than you, I am morally superior to you" vibe that gets me hot, because I've seen this before. It immediately brings to mind the Christianity zealots whose religious piety is so sacred it doesn't allow them to fraternize with the very people they profess to be called to help. The last black guy who successfully acted like a saint on the national stage was Sidney Poitier. Maybe Obama could get Poitier to come on tour with him. Maybe he could get Morgan Freeman too, for the people who aren't familiar with Poitier's work. Hell, Will Smith can get some of this too - he ain't rapping no more. All I know is, a campaign platform isn't built with one plank. A party doesn't campaign behind one issue. And if we want to get right down to it, America nor its citizens can make no claim on any kind of ideological purity - we have been a nation of opportunists since our inception. I wish all of the Obama supporters who are willing to fall on their sword if any of their ideals are blemished could serve for just one session in Congress or the Senate. The amount of horse trading that has to go on to get ANYTHING to move forward would probably blow their minds - and that's between representatives in the same party! Ghandi would have been unelectable. Jesus would have been last in the field, if he could quit giving away his belongings long enough to accumulate the qualifying fees. Mother Teresa would have so few sound bites you would forget she was running. If you believed Obama was anything but a consummate politician, you aren't as smart as you think you are. Personally, I won't be asking Obama to fall on his sword over this. Actually, the more I think about it, the more I wonder if this is the first of many Trojan Horses that will deployed via the internet - unnamed, unknown agents, scattering under the cover of electronic darkness to infiltrate pockets of known Obama sympathizers, with the intent of turning Obama supporters against their candidate by fomenting outrage, by suggesting that something drastic be done, much the way some of our Hollywood actors and actresses pledge to leave the country every four years "if you elect __________ for president."
Descended In Blood And In Spirit Thursday, July 3, 2008 America works for me. It might not be the country I want it to be, but it’s the one I've got. It’s going to have the same warts whoever gets elected this fall. Sanctimony is out of style and humility just went on sale in the part of America I live in. I have not served in the military. I do not own a flag. And I’m not sure I know all the words to the Pledge of Allegiance. There are some days, when I am upset or angry, when the things I say about this country I live in make the incendiary sound bites of Rev Jeremiah Wright sound like love notes. Me and the people who look like me are here because America was is addicted to cheap labor (see "Mexican immigrants, who you want to be deported, but ONLY after they finish building your homes, cleaning your homes, cutting your grass and washing your cars), but we've made a way out of no way, rising all the way to Most Favored Minority status after hundreds of years of oppression. If you add up all the other things like these that I have been known to complain about, you might come to the conclusion that I am unpatriotic. You would be wrong. I LOVE America - not the poster of Uncle Sam, or the image of the White House beamed around the world daily, but the people who live here. The government is NOT America. "We the people" - remember those words? The preamble to our one and only Constitution? "We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union..." is a declarative opening that states precisely what took place at the inception of our nation. The power that those colonists gave to its governing body is the same power you give your government today. As a country, as a people who can unite for common causes, we have done some great things for ourselves and for the world. There's nothing wrong with celebrating our accomplishments. An endless loop of patriotic sounding jingles and incessant flag waving, though, is not necessary. Feigning naivete when we know damn well what levels of depravity and greed flourish in our American government, even as these revelations are unearthed, is unconscionable and juvenile. We have to fight the fight now, because its not over, not by a long shot. I can't spend all my time worrying about legacies, or historical images. To get from here to there in anything, I 've got to spend as much of my energy as I possibly can dealing with the unknown and unseeable future as it happens. "Here in America we are descended in blood and in spirit from revolutionists and rebels -- men and women who dare to DISSENT from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, may we never confuse honest DISSENT with disloyal subversion." Dwight D. Eisenhower
Descended In Blood And Spirit
"You cannot become thorough Americans if you think of yourselves in groups. America does not consist of groups. A man who thinks of himself as belonging to a particular national group in America has not yet become an American." Woodrow T. Wilson "How soon we forget history... Government is not reason. Government is not eloquence. It is force. And, like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master." George Washington My inner curmudgeon will be on break this weekend. Whether you sit around a grill tomorrow, or gather at the beach, or celebrate urban style by taking it to the streets, remember, as you relish the food and the drink and the camraderie of your friends and family while enjoying this celebration, that we are all descended in blood and in spirit from those whose blood, sweat (that was our part) and tears earned us the freedoms and the liberties we cherish as Americans today.
Where Is A Flag Pin When You Need One? Friday, July 04, 2008 Salem Poor * Oliver Cromwell * Lemuel Haynes * Primas Black * Prince Whipple * Charles Davis * Joshua Dunbar * Samuel Dunbar * Prince Easterbrooks * James Forten * Doss Freeman * Tobias Gilmore * Peter Galloway * Primas Hall * Job Hathaway * Ebenezer Hill * Thomas Hollen * Peter Jennings * Abrose Lewis * Titus Minor * Jerimiah Moho * Pomp Peters * Cato Prince * Esek Roberts * Caesar Sankee * Prince Vaughn * Sipeo Watson * Cuff Whitemore * Jesse Wood These are the names of a few of the African American men who served as soldiers in the Revolutionary War. I was trolling around the web, looking for a flag to post on July 4th, until I remembered that "I didn't own a flag", as I stated in yesterday's post. Putting one up on this blog, it seemed, would go against everything I said yesterday. So I spent a little time on Google and started learning a lot. 5,000 black men served in the Continental
Where Is A Flag Pin When You Need One?
Army. 12,000 Blacks served with the British from 1775 to 1783. Since we have a hard time today counting everybody, even with all the technology we've got, if I were you I'd consider these educated guess from culling the records that still survive. In any case, there were significant numbers of black people, from the beginning, who were willing to enlist in the what was essentially a start-up. “African Americans - free, slave, and ex-slave - fought side by side with white colonists seeking independence from British domination. GEORGE WASHINGTON, as Commander of the Continental Army, forbade the enlistment of Blacks - free, slave, or ex-slave - during the early stages of the war. He later learned that the Royal Governor of Virginia, John Murray, Earl of Dunmore, was enlisting slaves and indentured servants into the British army with the promise of "freedom to all slaves who would join the King's army." Dunmore's tactic of lifting the ban on Blacks enlisting in the British army led George Washington to change his mind, and, therefore, Blacks later joined the CONTINENTAL ARMED FORCES.” [Excerpted from African American Patriots of the Revolutionary War] 100,000 African Americans either perished or disappeared during the American Revolution. The ones who were left essentially got the okie doke - "okay, boys, y'all put up a good fight. But y'all need to get on back to them fields, ya hear?" And now, 225 years after the Revolutionary War ended, we have come full circle. We have a man running for the presidency of these United States whose parentage is similar to the original blend between colonial era whites and blacks that produced so many of the soldiers who fought in our inaugural war: divers freeborne English women forgettfull of their free Condicon and to the disgrace of our Nation doe intermarry with Negro Slaves [Archives of Maryland, 1:533-34]. Can you get more American than that? Where is a flag pin when you need one?
"Mike Check, One Two One Two" Friday, July 11, 2008 My buddy called me Tuesday night. "Hey man-" I cut him off. "You calling me about that damn Jessie Jackson, ain't you?" "Did you see this negro?" Naw, but I've been reading about it on the internet. Just when you think this election can't get any crazier-" "So you didn't see it?" my buddy asked me, sounding as if he was unable to comprehend why my eyes weren't glued to my TV. "No." "You've GOT to see his face." "Didn't I tell you this was going to get wild?" "I don't think we we've really seen crazy yet. Dude, these are BLACK FOLKS doing this! Can you imagine what'll happen once the white folks chime in?" "Yeah," I said, "it's going to be a long year."
Training The Boss Saturday, July 12, 2008 The sausage making has now begun in earnest, and some of us, it seems, cannot believe what we see going into the casing as Mr. Obama gets down to the cold, hard business of playing politics back in the Senate. This is a very vocal contingent, and one that has lately been spending an inordinate amount of time on the internet bashing Obama for his . The Wall Street Journal article Thursday about the downturn in recent Obama's internet fundraising efforts has been particularly satisfying for these "netroots", and has emboldened some of them to make the far-reaching claim that it is the lack of support from their contingent that has caused the slowdown in donations. The phrase that gets my blood boiling the most - "training him like a puppy" - is one I see a lot on
Training The Boss
Daily Kos, which is probably the largest progressive site on the web. The top dog over there, founder Markos Moulitsas Zúniga, made a huge to-do a couple of weeks ago when he took center stage to announce that he was withholding his donation of $2300 from the Obama campaign because of his new stance on the FISA bill. Since when did we send our presidential candidates to obedience school? Did anyone try to "train" Kerry, or Gore, or Clinton when they had to make hard political decisions? Why does THIS candidate need to be "swatted for messing on the carpet"? And if Obama gets to the White House, what are they going to do then when he does something they don't like? Withhold their income taxes? These people have been watching too many of those movies with a in them - you know, the ones where we handily dispense wisdom with a smile until the leading man or woman defies all logic and takes a heroic stand. That shit works in the movies, but in real life here in America there are two truths that are self-evident. You will not elect a black man to the presidency of these United States without truck loads of campaign money. Truckloads of money will be needed to give this brownskinned presidential candidate anything close to parity, even against a candidate as weak as McCain. These truckloads of money need to be delivered today and tomorrow and next week - not at the last minute in October to waste on TV ads that don't work. Obama is going to have to "put a body on a body" - his street teams will be dragging people from wherever they can find them for the next 90 days to get them registered, because if we were to vote today he would probably come up short. You will not get a pure idealist elected president in a country of 300 million people. I have no official statistics on this crew of "netroots", or progressives, as they call themselves, but I am certain they are mostly self righteous members of the white middle class. You know the ones I'm talking about. McCain's aide Phil Gramm had it wrong about the "imaginary recession" we think we're in, but he had it right when he called us a nation of whiners – this bunch fits the bill to a “T”. When they aren’t bitching and moaning about Obama, they are complaining about their kids, or their job, or the lollipop their mother made them share with their sister in the third grade – there is nothing in the lives of these self centered, self appointed PC police but the indignities they are forced to suffer through for yet another day. Some of the quotes I've seen at the DailyKos, like these below: "My wife and I were literally "weeping for joy" as we donated money for CHANGE... but we are not donating a dime for "CENTERISM"."
Training The Boss
"Obama is still somewhat of an unknown, even to us, and when he suddenly looks like some weird kind of Republican, votes and dollars will dry up somewhat." "The sheen, is definitely off. The FISA Flip-flop and a move to the center. He did it to himself." sound like preteens whining when the parents promise something and forget to do it. "But mommy, you PROMISED!" Obama is not going to kiss your ass every time you get a boo boo. Being inclusive doesn't have anything to do with being servile - it just means that your opinion will be heard and considered. I've been the only black guy in the room enough times to know what happens when I show up somewhere I'm not expected. ESPECIALLY when I seem to be in a position of influence. So if you are having second thoughts about Barack Hussein Obama being the standard bearer for your party, quit beating around the bush with these smoke screen issues and just say what's really on your mind.
Hit The "SEND" Button One More Time Monday, July 14, 2008 I've been a reader of The New Yorker magazine since I was twelve years old. The town I grew up in was too small to have a bookstore, but it had a newsstand that was pretty cosmopolitan for South Carolina, with magazines like Utne Reader and Mother Jones and alternative weeklies like The Village Voice. The New Yorker, as I came to find out over the years, was a legend unto itself, the brainchild of Harold Ross, country boy made good. In later years, the magazine's fabled zeal for accuracy and fact checking of the articles it published took on a life of its own, and was the impetus for the best selling book Bright Lights, Big City by Jay McInerney, which is one of my personal favorites. William Shawn was its venerated editor for decades - a steward of the old school, he was opposed to anything more than a modest use of profanity, even in the fiction selections. His succesor, Bob Gottlieb, didn't last very long. Tina Brown showed up in 1992, fresh from the helm of Vanity Fair, determined to "take the boring tone" out of the magazine. She succeeded.
Hit The “SEND” Button One More Time
This week's cover depicting Barack and Michelle Obama as radical Muslim terrorists hits me pretty hard. I learned so much about the world outside of South Carolina from the well written, well researched articles in this magazine. I haven't had a subscription in years, but I occasionally buy a copy, if it has more than one article I want read, and I always pick up the fiction issue. The July 21st issue, on sale today, contains an indepth article about Obama's rise in Chicago politics, with interviews of several of his closest advisors during his State Senate and his U.S. Senate campaigns. But you wouldn't know that by looking at the picture. It's all there - the fist bump, the muslim headdress, the jacket, the militant Angela Davis afro, an American flag burning in the fireplace, with an assualt rifle and a picture of Osama Bin Laden thrown in to round things out. This looks more like something dreamed up by PUMA (Party Unity My Ass), a modern day version of the White Citizens Councils that popped up after the Brown vs. The Board of Education decision, or one of the hundreds of niche websites dedicated to hating and eradicating Obama. Is the possibility of having a black president THAT terrible? I think the rank and file of America and the middle management of America are okay - they've been working and living with blacks, Indians and Asians for years. The upper class and the rich are the only ones who continue to inhabit settings devoid of any minorities. If you know anything at all about magazine publishing, you understand how important the cover is. It drives newsstand and grocery store sales, and provides media buzz to help win over new subscribers. So this idea had to pass muster not only with the art director, but the magazine's editor, who is in many ways a proxy for the publisher. I don't know anything about David Remick, the current editor, but will be one of many, many emailers who will tell him that he has let his magazine sink to an alltime low. I hope Tom Joyner is rallying his listeners. I hope you take the time to send an email, even if it is nothing more than a picture of Obama, to Mr. Remick. I hope those of you who frequent this internet hit the "SEND" button on our computers until your fingers get blisters. The man on the street is not the enemy. It is the man who wants to control what you see on TV and what you read in the paper, the man who lives in the executive suite, the board room, or the cabin of the private jets crisscrossing the skies. Here's the email address.
Go ahead, hit that "SEND" button one more time.
18 Million Cracks Votes Dollars Tuesday, July 15, 2008 Barack Obama has been taking heat from all sides the last two weeks. His supporters (see Jessie Jackson) are stabbing him in the back. His friends (see Bernie Mac) are putting him on the hot seat with locker room humor. His donors (see Average Americans) have cut back on their donations so they can go to the beach. And in the midst of all this turmoil, Hillary Clinton and her supporters have emerged, bright eyed and bushy tailed, ready to stick it to Obama for not doing more than he has so far to help retire her campaign debt. The quote by one of her supporters Obama solicited recently was gutsy – "I’m waiting to see what you’re going to do about Hillary’s debt. And I’m watching to see what you’re going to do for her before I donate." The DNC is broke, the staffs of both campaigns are gasping for air after a marathon slugfest, the Republicans are on track to raise 95 million bucks this month for John McCain, and you are holding your support for your party’s standard bearer over his head because he isn’t working hard enough to pay off the debt of his primary opponent? You’ve got to be kidding me. As I scrolled through some of the hundreds of websites committed to derailing the Obama nomination in Denver, seeing the constant refrain – “she’s got 18 million reasons to take this to the convention” – a thought hit me like a freight train. Why not ask these “eighteen million cracks in the glass ceiling” to retire her debt, if they are so dedicated to the idea of resurrecting her candidacy? I didn’t even need to whip out my calculator to do the math. Eighteen million supporters could send her ONE DOLLAR apiece. Okay, maybe that’s not realistic, seeing that gas is over $4.00 a gallon, and a good number of these people are headed to the beach. So let’s say…hmmm…let’s say nine million supporters send her TWO DOLLARS a piece. I don’t know, though – a fair number of this nine million might need to put that money on a PowerBall ticket. And let’s face it – now that the primaries are over, and we don’t have Hillary chanting “w-w-w Hillary Clinton dot com” at the opening of her speeches, some of these supporters may have lost interest, or have forgotten how to get to the website. So let’s knock this down to a number that is more representative of her hard core constituency. One million supporters could send her EIGHTEEN DOLLARS a piece. Am I making any sense here? Is this a trick question we need to ask on "Are You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader?"
18 Million Cracks Votes Dollars
If you apply the 80/20 rule, and forget about all the bitter, disgruntled malcontents who are usually loathe to put their money where their mouth is, you’ve still got two hundred thousand supporters – couldn’t they skip a few quadruple expresso shots, now that there isn’t a Starbucks on every corner any more, and pony up ONE HUNDRED DOLLARS a piece? If you take Hillary’s personal IOU off the table, you could drop this to FIFTY FIVE DOLLARS a piece. Just thinking out loud here.
Obama Beats The Street Thursday, July 17, 2008 "Statistics are people with the tears washed away." Sociologist Ruth Sidel On Wall Street, short sellers move in for the kill whenever they sense weakness in a company's financials (see Indy Mac, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac), pounding its stock relentlessly until better numbers are released. Barack Obama found himself in a similar situation this month when a Wall Street Journal article reported that his campaign would only take in "likely just over 30 million". News pundits went into overdrive, spinning all sorts of theories as to why the Obama fundraising machine seemed to be sputtering, attributing the slowdown to everything from the recent dust up with Democratic progressives over FISA to the reluctance of Hillary Clinton supporters to get behind Obama. Had Obama made a fatal error by shunning lobbyist and PAC contributions? many wondered out loud. Well the numbers are in, and it looks like Axelrod and Plouffe have continued to play a masterful game of managing expectations, much like CFO's do in the corporate world in order to keep the stock analysts who follow their companies bullish about their future prospects. Wells Fargo beat the street's estimate yesterday, sparking a market rally that erased some of the losses sustained over the last couple of weeks. With 52 million dollars in donations reported today for June, the Obama Campaign has beat the Wall Street Journal's expectations. Can a rally in support of him be far behind?
Obama Is My Slave Friday, July 18, 2008 An Israeli-born t-shirt “designer” named Apollo Braun is being sued by a woman who bought a shirt of his that reads “OBAMA IS MY SLAVE.” Nathanaeli Nassimi, a 25 year old Manhattan graduate student, was assaulted Tuesday night when a group of four teenage girls saw her wearing the shirt and took offense. According to Metro, the girls cursed at her, pushed her, then followed her around Union Square as one of the girls pulled the earphones out of her ears and another spit in her face. Now the woman is suing the designer, not the four teens (!), for in his words, “all he’s got.” Braun, real name Doron Braunshtein, claims that what allegedly happened to this woman is not his fault, and that the offensive design doesn’t reflects his views but “those of ordinary WASPs.” He says, “For a lot of people, when they see Obama, they see a slave. People think America is not ready for a black president.” The lawsuit is a nonstarter as Braun is protected under the First Amendment. But this is not the first outrageous t-shirt Braun, who “can’t stand Obama,” has designed. Other shirts of his include phrases like: “Jews Against Obama,” “Obama = Hitler” and “Who Killed Obama?” The “Who Killed Obama?” shirt is reported to have sold over 1,200 pieces. Why does Braun loathe the presumptive Democratic nominee so? He says Obama “reminds me of Adolf Hitler,” and despises the fact that “he is a Muslim.” July, 2008 Metro New York website The circus-like atmosphere that is starting to develop in response to the Obama candidacy reminds me of the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Maybe it's because Braunshtein brings back memories of another waif-like, blond haired young man - Brian "Kato" Kaelin - who figured prominently in the trial, despite the minor importance of his testimony. Opportunists both black and white are starting to come out of the woodwork, demanding their fifteen minutes of fame while Obama gathers steam for his historic presidential bid. Couple the protection the First Amendment affords Americans with a need to be the center of attention from the media, and we are almost guaranteed to see something like this every week between now and November. The drumbeat on the airwaves by the talking heads every night keeps the tempo of this tune - is he a
Obama Is My Slave
Muslim, does he recite the Pledge of Allegiance, is he a radical Marxist, is his birth certificate real, did he deal drugs - while individuals like Braunshtein step up for their solos. Who is listening to these twisted lyrics? Ten percent of America admits openly that they believe at least some of these allegations, and many more seem to be sympathetic to the sentiments of Braunshtein and others, who have turned the demonization of Obama into a revenue stream.
Obama: Speech Creator-In-Chief Friday, July 25, 2008 “We are governed by words, the laws are graven in words, and literature is the sole means of keeping these words living and accurate.” Ezra Pound Barack Obama is the chief speechwriter in his campaign. It may seem to be a small thing, but it is his ability to tailor the cadence and tinker with the individual word choices that allows his rhetoric to work so well with his unorthodox style of delivery. For the most part, his speeches are simply constructed around the same story he has been telling since the Democratic convention in 2004 - which is his own life story, expanded or contracted to frame the issue of the day, combined with the onward and upward supplication of “this is the moment, this is the time”. In yesterday’s speech in Berlin, he artfully used the words he traditionally has employed to illustrate himself and his journey – “imperfect”, “improbable”, “mistakes” – to describe America itself. Obama’s head speechwriter, a 26-year-old who used to write for Kerry, says his job is like “being Ted Williams’s batting coach.” The campaign says Obama would write all his own speeches if he had the time. I can see him, like he's pictured above, reading through draft after draft, pen in hand, striking unwieldy phrases, reducing complex transitions to simple images, much like did at the Harvard Law Review and later with his own two books. His precise use of language is deceptive. The occasional academic term that pops out usually means
Obama: Speech Creator-In-Chief
there is no other word that will do. Obama seems to have become more comfortable, as this year has progressed, with exploiting the power of alliteration and repetition to create a crescendo effect, much like a drum roll, that he sprinkles throughout the body of his speeches to keep the audience involved. Excerpted from Raise High The Rafters by Sam Anderson: A major reason that Obama’s rhetoric seems to soar so high is that our expectations have sunk so low. In a new book, The Anti-Intellectual Presidency, Elvin T. Lim subjects all the words ever publicly intoned by American presidents to a thorough statistical analysis—and he finds, unsurprisingly, an alarmingly steady decline. A century ago, Lim writes, presidential speeches were pitched at a college reading level; today, they’re down to eighth grade, and if the trend continues, next century’s State of the Union addresses will be conducted at the level of “a comic strip or a fifth-grade textbook.” (“Iran’s crawling with bad guys: BAP!”) Since 1913, the length of the average presidential sentence has fallen from 35 words to 22. Between Nixon and the second Bush, the average presidential sound bite shrank from 42 seconds to 7. Today’s State of the Unions inspire roughly 30 seconds of applause for every 60 seconds of speech.
Obama and Ludacris: Apples to Apples? Wednesday, July 30, 2008 Do all black people have to stand at attention, smiling and clean shaven, our black suits crisply pressed, our bowties level, as if we are the Nation of Islam? Nope, can’t do that – an army of silent, well organized, well trained black people mobilizing voters throughout the country might be the wrong image to have on the airwaves this fall. Might look too… too…militant. All sarcasm aside, I will be the first to say black people in general need to step up their game to get what we want out of America. But if we don't, are we guilty of being race traitors? Of letting our people down? Of letting...gasp...Barack Obama down? If Obama is going to have to apologize for everything an individual black American says or does that
Obama and Ludacris: Apples to Apples?
is unacceptable to mainstream America, then he needs to quit while he's ahead. Black Americans are not the nation's Model Minority (see Asian immigrants). We are America's Most Favored Minority, but 99 percent of us couldn't get elected president if you spotted us 250 electoral votes, the same way 99 percent of white Americans have no chance of appealing to a large enough number of voters to be elected. Ludacris, an Atlanta based rapper, has a new song out that contains a line that has ruffled the feathers of our ever-vigilant news pundits. "Hillary hated on you, so that bitch is irrelevant" is the line that has garnered so much attention from the otherwise innocuous rap song by Ludacris titled "Politics". The "Hillary" in question is of course none other than Hillary Clinton, ex-presidential candidate. This is the same Hillary Clinton who was the subject of a Saturday Night Live skit by comedienne Tina Fey earlier this year that poked fun at Hillary's image as a tough as nails competitor. In her skit, Fey said it point blank -"Hillary is a bitch" - but asserted that "I'm one too", and that "bitch was the new black". The ever vigilant, pursed lip, pained eye fraternity, their pale faces staring out from our TV's, jumped right on the lyrics of the Ludacris song last night. They will intone with great seriousness over and over during the next few days why Obama's associations are problematic and why the music he has on his iPod should be vetted, as if it contains one of those songs that says "Obama is the Anti-Christ" when it is played backwards. These are the same pundits who have proclaimed that we are entering a "post-racial" society with the advent of Obama's candidacy, but the way they have responded to what should be a trivial non-event signals they don't really believe what they are saying. Ludacris has never held himself out to be anything other than a young brother looking to have some fun and make some money. He made his name in Atlanta, first as a radio jock, then as a local rap act who sold tapes out of his trunk. The people who are buying what he's selling, who are mostly young and are mostly white, know what they are getting. McCain's campaign was half right - we do need to compare apples to apples when it comes to understanding who Obama really is. Instead of comparing Obama to Paris Hilton, or Brittany Spears, or even Ludacris, why not compare him to other "apples" like himself - people like Ken Chenault of American Express, or Dick Parsons, formerly of Time Warner, or John Thompson, currently at Symantec - chief executive officers of some of America's largest companies, companies that have prospered under the competent leadership of the African American men at their helm.
Obama, America, and Race Friday, August 01, 2008 There are times when I wish Barack Obama could take off his white hat and put a black one on for a while, the way Bruce Wayne does when he becomes Batman, The Dark Knight. Then he could make his enemies the villains. Kick a little ass and take a few names. Or, if he was so inclined, he could take a walk on the wild side, and get to do what the villains do. There's nothing like wishful thinking, but it doesn't win presidential campaigns - so I don't expect to see Obama traipsing around in a cape and a mask in the middle of the night. I don't know why the McCain campaign even waited - they should have cut the pretense and hauled out the tried but true "race card" strategy from the beginning. It could have saved them a lot of cash they would have had free campaign advertising every night for the last six weeks. Between this and the pundits like Sean Hannity, who have an innate ability to work O.J. Simpson's name into any discussion of Obama, I will expect to see everybody from Mike Tyson to Mike Vick paraded across TV screens in the coming weeks. Race is still the biggest problem America has, so it’s no surprise that we end up talking about it a lot. But it is hard to talk about abstract ideas when I am actually living them, and harder still to say those unpopular but true things that need to be said to accomplish anything worthwhile. And it doesn’t help that the few thousand people in New York and LA who control and produce practically all of the media imagery we see, who as a group are more mentally (and racially) homogenized than the last gallon of milk you bought, have absolutely no qualms in meeting mainstream America's need to be titillated, shocked, or riveted by a constant parade of reverends, rappers, and reluctant campaigners. The few black columnists and pundits out there often spout half baked theories, honing them in front of other learned blacks and professional brown nosers (pun intended), until they have convinced themselves that they have unearthed a gospel truth explaining the actions of the black masses. From what I can see, Obama is doing exactly what all of us who were smart but wanted to be "in" did - never let them see you sweat. We all downplayed how hard things were, how much effort it took, how little sleep you'd had. To assume, because Obama doesn't constantly use racially tinged rhetoric, that he can somehow "escape" how he looks, and how Americans are prone to feel about someone who looks like him, is one of the most ridiculous propositions our friends in TV land have debated for the last few months. So far, Obama's been able to turn the good fortune smiling upon him into opportunity because he seems to be a guy who has always done his homework beforehand. But despite all of his campaign's careful planning and preparation, he will have to struggle with the racial consciousness of those Americans who used to blindly vote for the Democrat on the ticket all the way to the ballot box. Senator McCain's campaign will make sure of it.
How Many Licks Does It Take To Get to the Center of Barack Obama? Saturday, August 02, 2008 "Mr. Turtle, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?" was the opening line of a Tootsie Pop commercial back in the seventies. Mr. Turtle answered the cartoon boy. "I never made it without biting. Ask Mr. Owl." The boy approached a scholarly looking cartoon version of an owl, its great unblinking eyes staring at us from our television screens, and repeated his question. "Mr. Owl, how many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop." Mr. Owl said "let's find out" and proceeded to unwrap the hard shelled bit of flavored candy on a stick with a chewy Tootsie Roll center. The owl's tongue extended slowly from its mouth to take deliberate licks of the candy, pausing after each lick to update the count. "Ah one...ah two...THREE." After the third lick, the beak of the owl suddenly opened, and the bird crunched the entire ball of candy from the end of the stick. "Three," he declared to the boy, his feathers unruffled, his unblinking eyes staring out into TV land.
Maybe this popped into my head tonight because the center of the Tootsie Pop was brown, like Barack Obama. Or maybe this popped into my head because in throwing down the race card gauntlet, it seemed that Senator McCain, like the owl in the commercial, couldn't wait to attack the soft spot in the Obama campaign. Brown skin is at the center of this latest debate - a light brown, to be exact, but brown nonetheless. And if we don't know anything else in America, we know our signals. Green means go. Red means stop. Yellow means proceed with caution. And brown? It means "welfare". It means "baby daddy". It means "affirmative action". It means "drug addict".
How Many Licks Does It Take To Get to the Center of Barack Obama?
It means "known felon". It means "crack head". This imagery is so pervasive that Courtland Malloy, a black op-ed writer who often challenges mainstream assumptions about blacks, admitted in his column yesterday that when he saw an African American youth in the woods behind his house one day last week, he immediately jumped to the conclusion that the young man was up to no good. Dressed in a county uniform, the young black man was employed by his local government as a mosquito control technician. All of the record breaking fundraising, all of the surgically precise campaign strategies, all of the stirring speeches, all of the voter registrations - all of this can be negated in a few weeks if Americans, both black and white, subconsciously connect the dots the way the Republican strategists want. Over eighty years ago, James Weldon Johnson said, "I am sure it would be safe to wager that no group of Southern white men could get together for sixty minutes without bringing up the race question. If the Northern white man happened to be in the group, the time could be safely cut to thirty minutes." He could be describing America today. Talking about race, especially between the races, is uncomfortable. It calls into question an individual's own sense of morality. It forces us to examine closely all those inequities we have learned to rationalize instead of challenge. And nobody knows what the answer is that will get us from where we are now to where we say we want to be. To truly erase the stereotypes and misconceptions that revolve around race in modern society will be as monumental an achievement as it was for those people who thought the earth was flat to finally accept that it was really round.
"White House Is The People's House" Saturday, August 02, 2008 Just when you thought you had the “O-Man” figured out, he did it again – he went back to his bottomless rhetorical well to come up with another gem of a speech while on the campaign trail. Obama has been under a little pressure these last few days from parts of the black community who feel that he hasn’t been forthright about recognizing “black” issues. His whirlwind campaign made a quick pitstop in Orlando Florida today. Addressing the Urban League Conference, Obama dropped
"White House Is The People's House"
several kernels of knowledge: "You know that civil rights and equal treatment under the law are necessary, but not sufficient, to seize America’s promise – as Dr. King once said, 'the inseparable twin of racial justice is economic justice.' You know that you can’t take that seat at the front of the bus if you can’t afford the bus fare. You can’t live in an integrated neighborhood if you can’t afford the house. And it doesn’t mean a whole lot to sit down at that lunch counter if you can’t afford the lunch." Remarkably, given the Urban League’s much noted commitment to African American progress, I counted only three sessions out of the nineteen offered whose titles suggested that they were going to be centered solely around black issues. The vast majority of the workshops were concerned with education, getting ahead in corporate America, investments, the subprime mortgage crisis, and globalization, which are the same issues ALL Americans face in their daily lives. "The problems of our cities aren’t just "urban" problems any more. When rising foreclosures mean vacant homes, abandoned streets and rising crime that spills over city limits – that’s a suburban problem and an exurban problem too. When tens of millions of people in our cities are uninsured, and our urban emergency rooms are overflowing – that’s a suburban and ex-urban problem too. When urban roads, bridges and transit systems are crumbling; when urban schools aren’t giving young people the skills to compete, so companies decide to take their business and their jobs elsewhere – that’s a suburban and ex-urban problem too." Tying the fate of our urban poor to the continued prosperity of America’s suburbanites is a pretty bold stance for a modern politician. Hopefully those of us who have been feeling neglected will realize that this elevation of our urban problems to the same level of importance as our mainstream ones can be enforced by the bully pulpit of the White House if Obama gets elected. "It’s time for policies that reflect the fundamental truth that we rise or fall as one nation. That’s the truth at the heart of your Opportunity Compact – that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street and a struggling Main Street.
"White House Is The People's House"
That when wages are flat, prices are rising, and more and more Americans are mired in debt, our economy as a whole suffers. Our competitiveness as a nation suffers. Our children’s future suffers. So we all have a stake here. That’s why your opportunity agenda is a compact – not a guarantee, not a promise – but a call to responsibility. Because we know that government can’t solve all our problems, and government can’t and shouldn’t do for us what we should be doing for ourselves: raising our kids the right way, being good neighbors and good citizens, becoming leaders in our industries and communities." This new kind of bondage Obama is pushing us towards is the good kind. To expect him to strike a fiery, unapologetic pose the way some members of the Congressional Black Caucus can is unrealistic – Obama’s district includes both the postur-ers and the posture-ees. At the end of the day, the “OMan” shows us that he is “keeping it real”, presidential candidate style.
Does Obama Need To "Man Up"? Tuesday, August 05, 2008 Shaft could never be elected president. And if you go down the list of all the activist firebrands who have championed our causes for decades, there are very, very few who would even come close to fitting the bill. There is a reason why Jackie Robinson integrated baseball, the same reason why Sidney Poitier was the first moneymaking leading black man – because they were “safe” black men with almost superhuman levels of emotional self control. However much we might want to believe that America has learned to accept its diversity, refusing to see what is right before our eyes is foolhardy, to say the least. But a lot of people out here, a lot of black people, in fact, see Obama’s appealing nature, his tendency to turn the other cheek when he is attacked, and his willingness to concede when he is wrong as weaknesses. Does Ken Chenault kick ass and take names at American Express? Hell no. He does what every other chief executive officer does - he works through the proper channels. Which is what Obama will be doing if he gets elected. Let’s face it - the "O-Man" is a professional waffler - from his level of expertise, it looks like he's been wavering between "almost" and "maybe "his whole life. And he can have a tendency to overthink
Does Obama Need To Man Up?
things, as if we are a captive audience like his students used to be. But if you add up all the things that are wrong with him, they still pale in comparison to all that's right. I don't care all that much about his policies, because I know as well as everyone else does that Americans won't go for anything too far from the middle of the road, no matter how good a salesman the president is. What I care about is our young black boys - my vote will be cast for Obama so they can get to see this brown faced man in his ever present blue suit behind that White House podium, or when he is crossing the East Lawn to get into the White House helicopter, or when he is huddled with the rest of the world leaders at a G-8 conference - because the reality is, too many of our young boys get the majority of their info from TV, where Shaq and Kobe and McNabb and T.O. dominate the airwaves. Where rappers posture, swagger, and stick out their chests at unseen enemies. And where you can still see Shaft late at night on the classic movie channels.
What Do We Want? A Five Part Series Saturday, August 09, 2008 I’ve heard a constant refrain lately – at work, on TV, on the internet – from some of my black brethren about Barack Obama: He sacrifices black people to score points with whites and other nonblacks. If he doesn't have anything good to say about black people he shouldn't say anything at all. I was offended by his criticism of black people. What gives him the right to call anybody out about anything? He doesn’t need to “lecture black people” about personal responsibility. He should be mindful of the tone he uses when he speaks to us. He’s just saying what racist white people want to hear.
What Do We Want? A Five Part Series Next week, What Do We Want?, a five part series, will explore some of the issues that underlie this intraracial discord. Why do I think doing a five part series is important? Because there are an estimated EIGHT MILLION voting age African Americans who are not registered to vote. EIGHT MILLION people who have varied reasons why they may not have registered in the past. According to the Obama campaign, there are 56 million unregistered voters nationwide, 32 percent of the total eligible voter ranks. Of that number, eight million are black (which is also 32 percent of eligible African-American voters).
Obama's Racial Ambiguity: A Blessing Or A Curse? Monday, August 11, 2008 Barack Obama’s head peers out of a black and white television screen in an Al Sharpton wig, his face sweating like a Baptist preacher as he shouts rap lyrics into a microphone, his full length white robe bearing the slogan “By Any Means Necessary”, the expectant congregation before him reverently chanting “holla if ya here me”… This is one of the racial boxes that I imagine the staunch group of black holdouts who insist he is "not black enough" want to put Barack Obama in when they see him on the nightly news or the internet – his standard uniform of a plain blue suit and unobtrusive tie, it seems, is just one more piece of evidence that Obama is not really black. Some of us have not full accepted his motives. Amazingly, there are those of us who will go so far as to suggest that Obama has used his embrace of African American culture as a shortcut to success. Some even feel Obama has been foisted upon us by the media and the powers-that-be. For these American blacks, Obama’s "fade to black" development raises serious questions about his ability to relate to the challenges and struggles of everyday black people. What is it that forces us to demand fealty by our leaders to some unknown rulebook of acceptable black behavior? Is the racial ambiguity that a staunch minority of us imagine Barack Obama has used
Obama's Racial Ambiguity: A Blessing Or A Curse?
to his advantage throughout his life problematic for the masses of us who have no such leeway in how we are seen by mainstream America? To really understand the disconnect between Barack Obama and those of us who are supportive of the idea of a black president, but wary of this biracial man’s claim to his African Americanness after being raised by a white mother and white grandparents, we have to take a step back and look at our history here in America. Most black authored racial literature here in America has been about black men and women dealing with and entering a white world -- three classic examples are Frederick Douglass, Narrative and Life and Times, Richard Wright, Native Son, and Ralph Ellison, Invisible Man. Out of these three classic books, Fredrick Douglass, who was the real life protagonist of his autobiography, was the only main character able to successfully navigate life as an adult black male. In his recollection of his life story, Douglass was generous in his descriptions of those who helped him on his way to freedom, whether they were black or white. Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man comes closest to echoing the undercurrents of the Obama phenomenon. Like Obama, Invisible has questioned the who, what, and why of his existence from a young age. There is a point in Invisible’s life, after he arrives in New York City, when he began to transform himself from a college dropout to a productive member of society, where he discovered that the world allowed him more latitude whenever he allowed those around him to see what they wanted to in him. This year’s presidential campaign may be the true ending of the story Ellison wrote, but it was an ending even he couldn’t have imagined back when he wrote his novel. For Invisible, the point at which people stopped seeing him at all was the height of his existence. And though we’ve had other models of self transformation by black men throughout our history, our image has become stylized, both by the media and by our own mythological reconstructions, as Bigger Thomas, the protagonist of Richard Wright’s Native Son – insisting against all evidence to the contrary that we are self hating, self loathing people who harbor latent criminal tendencies we are prone to act upon if we are not properly supervised. Bigger was bigger – bigger than the Chicago ghetto he was from, bigger than the manservant job he had, bigger than the crime he committed. He was all of black humanity, all of the perversities of us as a group distilled into the essence of one fictional character, and even now, in the eyes of some Americans, he still symbolizes our supposed limitations to this very day. We have been striving since slavery to shake off the strictures of bondage and discrimination in order that we might fully inhabit all phases of American life. Barack Obama's autobiography, Dreams From My Father, on the other hand, tells a story that is the exact opposite of our traditional tale of racial transformation – it is the story of a man of amorphous race dealing with and entering the black world. A lot of the racial ambiguity claims about Obama have been manufactured by the overactive minds of professional pundits. And some of it is us, telling each other, "he’s not really black". But the reality of92
Obama's Racial Ambiguity: A Blessing Or A Curse?
Barack Obama’s supposed ambiguity – an ability to traverse the boundaries between white and black worlds – is that he could have tried all he wanted to, but he could never have been anything other than black in America. There is no ambiguity for him – he has always known he was different, ever since his eyes could focus on the image of his mother, ever since those same eyes were able to compare how she looked to how he looked, ever since he has understood what was in the eyes of the people who looked at him as if he was the one that didn’t fit in the picture they had of his family.
Obama and Racial Ambiguity: Acting White Tuesday, August 12, 2008 Barack Obama has been accused by various black leaders and pundits, including Jessie Jackson, of "acting white’. But if Obama has been raised by a white grandmother and white grandparents, is he acting, or are his actions authentic? The perception that Obama has been "acting white" is directly linked the assertion that he is ignoring issues germane to the black community to better cater to the ideals it is presumed that white voters must have in their presidential candidate. To take this premise a step further, then – if Obama is accepted by mainstream America because he doesn’t exhibit any of the traits of the stereotypical African American – those of us who do not use standard English, who do not have conservatively styled hair, who are not highly educated are in effect rendered invisible to white Americans, much like Ralph Ellison’s main character in Invisible Man. Though a staunch few of us continue to lambaste Obama relentlessly for this betrayal, this inability to be true to himself (although we often flip flop on this – one day he’s black enough, the next he’s all white), to be true to his people, most of us have rejoiced in unison as he continued throughout the primary season to attract a significant number of white voters. The undeniable fact about being considered “African American” in this country is the visual difference – it is usually so distinctive, even for guys like Obama, that there is no possibility that he could be mistaken for anything else but an outsider like the rest of us. Are these few, these holdouts content with being outsiders forever? If the things we say we want the most from America – racial equality and equal access to economic opportunity – were here today, would we be ready? Would enough of us be equipped enough, skilled enough, able enough to take advantage of the situation?
Obama and Racial Ambiguity: Acting White
If you take a hard look at the concept of identity, especially as it relates to Americans, you will find that the roles we all play are not as static as they appear. Five hundred years ago there was nothing that existed on this continent that defined a human being in the way we define ourselves now. The who, what, why and how that each of our ethnicities possessed we when got here have been altered dramatically over the centuries. The boundaries that we have chosen to live by, or have been forced to live by, are largely constructs of the mind of man. Undoubtedly, Obama bumped up against some of these constructs as he began maturing from boy to man. One of the more curious features of American life has been the ability of our citizenry to merge common customs of certain ethnicities - in particular, the characteristics of the Irish, the Italians, the Croations, the French, the English, the Germans, the Dutch, the Swedish, the Russians, the Polish, the Czechs, the Hungarians, the Austrians, the Danish, the Finish, the Romanians, the Norwegians, the Ukrainians - into an über whiteness, a self image purer than the reality of those who wear its mantle. This whiteness is as much a property, as much a state of being, as much as it is a trait - within the Big Tent of racial and cultural amalgamation we know as "White America", it is a badge of membership, of belonging, that supersedes individual differences. Blackness is no less a state of being. Today's whiteness, like today's blackness, is the last in a long line of new and improved versions more refined, more efficient, sleeker - but not totally new. The advent of the Obama phenomenon has put on the table of public opinion an important question that many of us African Americans seem to have trouble answering for ourselves. Is the authenticity of what we perceive to be "blackness", or "acting black" diluted or watered down if we cross these artificial boundaries?
Does "No Negro Left Behind" Trump "Yes We Can"? Wednesday, August 13, 2008 While I’ve been waiting for the water hoses and the dogs from the usual suspects, I’ve been hearing a constant refrain – at work, on TV, on the internet – lately from my fellow black brethren about Barack Obama. He doesn’t need to "lecture black people" about personal responsibility.
Does "No Negro Left Behind" Trump "Yes We Can"?
He should be mindful of the tone he uses when he speaks to us. He’s just saying what racist white people want to hear. He sacrifices black people to score points with whites and other nonblacks. I was offended by his criticism of black people. What gives him the right to call anybody out about anything? If he doesn't have anything good to say about black people he shouldn't say anything at all. The boundaries of blackness are hard and fast for a certain segment of the African American community – they cannot possibly be authentically black, they opine, if they don’t remember to eat a plate of neck bones from time to time, or relish the thought of a fresh pot of collard greens simmering in fatback. I myself am routinely admonished by these self proclaimed "authentic" blacks when I confess that I do not like cornbread. There is a stubborn subset of the black community that wants to have their cornbread and eat it too. But if they are honest with themselves, they have to admit that all white skinned people do not enjoy all the attendant privileges of whiteness. Southern rednecks, Appalachian hillbillies, Midwestern hicksthey face a level of ostracism that is almost equal to what some of us encounter because we have our hair braided, or because we wear hip hop clothing, or sport rows of gold capped teeth. We have our own version of "No Child Left Behind" – it’s called "No Negro Left Behind". Among this stubborn subset who insists upon following this doctrine, there are those who are willing to forego mainstream American success in favor of honoring their inalienable right to express themselves through their dress, manner of speech and modes of behavior. Closely related to this group is a less confrontational faction, reluctant participants in conventional America who are committed to the idea of pulling up Uncle Petey and cousin RayRay and sister Ne’Ne’ along with them, but are loathe to advocate any act of transformation – Uncle Petey, RayRay and Ne'Ne' are to be preserved in toto, as if the slightest alteration to their demeanor, dress or decorum would invalidate their African American membership cards. So why do these steadfast people balk at having to change, if the things they are doing now are not working? Self esteem comes from achievement, not someone patting you on the back. Achieving anything worthwhile in this country means you have to connect to the rest of the people in it, whatever they look like. In case we have forgotten our history, white people have had to "act" too to grow beyond their own Italian or Irish or Greek or Spaniard or Eastern European roots - more of them have gone from cabbage to caviar than some of us might be willing to admit. Do we as black people, especially those of us in this stubborn subset, have enough intestinal fortitude
Does "No Negro Left Behind" Trump "Yes We Can"?
to face our own pathologies and see them for what they are without worrying about who is watching while we do it? Is criticism that takes any of us to task for our weaknesses only to be administered by bona fide, certified 100% black leaders? Barack Obama has been lambasted by by black preachers, black community leaders, and a lot of the same black men who believe that Oprah Winfrey is their mortal enemy. My own co-worker, a well educated black man from Alabama, was so incensed at Obama's Father's Day speech, even though he didn't hear or read it in its entirety, that he vowed not only to revoke his support of Obama - he swore he would get some "Vote for McCain" signs and parade them through black neighborhoods "his damn self". Obama could have done a Michael Jordan, and remained silent on EVERY issue that affected black people. Just smile at us once in awhile, you know, and given us that sly little wink like Mike does while we continue to buy his shoes. He could have just keep talking about abstract policies, the same way all the other presidential candidates before have, and left Uncle Petey and cousin RayRay and sister Ne' Ne' alone. If Obama can see the mountaintop, and we can't, I would hope that we could trust him enough to believe that what he’s telling us works. That what we take to be ingrained in our DNA is largely an illusion - if we had been indigenous to Siberian climes, for instance, we would be some brownskinned borscht eaters. One of the things we don’t really focus on in our own history is the fact that the black people who had firehoses aimed at them and police dogs sicced on them for demonstrating against segregation were some of the very same black people who sat at the table with the white foes of integration, once both sides agreed they needed to talk. Are those of you in this stubborn subset ready to sit at the table?
How Much Redress For Past Wrongs Is Enough? Thursday, August 14, 2008 From "Let My People Go" to "We Shall Overcome", there have been various catch phrases over the years that black people have come together around to survive and thrive in this country. And even
How Much Redress For Past Wrongs Is Enough?
now, as we have seemed to come together with the rest of the country to rally around the cry of "Yes We Can", the campaign slogan of presidential candidate Barack Obama, I can't help but feel that this phrase is an evolution of its precursor, "I Am Somebody", Jessie Jackson's rousing exhortation for us to claim the full measure of ourselves that energized the crowds at his rallies and speeches back in the seventies and eighties. Many African Americans have finally gotten the opportunity to participate in the American dream – home ownership, reliable health care, access to education, retirement plans, vacations – but even then, there often remains, just below the surface of our psyches, a sharp sense of anger about the injustices of the past that our forebears and our parents faced. To many of us, slavery was the Subsequent Sin – America’s fall from grace. The physical and psychological horrors of this inhuman institution were so brutal according to the eyewitness accounts of our forebears who lived through it, that even now, a hundred and fifty years after the practice was outlawed, the mere mention of the word "slavery" is enough to bring out our moral suasion SWAT teams in full riot gear. The result of slavery's all encompassing, world class level of subjugation was a brand of racism that has created America’s own Gordian Knot, with the lives of black Americans at its center. The harder mainstream America has tried to pull at the ends of this knot, the tighter it seems to coil around us. There is no possible compensation that can make up for the injustices of being enslaved. Though there will continue to be disagreements about what type of suffering deserves recompense; to what extent, if any, the efforts made by the country to date could be considered an indirect form of reparations; or whether or not any future efforts are even warranted, one thing becomes clear as this debate continues - any attempt at a modern day solution would rearrange the superstructure of America. Many of us have given up on any idea of reparations long ago. If you are in your middle forties, like me, you probably never had them. And as nice as it may be to hear words of apology for the government's role in the promotion and maintenance of slavery, it does little more than dull that sharp sense of anger lurking below the surface. Given all this, there are still some black people who feel "funny" about Barack Obama's African Americanness because they don't believe that he shares their experiences, or that same sharpened sense of anger that they do; that he doesn’t feel deep down any need to continue to desire some sort of retribution from white America. Does this stubborn subset of us resent his lack of a direct connection to the American slave experience? In The Audacity of Hope, Obama essentially declares that white America's will to make substantial efforts to redress the country’s racial gap is not particularly strong. However ambiguous some of us may consider Obama’s background, no one would have any trouble picking him out in a sea of white faces. In fact, Obama has about as much connection to the civil rights struggles of the 50’s and 60’s as I do – that is to say, he has as much connection to the movement as most middle class blacks under forty five.
How Much Redress For Past Wrongs Is Enough?
The pains of segregation and overt discrimination are a largely oral tradition for this group of African Americans – stories told and retold by our parents and relatives, protests seen over and over again on TV, on PBS specials, and protest speeches that are replayed faithfully every January and February to honor the efforts of those who came before us. I have agonized myself over the dreams, talents and skills possessed by my forbears that were not developed because of substandard educations, lack of access to capital, lack of anything approaching what we would consider healthcare, or any access at all to mortgage loans, life insurance policies but a pound of white flesh today will not erase this bondage of yesteryear. A blue eye for a brown eye will not resurrect the lives of those whose bodies were strung from trees. The dead will not rise again. And there is no multivariate calculator I know that can compute an equation for "lost human opportunity" or the ephemeral "crushed spirit". We have beaten the drum for racial reconciliation so long that most of America has not only heard it, they have also learned to trust our rhythm enough to reach out their hands to us. In spite of all that has happened before, the last mile in our efforts to be fully invested in America can only be traversed through a higher level of trust and collaboration with the rest of the country. Even though this fall’s presidential campaign season will feature the first black man to seriously contend for the presidency of the United States, in more ways than one, this election will not be about us. It will really be about a large segment of mainstream America - white Americans - and the psychological implications that will come along with being represented to the world by an African American. There will be more questions in these minds about black Americans than there have been in decades. There will be heated discussions. We will often argue. And in the end, both sides will probably feel that they have compromised too much. But we can’t stay where we are. We don’t need to waste this momentum that is accumulating right before our eyes.
Recarving Our Cultural Totem Pole Friday, August 15, 2008 As much as some of us in black America may want it to happen, there will be no Shaft candidate for president, kicking ass and taking names. The president is an executive. He is usually a seasoned politician, no matter what moniker the press or the peanut gallery hangs around his neck. A black candidate who doesn’t understand his
Recarving Our Cultural Totem Pole
strengths AND his weaknesses in appealing to mainstream America will be pigeonholed and marginalized, not only by the press, but by the professional operatives who help to run his campaign and by the big money donors whose contributions make or break a candidate’s fundraising efforts. The respect we are looking for, the status we desire in this society, the accomplishments and achievements we long to accumulate in the same manner as our paler brethren, can be obtained. But it will not be a Barack Obama presidency that gives us this opportunity. “We are the ones we have been waiting for”, one of the hallmarks of an Obama campaign rally speech, is not just an empty aphorism, it is a literal truth – we black Americans hold a lot of our community's destiny in our own hands. Has our history anchored us so securely to the past that we cannot make any more forward progress? To take that question a step further, how do we rearrange the mythological constructs that shape how we view others? More importantly, how do we get others to do the same when they encounter us? One of the many people I've met on the internet recently, who is a woodcarving enthusiast, had this to say about carving around the occasional knots she finds in the fine hardwoods she works with: "A stubborn knot, metaphorical or real, requires patience -- and a very sharp tool. You work it from all angles (the wood around a knot does not grow in a single direction as the rest of the grain does) slowly, slowly paring it down; you resharpen your tool (knots are very hard -- yeah, literally and metaphorically -- and blunt a fine edge quickly) with care and precision. You go at it again from all angles. Once you've leveled it out, the evidence of the knot is still, always, there: it becomes part of the pattern and beauty that is the wood itself. Imperfections in wood are what make it most fascinating.” Making the changes we need to as a people to more fully participate in the more desirable aspects of American life doesn't mean that our culture will disappear. If we can agree that a culture can be shaped - that it can retain some characteristics and discard others over the passage of time - then I will be pushing mightily to pare away the dogfighting, the crack selling and the baby mama drama that we have been passing off as black American culture lately. These negative images we have raised to the level of cultural signifiers are a type of metaphorical posing, a commitment to "keeping it real" that ignores the literal truths we see before our very own eyes everyday. What I really think we desperately need to get from all of this is a realignment of the "natural order" of things, not just in America, where we are still fooling ourselves when it comes to racial equality, but in black America too. I want to see our own cultural totem pole recarved, with a smart black man in a blue suit at the top. With black men and women who teach our children, who heal our sick and keep our streets safe just below that image. I don’t want to take the rappers and the singers off of the totem pole – just slide them down a few notches from where they are now.
Recarving Our Cultural Totem Pole
Segregation of our bodies didn't work. Neither will segregation of our minds. Integration has allowed blacks and whites to look at each other up close and personal. The question is, can we believe what we see, because what I SEE out here in mainstream America are people who look a little different, but want the same things I want - safety, security, prosperity, and an opportunity to enjoy living on a regular basis. Collaboration has to be the next step. Which means our lives won't look like they do now. The things we will have to give up as black people will not make us less black, the same way the Greeks and the Germans and the Polish and the Irish and the Italians and the Dutch are no less themselves for leaving behind the parts of their cultures that don't fit in this society. And some of us, who will not be able to cope, will find ourselves, like the rednecks and the hillbillies and the long haired radical hippies, relegated to the fringe of our society.
You Don't Have To Drink The Kool-Aid Saturday, August 16, 2008 When I was growing up, we drank a lot of Kool-Aid. My favorite flavor was orange. We put so much sugar in our Kool-Aid that it could have been considered a liquid confection. We went through it by the gallon, especially in the summer months. I took the art of making a good pitcher of Kool-Aid very seriously. I would take two packs of Orange Kool-Aid, one pack of Tropical Punch, and empty them into a small pot of boiling water. I'm not sure if the heat dissolved the Kool-Aid powder better, or whether or not the flavors seemed to blend together better because they had gone through some kind of chemical bonding process when they were heated. Then I added the sugar - two and a half cups - watching the slurry burble while the sugar crystals slid into the steaming water. A sugary, tropical flavored scent filled the kitchen as I stirred. A minute later and I was pouring the contents of the pot into the Kool-Aid pitcher. Then I added tap water, stirred for another fifteen or twenty seconds, and I was done. My mother didn't drink any of this - she thought it was too sweet. She would pour a glass about half full and add some water to dilute it. My father, on the other hand, loved this Kool-Aid as much as me and my brothers did, so I often had to make two batches a day. You might think boiling sugar and prepackaged Kool-Aid mix is overkill, the way some people think the Obama Campaign is going over the top in its all out aerial and ground blitz. But these guys have gotten this far because they have done their homework - I would trust that they have factored in the
You Don’t Have To Drink The Kool-Aid
level of difficulty they will have between now and November to keep their candidate ahead of the competition. So if you are still on the fence about Barack Obama, if you still have reservations about the intricacies of his background, or can't seem to wrap your mind around some of the details of the policies he is proposing - I'd like to ask you to take a minute to do what I do when I see a discouraging news poll or hear a political pundit tell America why we shouldn't be supporting this man - try to visualize something positive about Obama that YOU care about. If you've been coming here this week to check out the "What Do We Want?" series, I want to thank you for reading. And if you think the Kool-Aid I've been serving here is too sweet, do what my mother used to do - water it down a little.
I Wore My "Obama 08" Shirt To Work Friday Sunday, August 17, 2008 I wore a t-shirt two days ago. This should be nothing out of the ordinary, but (a) two days ago was Friday, and (b) I don't normally wear t-shirts during the week. But my company is downsizing, like many others in the mortgage industry, so I ironed my navy blue" Obama 08" t-shirt, the one with the Obama logo over the right breast, and took the long way to work. I live and work in Alpharetta, one of Atlanta's northern suburbs, where it is pretty obvious that African American men are a distinct minority. But if you are groomed and dressed like the rest of middle America, which means close cropped hair, clean shaven face, a wardrobe of conservatively cut slacks whose hues revolve around the primary colors for men - blue, green, brown and khaki - and a collection of polo style shirts to match, your brown skin doesn't seem to call much attention to itself. My company's office is located in the Windward office park. I work for a small, struggling nationwide mortgage brokerage that sits among the massive operations centers of GE, HP, AT&T and other corporate giants whose names have boiled down to acronyms. Many of the jobs at the middle management level in these companies pay well enough to allow these employees to maintain their households on one income. So this live/work/play development has a large contingent of women who are stay at home moms. When I walked into one of the breakfast joints on Windward Parkway to eat, the hostess looked up, and her eyes widened as she focused on the Obama logo on my t-shirt. A big smile leapt across her101
I Wore My "Obama 08" Shirt To Work Friday
face as she nodded her head up and down. She seated me in the middle of the restaurant, where I proceeded to spread out my paper and check the headlines. From where I sat, I could see about half of the place. Patrons who had to go to the bathroom had to walk my way for about fifteen feet before they could begin to veer off towards their table, or the exit. One woman, who sat on the other side of the restaurant, had a seat facing mine. She stared at my shirt for a few minutes - just stopped eating, a look of disgust on her face. Many of the women had small children - curious, full of energy - who were attracted to the red white and blue circle on my chest that stood out from the navy background. Several of the women shooed the children along, looking down or away as they passed me , as if they were trying to avoid eye contact. The waitress arrived. She had an amused look on her face. "Nice shirt," she said. She laid the menu down in front of me. "You work for the campaign?" That threw me - I never would have thought that I looked like I worked for the Obama campaign. "No. I'm just a supporter." After a couple of seconds, I added, "you know, like trying to get people registered to vote?" She drew her shoulders up and professed that she was registered to vote. Her eyes still twinkled. "I been watching all this on the news for months." Normally, when I go somewhere, this is how I am - I talk to the people around me. If I catch someone's eye, I try to make conversation, try to say something positive or funny to make a quick connection. But to do that, you've got to be able to look at the person's eyes. Even the people who were seated next to me, who seemed affable enough, and looked like my neighbors, or the kind of people who worked in my building, seemed a little stiffer than usual. Was my chest stuck out farther than normal today? Had I forgotten to do that thing which larger than average professional black men all over the country are experts at, that act of compression, of compaction, that made outsized shoulders and forearms less threatening, that made outsized thighs and buttocks less potent? When I walked into the office, one of our remaining staffers saw me as I came through the lobby. She usually waved without stopping if she was en route to someone's office or the break room. Today, she broke stride for a few seconds. "Obama 'o8, huh?" She kind of half smiled, as if I was revealing something in public that she'd already suspected. I don't usually mix politics and business, but when your company is on the rocks, this is the least of your worries. Wearing this t-shirt, which might ordinarily have been a source of debate, didn't even seem to register with most people - we were all busy scrambling to close out the business we had in our pipelines. For the few who did notice, the lettering across my chest seemed to be magnetic - every time I saw them, whether I was at the copier, or the fax, they would gaze at that spot on my chest for three, four, sometimes five beats, as if they needed to reread it ever time they saw it.
I Wore My "Obama 08" Shirt To Work Friday
An older black woman I work with, who normally looked like she had the weight of the world on her shoulders, smiled from ear to ear when she saw "Obama '08". "Great shirt." "Yes ma'am," I said, "that it is." With business slowed to a trickle, I'd done all I could do by three o'clock. I took the long way home, stopping by the Barnes and Noble that was a few miles south of my office, right by Northpoint Mall. Just getting into the store was interesting - several drivers snapped their necks around to look at the shirt, one of them going so far as to start talking to themselves as they passed me. Inside the bookstore, it was like I had my own Secret Service detail. I started to understand how The Emperor Who Wore No Clothes must have been treated - no one, it seemed, wanted to look anywhere near me. The clerk looked at the cover of the latest issue of New York magazine I laid on the counter when it was my turn to pay - the word "RACE" was in big red block letters, superimposed over a black and white rendering of Barack Obama's face - but her face looked more concerned about the number of people in line. Later that evening, out of the blue, S. wanted to go out to eat. I thought about changing - she was still dressed in the same clothes she'd worn to a business luncheon earlier, and I wasn't sure where we were going - but I said "what the hell". We went south, about five miles closer to Atlanta, to a little bedroom community called Norcross. It had been a whistlestop back in the heydey of train travel - now the depot still standing in the middle of the single square block that comprised the commercial district of downtown Norcross was a restaurant. A few mini-mansions had been recently tucked into a few corners here and there, but for the most part, the town had retained much of its original character, a mixture of newly renovated Victorian homes and well-maintained Post War ones. The walk down the sidewalk produced the same non-looks from most of the people scattered along the sidewalk who were waiting to get into the storefront restaurants we passed, but there were a few raised eyebrows that were paired with sly smiles. Entering the pizza place on the corner, it was the family hour - kids everywhere, some tables filled with three generations, the waiting area full. Other than a couple of mothers at the front, who looked at us as if they were officers of the Nazi SS Waffen corps, most of the people were too busy trying to avoid getting tomato sauce on themselves to care about us. By the time we left, it was getting dark. We strolled down the sidewalk. I hadn't seen another Obama t-shirt all day. In fact, I hadn't seen ANY Obama advertising or campaign signs all day. The sound of music seemed to be coming out of one of the storefronts as we got further down the street. We came to the window of a coffee shop. It was packed with people, and a small combo was playing. S. suggested that we go inside. The combo was on one side of the door, the audience on the other we had to walk right down the middle to get to a raised landing on the other side of the room. A few women's faces on the lower level strained as we entered. The woman at the door called us back after we had crossed in front of the crowd to give us tickets for free drinks. Standing in line to get a couple of glasses of red wine, I felt someone bustling towards me. "Nice shirt"
I Wore My "Obama 08" Shirt To Work Friday
said the man. The girls behind the counter smiled. We traipsed back towards the rear of the building, where we spied a courtyard. The owner was parked in front of a huge chocolate cake that announced the one year anniversary of the coffee shop. "We've got a lot of your people here all the time," he said, gesturing towards my t-shirt. Two middle-aged black women sat at a table near the entrance to the courtyard. They gave us slow motion nods as they ate their slices of cake. The courtyard had two sections, half of it covered by an awning, half of it open air, dotted with the kind of wrought iron tables that featured the umbrellas in the middle. Baby carriages and running children dominated the covered area, so we navigated our way through the parents who were milling about to the open air section. S. sat - I stood at the railing along the rear, looking up and down the narrow one way street that ran behind the storefronts. A few more people trickled outside - a tall, severe looking couple in matching long sleeved Brooks Brothers shirts with the cuffs turned back, and a more casually dressed trio, one man and two women. The severe woman spilled her wine setting it down on the table. They ate fast and disappeared. The trio had been in conversation for awhile when the man caught my eye. "We're pulling for him," he yelled across the courtyard. The parents in the covered courtyard didn't turn their heads, but he was loud enough for them to hear him. "We are too," I yelled back. A few minutes later, a couple of mosquito bites convinced us that it was time to go home. We had to pass the trio to go back through the coffee shop. The man reiterated his earlier comment. "We're from Jersey," he said. "We're used to thinking differently than the people down here." The five of us ended up talking for about ten minutes, the political patter giving way to the basic who what when and where type of stuff you talk about when you first meet strangers. I was ready to go home, but since I'd mentioned the bookstore visit earlier, S. wanted to get a new book by one of her favorite authors. So we swooped into another Barnes and Noble that was between downtown Norcross and home. The Starbucks I passed on the way to the bathroom was filled with Asian teenagers and college students. They all had a name on their chests too - Hollister or Harvard or Georgia or DKNY - and appeared to be involved in such intense conversations that they didn't seem to notice me at all. No one in this bookstore moved out of the way. Pretty much everyone here, even those who frowned at the sight of the Obama logo, would look back at me instead of down at the floor. On the way out, we ran into S.'s old boss, an ex-CEO of a satellite communications manufacturer. A small, handsome man with a shock of white hair, he looked tired in the way that sixty something year old men do when they have children under the age of ten. He was cordial, as always, filling S. in on the whereabouts of the other officers of the company who had departed. It wasn't until he'd walked to the register to pay for his book that a thought crossed my mind - of all the people I'd run into all day, it had been mostly women, in particular women who looked like they were
I Wore My "Obama 08" Shirt To Work Friday
not in the workforce, who had demonstrated the most visible signs of animosity towards the logo on my chest. But the most interesting thing about Friday to me was, of the five black people I ran into that day which says a LOT about what part of the Atlanta metro area I was in - that of those five, only one, my co-worker, was openly enthusiastic about seeing the Obama logo. The two black women in the coffee shop? They had had looks on their faces that said to me, "negro, why are you trying to get these white folks riled up?"
I Won't Be Getting A Text Message From Barack Obama Tuesday, August 19, 2008 I called a friend of mine from college, who is now an anesthesiologist, when my father was scheduled for surgery here in Atlanta last year, to see if she knew anybody on staff at the hospital where his doctor was going to operate. She told me she'd gone to school with a couple of people who practiced there. "Just text me the date of his surgery and the name of his doctor." I had to confess - I had never sent a text message before. I wasn't sure if my phone was even set up to send and receive them. "You've never sent a text? You? Mr. 'Always Knows Everything About Everything'?" She laughed out loud, a laugh I heard clearly because...well, because she had one of those damn headset things on, transmitting each chuckle with digital fidelity. Ordinarily, I would have said "to hell with it", but my father was involved - for a man who had never undergone major surgery before, I thought it might help him relax if he knew the person putting him under saw him as more than a set of vital signs wearing a wristband. So I told her I'd figure it out. The guy at the phone company explained that I was already paying for the service, but it wasn't activated. A few clicks of a mouse later, he had turned my phone into a text machine. Sending that first text message must have taken me twenty minutes. The period, I discovered, could only be accessed by pulling up a chart and pushing the phone's main navigation button. The whole rhythm of selecting letters of the alphabet reminded me of Morse Code, another method of communication that I'd failed to learn back in Cub Scouts. But I did it - I sent a coherent message later that very same afternoon.
I Won't Be Getting A Text Message From Barack Obama
Which is when I discovered the other downfall of text messaging. You had to wait for the person on the other end to respond to your message. My blood pressure probably jumped twenty points when the realization hit me that this was just like email, only a lot more aggravating, with a smaller viewing screen. I didn't understand the text message shorthand she used to reply. So I had to call her the first time to ask her what the message said. I think this shorthand is a large part of text messaging's appeal, especially for those who always hated composition, or were terrible spellers, or couldn't fashion complete sentences. So I won't be getting a text message from the Obama Campaign this week. That's fine by me - I like the fact that my cellphone rarely rings. But since I'm sure there will only be a few moments that elapse between the time they send out the news and the time it hits the internet, its okay. I'll still feel like I'm in the loop. Despite what all the pundits on TV will be telling you, there will be no risk to the campaign because they've chosen this unorthodox method to tell the world who Obama's vice president pick will be. I don't feel left out, or slighted, because my fingers are too big and too stiff to easily work the keyboard on my phone. I'm actually glad that they are working so hard to keep younger voters energized. The thing I am marveling at, though, is the way that the Obama Campaign is wresting even more power away from the traditional news media with this announcement. A lot of information, a whole lot, is being disseminated straight from the campaign into the email boxes of millions of people, with the only spin on it being the kind that makes Barack Obama look good. I would be very tempted, if I had any idea what time this announcement might actually happen, to hit a popular coffee shop, or a large bookstore, or a plaza on one of Atlanta's college campuses, just to see what kind of reaction America's most connected generation has when they get the news. Hard to believe that politics is getting to be hip.
Right Off The Bat Thursday, August 21, 2008 My Yahoo email account blew up today as I received several blast emails from some of my college classmates, who are looking forward to going back to the quad for our twenty year class reunion next month. One of them was from a woman who had become an instant friend practically the moment I hit campus
Right Off The Bat
back in 1984. I hadn't heard from her in years. A self proclaimed product of the streets of Cincinnati, she was a veritable whirlwind of energy - dramatic, direct, and ready to have a good time at the drop of a hat. From day one, Miss Cincinnati and her roommate helped lessen the sudden impact of the realization that I was a minority student at a major university, a feeling of anxiety that had overwhelmed me that Sunday afternoon after my parents had waved goodbye. What Miss Cincinnati lacked in scholarship, she made up for with an overabundance of style. She was petite but feisty, with an innate ability to instantly rattle off a comeback if somebody started talking trash to her. Although there were some who did not get along with her right off the bat, she could still find a way to connect with them, in spite of their reluctance to want to get to know her. You didn't think of Miss Cincinnati and her roommate, a Long Island native, in the plural sense - their names seemed to be permanently conjoined into one long polysyllabic word, as if they were Siamese Twins. You couldn't utter one of their names without adding the other one. I hope the person Barack Obama chooses to be his running mate is capable of giving the Democratic ticket this kind of synergy. Because at some point in the next couple of weeks, the name Obama will be first half of a permanently conjoined phrase that will ring from the lips of cable news anchors and talk radio hosts around the country. I hope Obama and his running mate get along right off the bat, the same way Miss Cincinnati and her roommate did. Maybe this will help ease the nation's unspoken anxieties about having a minority as the head of our country. A running mate with more dramatic flair, someone who is more emotionally engaging - a person with these traits would be an excellent complement to Obama's studied cool and detached manner. And if they have even half of Miss Cincinnati's killer instinct to go for the jugular whenever she felt threatened, they will be well equipped to help Obama wade through the heavy onslaught of smears and attacks that will be directed towards him this fall.
Obama VP 3 AM Text Message Trails Networks Saturday, August 23, 2008 I was half asleep on the couch in the basement, with the TV watching me more than I was watching it when Larry King's baritone announced just after midnight that CNN sources had confirmed that Joseph Biden, a longtime senator from Delaware, would be Barack Obama's running mate. If only I had signed up for that damn text message, I said to myself, I would already know this. But the
Obama VP 3 AM Text Message Trails Networks
CNN reporter on the screen must have been reading my mind, declaring that the text messages the Obama campaign had promised to send to their supporters and donors had not gone out yet. It seemed the publicity gimmick touted by the campaign the last few weeks had worked a little too well, with news crews and well wishers staking out the homes of those candidates who were on Obama's vice presidential short list last night. The loose lips from an insider ultimately leaked the information, just hours before the massive wave of text messages were set to be sent. Then again, if I'd signed up, I could have already received fake Obama text announcements touting Evan Bayh, Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, Walter Mondale, Tim Kaine, and even Michael Phelps - how could I be sure which announcement was real? I don't know if there was any irony intended, but the REAL text messages, the ones naming Joseph Biden as Obama's vice presidential pick, went out to supporters and donors around 3 am, shortly after the announcement was posted on the website. I imagined thousands of cellphones across the country buzzing, blinking or vibrating in the middle of the night. What did this long awaited text message say? Barack has chosen Senator Joe Biden to be our VP nominee. Watch the first Obama-Biden rally live at 3pm ET on www.BarackObama.com. Spread the word! — Obama campaign text message to supporters.
The Punditocracy Goes To Denver Monday, August 25, 2008 “We as a nation are television watchers. Not only do we learn about politics by watching television, but we are television watchers; who we are as humans is in part defined by the attention that we pay to the television.” Roderick Hart I thought the Olympics were over yesterday, until S. said that the closing ceremonies hadn't happened yet. Now if I’d been watching the endless coverage of the Games being broadcast from China, I would know this, a fact I am often rudely reminded of by those who ask me “did you see_________ break that record last night?”
The Punditocracy Goes To Denver
If I'm not careful, I might find myself on the Terrorist Watch List, because not watching television, it seems, is un-American. This week, as the Democratic Convention gets under way in Denver, we will be seeing the most famous political talkmeisters in rare form, fanning any bit of innuendo, any speck of allusion, any iota of insinuation into make-believe controversies in a way that only a bona fide member of the punditocracy can. Grown men and women will be arguing over the meaning of upward tilt of Barack Obama's head when he is listening. They will attempt to interpret the nuances in the intonation Hillary Clinton uses when she gives her speech on Tuesday night. And when there is no news - when nothing of any real consequence is happening - they will dig up one of their favorite images from the campaign trail, like Rev. Wright, or Hillary Clinton's tears in Iowa. Media scholar John McManus has found that there are four general rules of broadcasting that serve as the modus operandi of the chattering class.
Seek images over ideas. Seek emotion over analysis. Exaggerate if needed, to add appeal. Avoid extensive news gathering.
I grew up on the AP style of reporting – the kind where television news reporters strove mightily to avoid using any adjectives, adverbs, or verbs that projected an opinion. Even the political pundits, who were few and far between back when there were only three major television networks, seemed to choose their words with care as they critiqued Congress or the president. So I'll be doing some "Punditocracy Special Reports" this week to peer a little deeper into the "four rules of broadcasting" concept. We've already established that I am a reluctant TV watcher. So when I make time to do it, like I did earlier this year during the primary season, I am often left shaking my head. It’s hard to believe that these political pundits can even begin to shape their mouths around some of the ridiculous things that they say. I guess I'll be shaking my head a lot this week.
I Already Know Michelle Obama Monday, August 25, 2008 If you live with a black woman who is a lawyer, like I do, you already know Michelle Obama. You know, when you see her turned out in a perfectly fitted business suit, or a tailored dress, that this woman doesn't really need a stylist - she has been styling herself for years, and has become an expert on how to project power, exude expertise, and look like she belongs at the executive level. You know, when you see her children, that they are more familiar with polysyllabic words than most adult Americans. That they understand how to look a person in the eye when they shake their hand. That they know the purpose of being courteous, and truly understand the value of an education. You know, when you look at the things she has accomplished in her career, that she is capable of doing long range planning and short term problem solving with one arm tied behind her back. That she has negotiated big business deals, and nurtured small ones. That the people she has worked with have always trusted her judgment. You know, when you see her mother, that behind all of the degrees and the polish and the panache is a woman who has been trained to live by the Golden Rule. Who has always understood the importance of family. Who has always believed in God. You know, because she is a consummate professional, that just because you see her smiling, it doesn’t always mean everything is okay – but it does mean that if something is amiss, she is willing to put every ounce of her style, her intellect, her experience, and her faith to work to rectify the problem. When you know these things, like I do, because I see them everyday, I know instinctively what Barack Obama does - that despite all the conjecture from the punditocracy, Michelle Obama is going to do just fine tonight when she steps on that stage in Denver at the Democratic National Convention.
Brownskinned People Won't Tarnish Presidency Monday, August 25, 2008 I was underwhelmed by the speakers leading up to the speech by Michelle Obama earlier tonight, so I went upstairs to tool around the internet for a minute. After about fifteen minutes of web surfing, I was about to get up from my chair when I saw the words "Obama assasination plot" on the screen. I figured it was one of the ones from the spring, but when I pulled up Google to see what was going on, I froze - the time stamp on the first article said "38 minutes ago".
Brownskinned People Won't Tarnish Presidency
By the time I had gathered enough information - namely, that Obama had not been in any immediate danger, and the two three men had been arrested - I went back to the basement, where Michelle Obama had already launched into her opening night speech. Her delivery was superb, the imagery crisp, the language simple but powerful, the narrative that we are all at least a little familiar with rewoven into an even more compelling story about her life than the ones I'd already heard. Why the punditocracy would have expected anything less, I said to myself, as they tepidly praised her effort, was beyond me. Maybe it was the fact that I had had one foot anchored in reality by the news update I'd read that kept me from accepting a lot of the reasons the CNN pundits were giving for the extraordinary length the Obama family seemed to be going to in order to show America that they were "alright". That they could be "comfortable" with them. That this highly choreographed forty five minute extravaganza had been put together for the sole purpose of "reassuring" mainstream America that these brownskinned people wouldn't tarnish the office of the presidency. Why, I asked S., didn't one of the brighter pundits like Jeff Toobin look squarely into the camera and simply tell the American public who were watching that black people who live the type of high profile lives like the Obamas are experts at explaining who they are to white Americans because they've been doing it all their lives? Why couldn't one of them have played devil's advocate and asked the real question - what is wrong with our nation when people who otherwise have good sense are uneasy at the thought of members of the "Well Scrubbed Negro Club" holding positions of power and influence in our government? I was bewildered when Obama appeared on a large TV monitor over the stage when Michelle got through with her speech - what was he doing in the living room of this nondescript family in St. Louis, Missouri? Were they the winners of one of the those fundraising contests at barackobama.com ? But then the Google search I'd done earlier came back to me, and I was kind of glad - actually, I was thankful that Barack had not been in Denver. If this post doesn't make a lot of sense, it is because I am still flustered over the idea that high powered rifles could have been trained on Obama Thursday night by the two three men in custody. And I'm pretty damn upset about the thought that these people will probably not be the last to try. But the worst thing about the evening, the thing that gets me hotter than anything else, is the fact that even though the Obamas are just like any other successful American family, its the color of their skin that makes all the difference, a darker tint that is the cause of all the anxiety and unrest, as if the color of a car makes it run faster, or drive differently, or break down more often.
"Uncertain" - Word Of The Day Tuesday, August 26, 2008 “Uncertainty” is one of those things that ranks right up there with breathing as a constant in modern life. There are so many things you don't know, so many things you can't predict. For me, it is the pointed use of words like this by the nation's punditocracy to describe the mood of mainstream America about the candidacy of Barack Obama that exposes the fallacy of the country's moral supremacy. This is the same word, uncertainty - this not having sure knowledge - that predicates the conditions upon which wars are waged, especially when little or no effort is made to analyze the facts of a dispute in a search for the truth. Foreign terrorists do not pose a fraction of the risks to our society that our own home grown ones do. And yet we will demonize entire nations of people we are uncertain about, even as we allow our own citizen terrorists to wreak havoc on an American native son. These are the enemies America should be routing out with a vengeance; these are the people we should be unfurling wrath of biblical proportions against; that we should have an unrelenting fervor to forever eradicate from the face of the earth. Turbans do not strike fear in my heart - I am most afraid of those among us whose minds are turbanned, whose fanatical, traitorous hearts dare to surge with rage against me - because if a man who calls himself my countryman is willing to plot to kill Barack Obama because of the color of his skin, then he is willing to kill me. To willing accept this type of ignorance among us, to turn a blind eye to this scourge, is worse than if you join hands with these homegrown terrorists, more abominable than if you financed the purchase of their assualt rifles, more repulsive than if you helped them lay out their plan of attack. It is this studied silence in the presence of these stateside fanatics that erodes the trust between races here in America, a silence so loud that I can feel it throbbing in my eardrums as I even as I write these words. Of this, I am certain.
The Punditocracy - Keeping You Uninformed Wednesday, August 27, 2008 Benjamin Sparrow, in his book Uncertain Guardians, cites industry research reports when he states in his book, "the people who create the public images of elected officials, those to be elected, and high ranking appointees know each other.
The Punditocracy - Keeping You Uninformed
‘They believe in polls. They believe in television. They believe in talk, they believe most profoundly in talk television. They believe in irony. They believe that nothing a politician does in public can be taken at face value, but that everything he does is a metaphor for something he is hiding.’" Benjamin Sparrow One of the things I've noticed, after spending the last two evenings watching Michelle Obama and Hillary Clinton speak, is a wide disconnect between what I see and what some of the punditocracy write the next day. Granted, many of them are there in the flesh, but with the magic of the internet streaming and the army of bloggers in attendance, I am able to see a lot more than the heavily edited product the news networks put on the screen. And what I see, in many cases, doesn't jibe with what they are telling me. The thing that seems to get weighted too heavily in these speeches is their appeal to the press. Mrs. Obama hit all her notes on cue, like she does everyday as a successful Harvard trained lawyer. Many of the elements of her speech catered directly to the pundits who would be dissecting the text of her speech the moment she left the stage. Mrs. Clinton, a wily veteran of the political oratory, showed she knew her way around a microphone, with an array of quotable sound bites built right into her delivery, giving extra emphasis to the key phrases to make sure the punditocracy picked on them immediately. To me, the "no way, no how, no McCain" soundbite ready phrase Clinton started off with was as explicit as she could get without personally threatening the small but vocal subset of her followers who are threatening to changing ideological horses in midstream. It was the kind of statement a person says when they are not interested in having a debate; when they are not interested in hearing your side of the story. Hilary Rosen, a CNN correspondent who seemed to be very impressed with Clinton's speech, believed Hilary was "calling out" the bitterest of her supporters who were still not interested in getting behind Obama. "Basically," Rosen said, "Hillary was telling these women, 'I am not your therapist. So get over it, because I'm ready to move on, and we've got work to do.'" Rosen was one of the few pundits who was unequivocally positive about Clinton's address. This tendency of the punditocracy to be supercritical of the politicians they examine is best explained by an anonymous pundit. "You can be wrong as long as you're skeptical. But if you're going to say something remotely positive, you'd better be 150% right, or you're going to be accused of rolling over." So if you are listening to the commentators on CNN or Fox or MSNBC this morning, take what they are saying with a grain of salt - the things they are focusing on, those things that were not said, those signals that were not given, that body language that didn't telegraph the right message, are a lot like the things FAA inspectors look at when they inspect a plane crash. But Clinton didn't crash last night. She glided her campaign in for a three point landing, the way veteran pilots do.
The O-Man Cometh Thursday, August 28, 2008 This entire week at the Democratic National Convention - the pomp and circumstance, the parties, the rousing speeches - has all been staged for one purpose: to introduce Barack Obama to the citizens of this country as the party's candidate for the presidency of the United States of America. The drama has unfolded night after night, bringing the convention to its culminating moment tonight when Obama will accept his party's nomination. Obama, who has been a daily presence on television for months, has been out of sight these last few days, appearing only briefly last night to congratulate Joe Biden on his acceptance speech. "This is the moment", a common refrain that is a hallmark of Obama's campaign speeches, a phrase that his faithful followers have heard so many times during the primary season, will resonate in the hearts and minds of the 75,000 people who will pack the Invesco Field this evening in Denver. Tonight, Barack Obama is expected to emerge with his metaphorical cape on, transformed from presidential hopeful to the Democratic Party's standard bearer. I think he's had it on all along - a cape knit from the work and the energy of the hundreds of thousands of people who scour the malls and the intersections and the community centers across the country every week, searching out and registering new voters even as the delegates and super delegates celebrate this week in Denver. From having the ability to attract and develop the kind of brain trust he has had running his campaign, to having the stamina required to keep up a herculean appearance schedule, to demonstrating the intestinal fortitude necessary to weather the immense challenges posed by his opponents, the "O-Man" has shown us how to tap into our own super powers to help him to get to the White House. No phone booth required.
The Kids Can Stay Up Tonight Thursday, August 28, 2008 My mother was a school teacher for thirty eight years. Back when I was young, I watched her grade papers at the kitchen table. Call parents at home after dinner. Fill out lesson plans for the week ahead. Inevitably, there were stories about her students. "I've got kids in my class - fourth grade, mind you - these kids are telling their classmates the jokes they heard on Jay Leno. Can you believe that? What is a fourth grader doing up that late?" In a small Southern town, where a significant number of the school aged children attended private schools, the majority of her students were African American. There was nothing that would exasperate
The Kids Can Stay Up Tonight
my mother more than having a child in her classroom who was hungry to learn who didn't have the support of at least one parent at home to help them master the basics that would be the foundation of their education. "I don't see how the child can learn - whenever I call the house it sounds like a party is going on over there." The fourth grade was just about the point where kids started making up their mind about how they wanted the world to see them. It was the point where the sneakers tapping the floor beneath the desks got more expensive, where the jeans hugging prepubescent legs and hips began to sport designer labels. "This boy sitting up in my classroom has a neck full of gold chains, and he's eating free lunch? What kind of sense does that make?" My mother was from the old school. She wore suits and carried a briefcase to work everyday, because she meant business when she got in the classroom. She watched children who were still wet behind the ears rush to imitate the antics of the teenagers and young adults and people they saw on TV staying up late, hanging out on the corner, talking trash like a sailor - activities which sacrificed a lot of the time they could have used to reinforce the lessons they'd learned that day, instead of trying to grow up too fast. One of the unintended consequences of Barack Obama's campaign has been the gargantuan amount of attention the press and the networks have given to telling and retelling his story. Even in a world that lives in the limitless connectivity of the internet age, our central daily narratives are still driven by big media. But big media doesn't have an unlimited amount of bandwidth - they have to be selective about what they choose to emphasize in their coverage. Guess what? The preponderance of news about Obama's historic campaign has crowded out many of the lesser stories about African Americans that used to fill the airwaves. If Obama is the lead story, it seems to leave less room for the 9,999th story on the crack dens in the ghetto. If there ever was a night for kids to emulate what they see on television, this is it. Tonight's talk show host will be Barack Obama. He won't be as funny as Leno, or as self-deprecating as Letterman. He won't be as fiery as King was forty five years ago. But he will be inspirational, that you can count on. So whether your child wears Air Force Ones or Chuck Taylors, flip flops or Birkenstocks, whether they normally gather around the kitchen table, the stoop out front, or the video game console, gather them around the TV tonight to watch Barack Obama's acceptance speech. Then click your remote until you find a channel that shows convention coverage, and put it away.
No More Rope-A-Dope For Barack Obama Friday, August 29, 2008 I sat in the basement Thursday night, the remote control in my lap, fidgeting as I watched the cable news pundits interrupt the speakers at the Democratic National Convention to tell us the same things they had been telling us all week. Even though the contests had been over for weeks, it was as if it was a primary night, with me waiting for Barack Obama’s results to come in. I’d seen the stock photos of Invesco Field in Denver for the past few weeks. Had heard all the talk, both for and against the idea of Obama using such a massive setting to give his acceptance speech. But it wasn’t until I turned on the TV when I got home and saw all the people milling around the field that I began to get a true sense of the enormity of the space. I couldn’t sit still. It was nowhere near ten o’clock. So I pushed the RECORD button. Put on some jeans and my Obama ’08 shirt. Clicked aimlessly on a few internet sites. Sharpened my hedge clippers. Opened a beer. Finally, I went outside with a Perdomo maduro, clipped the end of it, and fired up my triple flame torch. Odd images from the primary season came back to me as I puffed – the mole at the base of Obama’s left nostril that seemed to grow larger whenever he stared at the camera, the heightened pitch of his voice whenever he came to the “this is the moment, this is the time” part of his stump speech, the strained smile he was always able to muster when congratulating his opponent on a victory – these were some of the many things I had come to know about Barack Obama over the last eight months. He wouldn’t be pacing right now, I said to myself. He will be practicing the delivery of this speech the way Tiger Woods works on his putting before the final round of a golf tournament, reeling off the phrases of his big speech the way Tiger’s practice putts roll, one after another, straight into the cup. After that thought, the last half of the cigar is enjoyable. I begin to think of my more politically aware buddies – one in Chattanooga, and one who lives two miles away. My buddy in Chattanooga is the kind of political junkie who is apt to answer his phone “I’m in the stadium! Did you see me? I’m four rows behind the Clintons.” But today he is in Tennessee. There is so much to say, we could talk for hours, but tonight…tonight is for listening. We will catch up later. My buddy here answered his home phone on the first ring. “Yo, man,” he said, a greeting that was out of character for him. “R. says it must be you calling.” I’d known him since the first day of college, twenty five years ago. We had contemplated going to the Million Man March together. Watched the verdict of the O.J. trial being read together. Become exasperated over the “hanging chads” together. Commiserated over the September 11th tragedies together. “What are you doing? Eisenhower’s daughter is on now.” “Finishing a cigar.” “Maybe I’ll come over later and smoke one with you. After the speech.” When Barack Obama stepped out onto the stage, you could feel the tension in the air release all the
No More Rope-A-Dope For Barack Obama
way from Denver. Maybe it was the makeup, maybe it was the sleep he was finally getting, maybe it was the knowledge that he was finally in there – whatever it was, it was making him look like new money. His eyes were different, with a harder edged glint in them, exuding an aggressive confidence that almost matched the feeling I had in my chest. The rope-a-dope was over. There was no woodenness, no air of detachment, no non-threatening penitence – this was the genuine article, the electric half of the Obama personality he had been keeping under wraps this last eighteen months. I felt the same way my father and his friends must have felt when they were watching Muhammad Ali fight – like they were watching themselves. I became the most active listener in the history of listening for the next 45 minutes, listening with my ears, with my eyes, with the tips of my fingers, with the tips of my toes – if there was an Olympic gold medal for active listening, I would have been a contender. Transform is not a big enough word for what we all saw last night – “transmogrified” is a more accurate way to describe the metamorphosis from the vague, idealistic version of Barack Obama into a forceful, insistent proponent of his message of change. My buddy showed up after the speech, a fresh batch of cigars in hand. We clasped each other, the way Obama clasped Biden after the speech, and just looked each other in the eye, the word “unbelievable” written all over our faces. We sat just outside the basement, watching the Republican response to Barack Obama’s acceptance speech on the big screen through the French doors. “What do you think the Republicans are gonna do now?” he said. “There’s nothing left,” I said. “Rev. Wright, the flag pin, the muslim thing…you know they’re looking, but what else could there be to find?” The talk of politics gave way to a moment of personal introspection. “Obama has done all this…he’s done all this, from state senate to D.C. to the White House in four years,” my buddy said. “When you think about it, you have to ask yourself – what am I doing?” My buddy can be considered a success by almost any measure. He has accomplished a lot in his legal career, with a burgeoning practice and a great family. But now, with the advent of this new height that has been reached in our society by a man only four years older than him, a man who shares his same brown skin, it looks like my buddy is about to raise the bar for himself another couple of notches. I have been silent as my buddy mused, for I am wrestling with transitioning from one industry to another, a process which causes you to have to think more critically about the choices you’ve made, the mistakes you’ve made, the opportunities you’ve turned away. But I am not despairing, because I have
No More Rope-A-Dope For Barack Obama
made a commitment to raise my own bar a few notches, to look up, not down, and to more fully embrace the new direction my life is about to take. I would imagine that similar scenes played out in backyards and patios and decks and driveways and stoops around the country, other brown skinned men from all walks of life who saw a little bit of themselves in the fiery oratory of Barack Obama. A rising tide, they say, lifts all boats.
The Talk That Really Matters Saturday, August 30, 2008 S. used to take issue with the tone of my speaking voice. “You always sound so certain, even when you’re wrong.” “That’s how I grew up. Why wouldn’t you want to sound sure of yourself?” Kitchen table debates and Sunday morning showdowns were the routine when I grew up. Our small town paper was, to put it mildly, a little light in the news sections, so my father subscribed to the state newspaper as well, turning our kitchen table into a news archive when we weren’t eating at it. If you supported a particular position, you stated your case. If you disagreed with something someone else was saying, you refuted them with the best argument you could muster. Sounding unsure was the quickest way for everyone to lose interest in what you were saying. Which is why when I listen to the punditocracy on television, I filter out the authoritative tones and the aggressive postures. The reality in our country is that our political narratives are largely driven by a few hundred people, most of whom have never been elected to anything since high school. The faces we see on TV are a distillation of these elite who inhabit the media and government bureaucracy. John McCain upset the applecart with his choice of Sarah Palin as his running mate. He did an end run around the normal channels through which information flows in the political arena, bypassing many of the mechanisms by which the shapers of our national political landscape keep tabs on upcoming
The Talk That Really Matters
developments, allowing them to mute or exaggerate their importance. This weekend, your TV screen will be filled with the petulant sneers of those who feel betrayed by this surprise vice-presidential pick, and those who will take this opportunity to forecast doom and gloom for Obama/Biden, all of them trying to get a new handle on how they think this will affect the presidential race in the coming weeks. For the next few days, every time you see one of those familiar faces look firmly into the television camera, every time you hear one of those familiar voices start to explain in an authoritative manner why their opinion should be the only one that counts, remember that there will be hundreds of thousands of men and women around the country this Labor Day weekend, many of them in Obama ‘08 t-shirts, looking firmly into the faces of the public, telling them in an authoritative manner very similar to these television talkmeisters why they should be registered to vote. This is the talking that will really matter.
Critical Thinking Is The New Black Tuesday, September 02, 2008 Thinking is the hardest work there is, which is the probable reason why so few engage in it. --- Henry Ford The firestorm that has erupted on the airwaves since John McCain chose Governor Sarah Palin as his running mate has members of the punditocracy spitting fire. I've never been a big fan of television commentators, especially political ones, but this latest wave of hysteria that is currently filling practically every news channel has pushed my distaste to full blown disgust. Critical thinking seems to be in short supply these days. Have we become so fragmented in our thinking that we have forgotten that we can only put new information into the proper context if we are constantly reevaluating the big picture we are trying to fit it into at the same time? In spite of all the titillating new information that has hit the internet about Sarah Palin the last few days,
Critical Thinking Is The New Black
in spite of all the adulation that Barack Obama's acceptance speech garnered, in spite of all the importance put on signals from Hillary Clinton to her die hard supporters , or pronouncements from Bill Clinton about the nominees "readiness", there is only one thing that will determine who the next president of the United States is - voter turnout. The reactionary style of thinking practiced by today's punditocracy is as outdated as the rayon shirts we wore back in the 70's, as funny sounding as the shirts were funny looking. One of the things that some people have had a hard time accepting about Obama is the way he seems to have risen almost effortlessly from community organizer to presidential nominee. His ability to achieve a certain clarity - that is, his ability to look through the exteriors, the camouflage, and the smokescreens allows him to focus on the actionable juncture in a given situation. Combine this with an affinity for thinking both globally and locally simultaneously, and a lot of the distractions we as Americans tend to agonize over don't seem to clutter his mind, or the minds of his key staffers. For all the talk about issues, even from those who are students of the science of politics, there still remains an awful lot of Americans who make their political decisions based on how they feel about the candidate. And they often gauge their candidate's chances of winning on how many ads they run, or how photogenic they are. But in the end, it all comes down to the numbers - how many voters turn out in each state, and how many of these states each candidate garners. Registering more voters, according to the Obama campaign strategists, enlarges this electorate, increasing Obama's ability to run a competitive race despite the challenges his candidacy presents. So what was the Obama campaign doing this Labor Day weekend, insted of slamming John McCain's selection of Sarah Palin, or stoking the fire underneath the Palin family's domestic drama? They were conducting the biggest voter registration drive in the history of modern politics. Critical thinking, it seems, will be the new black this fall.
Deal Or No Deal, John McCain Wednesday, September 03, 2008 Survivor. The Nanny. Intervention. The Flavor Of Love.
Deal Or No Deal, John McCain
Cheaters. And now, to join them, we have a brand new reality show, The Nominee’s Dilemma, starring that bad boy of the Republican Party, John McCain, as he struggles with the biggest decision of his political life – to either dump his running mate for someone who looks better, like he did to his first wife, or hang in there, like a good soldier, the way he did in Vietnam, to be tortured day and night for the next sixteen hundred hours, every hour on the hour, by Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. This unbelievable, over the top, “couldn’t have written anything this good if you tried” drama behind the selection of little known Alaska Governor Sarah Palin has mesmerized the nation for the last few days. If McCain were Donald Trump, the know-it-all billionaire real estate guru (unless Trump is filing for bankruptcy protection again this week) host of The Apprentice, he would have fired Sarah Palin by now, after having his blunt spoken, blonde haired assistant, Cindy McCain, break down how Palin's weaknesses and her liabilities are a detriment to the organization. This urge that compels us to watch the Palin family’s lives unravel before our eyes is the same thing that motivates us to watch these reality shows, programs with central conflicts that are exaggerated and manipulated in order to appeal to our baser instincts. Like it or not, John McCain, The Ultimate Fighter, has found himself in the middle of The Surreal Life, wishing his newly named running mate had received a visit from Supernanny. We now know one thing for certain - McCain had no Fear Factor , was not scared by the unknown facts or unvetted scandals when he chose The Weakest Link to be on the Republican ticket. Do we enjoy seeing other people being humiliated that much? Do I really have to even answer that as I turn off my – damn, they were doing WHAT? By this time next week, Sarah Palin may be wishing she had The Simple Life. I truly believe her husband and her future son-in-law will be ready to tear off those blue suits they look so uncomfortable in and build themselves an American Chopper. Deal Or No Deal, John McCain. Deal Or No Deal.
Elephant In The Room Last Night Not GOP Mascot Thursday, September 04, 2008 Rudy Giuliani spoke so long I dozed off before he finished his speech. By the time I woke up, Sarah Palin’s family was on stage. Luckily, I had my trusty “REWIND” button, but since I didn’t record the
Elephant In The Room Last Night Not GOP Mascot
action at Wednesday night’s Republican National Convention, it only went back about two thirds of the way into Sarah Palin’s address. The camera had stopped at Bristol Palin, the unmarried pregnant teenage daughter of the woman speaking on stage. Was that an elephant in the Xcel Center that I heard rustling around? Or was it the awkward, stilted cone of moral exemption that had descended around the teenaged Palin’s pregnancy? Sarah Palin looked good, with the kind of well defined cheekbones and clear skin that were made for high definition television. Her delivery wasn’t as energetic as the Sarah Palin I’d seen on clips from past engagements, but it was more than adequate when contrasted with the rest of the speaking slate last night. Most of all, she looked more comfortable the longer she talked, her eyes beginning to flash as she started tearing away at Barack Obama. The thing that lingered on my mind, though, wasn’t Palin’s voice, but a picture I’d seen earlier on another website. Two teenaged looking girls, one white, one black, , both slender, clear eyed, and similarly outfitted, were shown side by side, both of them in despair as their at-home pregnancy tests displayed positive results. The adjectives that were superimposed over the white girl’s image – family values, commitment, responsibility, strength, honor - were some of the same ones used this week to describe Bristol Palin, the pregnant 17 year old daughter of vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. The adjectives superimposed over the black girl’s image - lack of values, lack of responsibility, urban blight, dysfunctional, immoral – were the kind of litany Bill O’Reilly normally spouted whenever he went on a tirade about the teen pregnancies of anyone besides the governor of Alaska’s daughter. I pushed the “LIVE” button and S. and I watched the recap by the old faithful at CNN. I flipped to Leno on NBC when the roll call vote began – the only real reason we were up this late was to see Larry King Live. Leno's observation, repeated several times, that the audience was practically all white, was something the mainstream news media was studiously trying to avoid mentioning. “The reason why Governor Palin looked so comfortable on stage was, when she stood behind the podium and looked out where the audience was supposed to be was because it was all white - she thought she was back in the snow in Alaska.” Leno deftly used another comedy bit to illustrate why this image looked so yesteryear when he flashed the picture of GOP entertainment from the old days. But that didn’t have my attention as much as the elephant in the room did. I could hear this metaphorical beast rustling around, could feel her ponderous bulk as she kneeled down. When Leno’s jokes petered out, I flipped back to CNN, where they were just getting Larry King’s show on the air. As we sat there, watching the people on the Larry King panel make comments, I turned to S. "I just put my finger on what Palin’s speech reminded me of. It was the student council conventions
Elephant In The Room Last Night Not GOP Mascot
I used to go too. We knew the text, we sounded enthusiastic, but the speeches themselves sounded like we were saying someone else's words." The women on the Larry King panel – all white, all middle-aged, all Democratic Party supporters – had quite a bit of fire in their eyes. But to a woman, they all stayed well clear of Bristol Palin, circling their wagons around the stance Sarah Palin took on the issues instead. Sarah Palin, it appears, doesn’t seem like she's going to be a real problem for Obama. Until McCain picked Palin, a lot of his party faithful were on the fence about him. So far, she is basically shoring up his support among the people he was supposed to already have, with limited avenues to appeal to anyone who does not share her views. For all the hoopla over Palin, both parties are still wrestling over who will get a bigger percentage of the sliver of undecided voters and those voters who are apt to change their minds. Registering new voters may be more labor intensive and and sound less exciting than the latest soundbite, but in November, its the number of fingers pushing those buttons that will count the most All this time I was thinking this, though, that damn imaginary elephant was still bothering me. Maybe, I said to myself, this is a trained elephant. Maybe trained elephants know how to take up less room. Maybe they have mastered the art of being light on their feet. And maybe they have a special place on their trunk that you rub to make them kneel down behind you before you give your mother’s new boss a hug. Maybe that’s what young, black, unmarried teenaged mothers need, I mused to myself – their own elephant trainers.
They Can't Kill All The Indians This Time Friday, September 05, 2008 "We have, in fact, two kinds of morality side by side; one which we preach but do not practice, and another which we practice but seldom preach." Bertrand Russell I watched Rudy Giuliani and Sarah Palin come on stage Wednesday night like a couple of cowpokes from the Wild Wild West with their six shooters drawn. After listening to the two of them, it appears that the easiest way for us to "circle our wagons" to save America from the bad guys would be to evac123
They Can't Kill All The Indians This Time
uate the nation from top to bottom - then allow only right thinking, completely certifiable Anglo-Saxons back in. When "us" versus "them" is your theme song - the righteous versus the damned, the right to lifers versus the baby killers, the evolutionists versus the creationists, "pure hearted" America against the "evil doers" - you should not surprised when your supporters boil these images down to their most simplistic form, the way you've taught them to do in every other situation. I guess that makes the rest of us as relevant as the Indians used to be when the America decided to tame the West. We're just a bunch of peace pipe smokers who don't have any guns, taking up space on valuable land that should be developed, speaking a language that is incomprehensible to those whose native tongue is Gasolinia - "drill baby drill!" Take Christianity, for instance. Who was that guy back in Galilee, way back when, who went from house to house, from corner to corner, ready to help those in need? Jesus Christ himself, it seems, was one of those lousy"community organizer" types. A self designated American patriot who only sees the world in red, white and white while driving an Expedition, a Suburban, an Excursion, a Hummer, or any other big ass SUV slash school bus is as patriotic as the reverend who spends money from his parishioners at the strip club is religious. Now if you're reading this, and your politics leans to the left, before you go getting on your high horse about the minuscule size of your carbon footprint, you need to remember that righteousness, that good old salve for the prickled consciences on both the left and the right, has never won an election, even when married to the best of intentions. For those of you who have been thinking critically, you can see beyond the rhetoric that Palin has been pushing the last...well, the last thirty six hours...and think about where the locus of power really resides in political arenas. Is it the person who can write a check to a campaign for $4600? Is it the person who can write a check for $4600 to a campaign AND $28,500 to the party? Or is it the person who is a center of influence in his community, whose judgment and advice is trusted because his or her community sees it in action everyday? Community organizers are one of the cornerstones of the Obama campaign, helping to keep costs down and enthusiasm up as they attempt to pull off the most massive voter registration drive in the history of this country. There are not enough big donors out there to fund this kind of gargantuan registration effort if you had to do it with paid staff, which is why people who believe, the same armies of people in every single state in the union who are working for the Obama campaign for little or nothing, are so powerful. With the help of their tireless efforts, the expanded electorate McCain/Palin will face in November pose an extremely tough challenge to the Republican ticket in states like Missouri, Florida, New Mexico and Colorado. It could even make it a horse race for our electoral votes here in good ole Georgia, as well as North Carolina and Virginia.
At some point this October, the campaign ads will reach a point of saturation. The colorful mailers will get thrown out before the mail hits the counter. And even though there is nothing so sweet as the sound of a robo call to bond a voter with his candidate, voters will inexplicably stop listening to them. The “code of the west” was romantic, but John Wayne is dead, there is no more cavalry, and they can't kill all the Indians this time.
FOR ALL THE MARBLES
This was it. For the next eight weeks, the presidential election campaign would captivate the nation in a way that we had never seen before. During the homestretch I became more committed to following the ins and outs of a presidential campaign season than I ever had in my life. I was watching the cable news shows every night for campaign trail updates, scanning newspapers every morning for new background information, and trolling the internet for the choice tidbits that had not been fact checked or scrutinized owned almost all of my time. My nerves were raw. I didn’t sleep much. The racial overtones that had always been present in the race became more prominent in the media as the Democrats and Republicans began to duke it out down this stretch. There were times when all the TV networks seemed to go overboard, often elevating minor actions by the political fringes of both parties onto center stage night after night. The titles of some of posts that I decided not to publish during that time, ones like “Uppity Crackers Forget Their Place”, reflected my own rising sense of frustration with the way the news media who shaped how most of us across America looked at each other were still playing the same old game, their anonymous news directors and on-air personalities alike seemingly retreating before my very eyes to defend the status quo against this unknown challenger whose skin was black. The conundrum of modern politics - the black candidate could not pander to black voters, the white candidate could not pander to white voters, but they could each go overboard when reaching outside of their own group – seemed to put the Obama campaign in a racial strait jacket. The harder they pulled to get out of it, the tighter it got. I myself began demonizing white Americans in retaliation, writing with a bitterness and zeal that many other black bloggers who wrote about politics shared. It took awhile for me to recognize that I and my fellow bloggers had become the enemy we claimed we despised. We were ignoring one of the core realities of the Obama phenomenon – in particular, the reality that the people who had organized for months to carry Obama to victory in Iowa were almost all white, that the people who were running his campaign even as we wrote were mostly white, that the massive amount of cash that powered his candidacy came mostly from white people. Without a large number of white hands pushing the button for Obama, there was no way he could claim the White House.
Palindromic Free Verse - "I Love Me, vol.1" Sunday, September 07, 2008 Since Sarah Palin appears to be allergic to any microphone not affixed to a podium, I guess we will have to start speaking for her. With the help of Jim Kalb's Palindrome Connection and Thinks.com, I was able to select some prewritten palindromic phrases and organize a simple stump speech for her to deliver when she finds herself out in the hinterlands without John McCain at her side. I Love Me, vol. I [in palindromic pentameter] Top spot. Guns 'n' robes, a base born snug. We freer few. Red now on level - no wonder. Draw, O Caesar, erase a coward. Stratagem: megatarts. Tug at a gut. Kayak salad, Alaska yak. Elk cackle. I saw I was I. Reviver. Deified. Aha! Is sensuousness I? Beware era web! Harass sensuousness, Sarah? No, it is opposition. Oh, cameras are macho. Live on, Time; emit no evil. I did, did I? Dammit, I'm mad. May a moody baby doom a yam? Oh who was it I saw, oh who?
Palindromic Free Verse - "I Love Me, vol.1"
Name now one man Star comedy by Democrats. O tarts! A castrato! Yo! Bozo boy! Draw, O coward! Ten animals I slam in a net. I saw I was I. Reviver. Deified. A mama. Live on evasions? No, I save no evil. Harass selfless Sarah! Dump mud! Sex-aware era waxes. Draw a slot, sir, Bristol's a ward. Tug at a gut. Oh, cameras are macho. I've let a name emanate: Levi. I saw I was I. Deified. Reviver. Was it felt? I had a hit left, I saw Dr. Awkward. Title fit--I felt it! Resume so pacific a pose, muser. He lived as a devil, eh? Puff in, sniff up! A six is a six is a six is a six is a... Ergo — ogre! I saw I was I. Deified. Redivider.
Palindromic Free Verse - "I Love Me, vol.1"
Did I do, O God, did I as I said I'd do? Good, I did! Harass selfless Sarah! Revered now I live on. O did I do no evil, I wonder ever? I saw I was I. Redivider. Reviver. Top spot. Guns 'n' robes, a base born snug. Kayak salad, Alaska yak. I did, did I? Harass selfless Sarah! I saw I was I. Reviver. Deified. Redivider. As much fun as this was for this old English major to put together, there is still much work to be done - MILLIONS of eligible voters in this country are not registered to vote. So the only palindrome that really counts today when it is all said and done is the one below, which is the goal we need to be working towards in every state: "Rise to vote, sir.”
Oprah Stands Her Ground Tuesday, September 09, 2008 S. and I were in a movie theatre last December, watching The Great Debaters when I was converted from a passive Obama supporter into a disciple. It wasn’t the movie itself, but the sound of debate team member Samantha's voice booming out of the speakers as she uttered the kind of protest
Oprah Stands Her Ground
phrases from the thirties and forties that we seemed to still be piddling around with today: "I say that's a shame, but my opponent says today is not the day for whites and coloreds to go to the same college. To share the same campus. To walk into the same classroom. Well, would you kindly tell me when that day is gonna come? Is it going to come tomorrow? Is it going to come next week? In a hundred years? Never? No, the time for justice, the time for freedom, and the time for equality is always, is always right now!" My face grew hot, my whole body was aflame, I was feeling a murderous rage overtake me - was the day it would be okay for a black man to run for president tomorrow? A hundred years? Never? – so I walked out to the corridor just outside the door to get some water and calm down. This was the same old shit I was hearing about Barack Obama – seventy years later – when would it ever end? Back inside, I found my drink and took deep breaths. S. leaned over to me a little later, during a lull in the action on screen. "This movie," she whispered, "is Oprah’s propaganda for Obama. She’s trying to get the country used to seeing smart black people." "What? How could she have known that he was going to run back then?" I said, before I realized I was talking too loud. Whispering, I continued, "do you know how far in advance they have to plan to do a movie? They were probably putting this together two or three years ago." "That might be true," S. said, her eyes glowing with the idea of possibly discovering a subliminal message. "But I still think she’s using this movie to try to get the country ready for him. I really do." I have discovered, over the years, that S. can exhibit an uncanny ability to recognize the hidden motivations of other women, like my co-workers, even if she’s never met them in the flesh. So maybe she was right. Maybe Oprah sensed what could be possible for Barack Obama before he did. In some ways, Oprah and Obama are kindred spirits, with parents who abandoned them, relatives who raised them, a yearning for an answer to the age old question of identity that saw them veer into drinking and drugs, he with the funny name, she with unconventional TV looks, both of them success against improbable odds. Hundreds of millions of dollars later, Winfrey has become larger than life, her personality and her image suffusing every inch of her tightly controlled empire. I was impressed back when Oprah went public with her support for Obama's candidacy, knowing full well what kind of demographics her television empire depends on. Then the fall campaigning began in earnest, and the McCain strategists came roaring out of the gate
Oprah Stands Her Ground
with a quick left-right-left combination that managed to raise the specter of race, spotlight the scourge of favoritism, and threaten Winfrey's cash flow at the same time. I was doubly impressed last week with Oprah's unequivocal "no" to hosting a show introducing Sarah Palin to her viewers. Winfrey's decision about this alleged request from the McCain/Palin camp has riled some of thel members of her audience who frequent her online forums. I am sure there are more than a few McCain/Palin operatives who have registered since Thursday. Whether or not this dissension extends into the ranks of Oprah’s staffers, as it has been insinuated, cannot be determined. None of these things really matter. Winfrey has her own "earmark" program. She doesn’t need a lobbyist to go to Washington to see if he can “bring home the bacon”. She simply turns to her own bacon factory and hands out a few slabs. How much bacon? Somewhere in the neighborhood of 50 million dollars worth a year. Oprah's money has been doled out generously here in Atlanta, with millions donated to Morehouse College alone. Her sense of decency compelled her years ago to buy a couple of adjoining high rise condos in Buckhead, Atlanta’s high rent district, combine them into one unit, and make it available to Coretta Scott King, where King lived until she died. Most of the women who will rage on the internet for the next few days about how unfair Oprah is, about how betrayed they feel, will take her back, because there is no where else to go to get the kind of upscale, no nonsense empathy that her show provides for this particular kind of middle aged woman. There will be some in the media, who have never really contemplated before the kind of power a billion dollar net worth can give a black woman, who will be become obsessed with the notion that Oprah has gotten "too big for her britches". Or as they like to say down here, "uppity". These are the same people who will automatically smile for the cameras when you say the word "diversity". The same people who will tell you that "color doesn't matter". That we are on the brink of a "post-racial" society. Until we do something they don't want us to do. "Diversity", it seems, stops just short of allowing access to the locus of power. The kind of diversity we rave about today is a purely social act - the large sums of money in this country are still guarded fiercely, the levers of power still wielded by hands that are almost exclusively white. The act of asking Oprah Winfrey to put Sarah Palin on her show meant there were at least two possible outcomes to the the request. If the response McCain's strategists allegedly wanted was one they were unwilling to accept - i.e., the "wrong answer" - then they weren't really asking a question to begin with. They were telling her what to do. The time for real diversity, for real equality, the kind that can accept the decisions that are made when brown-skinned hands hold the levers of power, is right now.
"Reckless Reporting" Is The Rage These Days Wednesday, September 10, 2008 Could the lips of a metaphorical pig be that important to educational reform? A prerequisite to a balanced budget? Essential to national security? And yet, if I were to turn on my TV, or scroll through any major newspaper's website, I could get the latest update on whose campaign ad was the smarmiest, or whose robocall repeated the biggest lie, or which candidate's attire was the most stylish. "Reckless reporting" is the rage these days. The headlines of the country's major newspapers are filled with copy that seems lifted straight from the tabloids you see in the supermarket checkout line. Sensationalism is the order of the day - no insult is too petty, no passing remark too trite for these wordsmiths to put down for posterity. Isn't that what Entertainment Tonight is for? Or The View? Or Good Morning America? Hard news in this country isn't just hard to come by any more - it's practically non-existent. Am I asking the networks to "stick to the issues", the way my more pure-hearted brethren insist? Not at all. What I would like to see is a little more intelligence exhibited when journalists are reporting the news, instead of feigning naivete, when we all know damn well what levels of depravity and greed flourish within our government and within our political process. Anything less is unconscionable and juvenile. But our media barons have built their fortunes on the need for people to believe in a mythical rendition of good versus evil, desire that can be commodified, personified into White Witches and Black Goblins, entities we can clearly and easily segregate into their separate camps. "When actual facts are used in the construction of news fictions, your story can be accurate, well-edited, within genre conventions, and, at the same time, deeply un-informational, not to mention wrong. In fact, accurate news about the race that subtracts from our understanding of it is one of the quirky features of chronic mindlessness in campaign media." Jay Rosen - The Beast Without A Brain From the slivers of information, much of it hastily gathered, that comprise the set of statistics known as polling data, the punditocracy manages to come up with a hodgepodge of predictions, some extrapolated from patterns, some arrived at by dubious methodologies lacking in basic logic, some conjured out of whole cloth, all done in the name of telling the great unwashed what will happen next. "Voters are bombarded with information about which contender has 'what it takes' to be the best candidate. Who can deliver the most stirring rhetoric? Who can build the most attractive facade? Who can mount the wiliest counterattack? Whose life makes for the neatest story? Our political and media culture reflects and drives an obsession with who is going to win, rather than who should win." Mark Halperin
"Reckless Reporting" Is The Rage These Days
The fundamentals in this political race have been wholly ignored by the punditocracy. It doesn't really matter how many times Sarah Palin tells us "I put the plane on eBay", or how many times Barack Obama tells us "they think you're stupid." The most important thing that will take place in the next two months are new voter registrations. This is the only thing will determine the universe of voters the Obama and McCain camps will be working with as they both battle to attract those voters who are still undecided or can be easily swayed. This article in today's Time magazine online edition, “Obama Banks on the Ground Game”, which came out as I was writing this, explores the fundamentals of an election, something you will rarely see these days amidst all the drama and angst driven stories about the personalities of the candidates. EXCERPTS FROM "Obama Banks on the Ground Game": *****For the next month, the Obama campaign's ground focus is on finishing up the stunning gains in voter registration that it and the Democratic Party have made. Since January alone more than 3.5 million new voters have been registered in 17 of the 23 states tracked closely by the Obama campaign where information is available. Three states — Florida, Michigan and North Carolina — have seen increases of more than 400,000 new voters, and 10 more states have recorded new registrations of more than 100,000. Though these numbers include registrants to all parties, in 14 of the states at least half of the new voters are under 35, a key demographic for Obama.***** *****There are an estimated 8 million Obama campaign volunteers who will be knocking on doors in their neighborhoods in the coming weeks.***** *****The Obama campaign "has enthusiasm, they have a lot of people, they have money to finance in a serious way ground operations, and they have the resources in terms of good lists at their disposal," says Harold Ickes, a Democratic strategist and former top adviser to Hillary Clinton. "If the McCain people think that that's not serious, they're in for a big surprise. They should not pooh-pooh the ground game that Obama is mounting; it's a formidable one. I don't think in my experience in Democratic politics there's ever been anything like it."***** I would imagine the McCain campaign certainly understands how serious this is, which is why you will continue to hear McCain and Palin take jabs at the idea of "community organiz ers", who are their biggest foes in this contest. The Obama campaign has placed an emphasis on expanding the electoral map. Over Labor Day weekend, while waiting for Obama to finish an event, David Axelrod, the nominee's top
“Reckless Reporting” Is The Rage These Days
strategist, noted that their strategy is broader than McCain's and therefore requires a lot more leg work, but that it has more of a potential payoff. "We're going into Nov. 4 with many different scenarios to get to 270 electoral votes," Axlerod says, squinting at airplanes buzzing overhead, part of Cleveland's annual air show. This article in today's Real Clear Politics online edition, Palin Doesn't Matter, Numbers Do, also breaks down some fundamentals of the election according to U.S. Census figures, something else you will rarely see these days from a journalist: EXCERPTS FROM "Palin Doesn't Matter, Numbers Do": According to the US Census Bureau: • In Ohio (Which John Kerry lost by only 120,000 votes in 2004), 750,000 eligible voters between 18 and 22 who could not vote in 2004 can vote in 2008. • In Colorado (Kerry lost by 99,000) 293,000 between 18 and 22 have become eligible to vote in 2008. • In New Mexico (Kerry lost by 6000 votes) 145,000 kids have reached voting age. • In Michigan 690,000 have become eligible. • In Virginia 465,000 (Kerry lost by 260,000). • In Florida alone over 1 million young people have reached voting age since 2004. Then there are black voters. According to the Census Bureau there are 24 million eligible black voters in America of which 16 million (64%) are registered. In 2004 blacks cast 14 million votes or only 56% of the eligible black population. Blacks are registering to vote at historic rates in 2008 and turnout will soar above 2004 levels. Some examples: • In Colorado there are 110000 eligible black voters. Only 50,000 voted in 2004. • In Ohio there are 860,000 eligible black voters. Only 380,000 voted in 2004. (Remember Kerry lost by only 120,000 votes). • In Virginia, 945,000 eligible black voters, 465,000 voted in 2004.
“Reckless Reporting” Is The Rage These Days
• Florida; 1,750,000 eligible blacks, 770,000 voted in 2004. The "reckless reporting" that will continue the next few days will make scant mention of this, and when they do, it will be looked at with a great deal of skepticism.
Yada Yada Yada Won't Get VP Job Friday, September 12, 2008 S. and I watched Charles Gibson interview Sarah Palin last night. I was standing behind the high backed recliner S. was sitting in, watching Gibson look down his nose at Palin while he spoke, when he asked her a question about the right to make cross border attacks from Afghanistan from Pakistan. As Palin rambled on, searching for an answer underneath – well, maybe it was underneath the next participle – or behind the next prepositional phrase – nope, not there, lets try to verbally circle back around the question and just see if we can figure out what he did ask – I felt as if I was watching a job interview. S. reached her arm up, hand bent back, palm open – I slapped her five. "Lost in a blizzard of words?" S. said, repeating what Charles Gibson had said seconds ago. "She was just rambling all over the place." As I watched Palin dig in her heels, go on the attack, back off, circle around questions, and proffer standard political jargon instead of direct answers, I thought of my own recent job interviews. Making a transition at middle age from industry to industry meant that, unlike Palin, I didn’t get to start at the top. My interviews have been similar, though, as I have attempted to convince one interviewer after another that there are skills I’ve picked up in the mortgage business that are transferable to their field, and that I am ready to take on the job. The thing I noticed Palin exhibiting, though, was a sense of combativeness she was trying to hold in check – waiting, like a hitter in baseball waits on the right pitch, for the right opening from Charles Gibson so she could let him have it, could let her indignation and sanctimony come to the rescue, a natural move for a woman who is a learned practitioner in the arts of obfuscation. She reminded me of one of my old co-workers, a jittery little woman of Pennsylvania Dutch extraction we used to call Yada Yada Yada, who was ready to square off at a moment’s provocation. If she didn’t know something, she would talk faster. She would talk louder. She would ridicule the question. She would try to change the subject.
Yada Yada Yada Won't Get VP Job
Yada Yada Yada had already made a transition of sorts several months earlier when she had to go back to being a loan officer. She had been a wholesale account executive for a mortgage company for years, and was well versed in the mechanics of getting a loan closed. But listening to her talk on the phone to some of our high end borrowers, who were usually pretty well-informed people, was a comedy show in itself, with my co-worker often working the hold button like a video gamer as she yelled out for help. "So what index is that margin calculated off of again?" It didn’t matter if she got someone to answer her, or shoot her a quick email – after about ten seconds of trying to lay out the details to her customer, she would launch into a new language – "well, with these ARM’s, you see, they take the LIBOR, they take the LIBOR, you see, and, and, then its just yada yada yada, ba ding bang boom, ya know, something like that. That’s how it works." The thing about making a transition, especially when it affects a whole office, is the amount of self evaluation that has to go on in order to point yourself in the right direction. Yada Yada Yada came to my desk one day and slapped a sheet of paper down on my desk like she had the winning hand in a game of spades. “You’re good with words. Look at that for me. Tell me, you think a hundred dollars was too much for this?” It was her resume, a chronological listing of her life’s work, a format that seemed to reduce all the years, all the struggles and triumphs of our lives down to a simple line item, to be scribbled on or circled by human resources staffers and hiring managers, collated by file clerks, uploaded onto hard drives, your entire life boiled down to a couple of pieces of paper. According to her resume, Yada Yada Yada had graduated high school thirty years ago, which was the sum total of her educational experience. The words on her resume disappeared as my eyes lost focus, the rudimentary introductions to sociology and psychology coming back to me as I looked at the woman standing beside me with both admiration and disgust. I admired her for her ability to work around her shortcomings, for her ability to refuse to let the lack of an education stop her from finding a career, buying a home, and saving for retirement. But I was disgusted because of the women I knew like her, verbally agile high school graduates with enough moxie to bullshit their way around the things they didn’t know, brown skinned women with the same work ethic who would never get the chance to "yada yada yada" their way into a job. Standing behind S., I watched as Sarah Palin, a woman with a resume not much heftier than the one Yada Yada Yada slapped on my desk, dance around questions to which she didn’t know the answers, her jaw cocked, her body arched forward, her eyes fierce. I thought of Palin, and Yada Yada Yada, and all the women like them, women who had learned to exploit the maxim “a man should never hit a woman” to the fullest, taking advantage of the fact that we weren’t going to hit back with a vengeance. I thought of S., sitting in the chair before me, a woman with three times as many college degrees as Yada Yada Yada and Sarah Palin combined, who had to suffer the indignity of working with women just like these two - overpaid and undertrained, over opinionated and under informed, the kind of
Yada Yada Yada Won't Get VP Job
women who could be found in middle management in any enterprise in the country, passing the buck, avoiding decisions, and letting the shit roll down hill. I wish making a transition was as easy for me as looking an interviewer in the eye and saying, "yes, I am ready," without blinking. Something tells me, though, that those 8 million volunteers out there working on behalf of the Obama campaign are not going to let "yada yada yada" buy Sarah Palin a free pass this time.
"Sarah P. - BOO-yah!" Tuesday, September 16, 2008 To the guys who think Sports Center is all the news they need, which is a whole lot of guys of every political stripe, race, creed and religion, Barack Obama is the second most recognizable black voice in the country. Stuart Scott, ESPN's hip, fast talking sports anchor, is the first. "BOO-yah!" is his trademark, a verbal exclamation point, the equivalent of the cable news pundit "Gotcha!". Scott's fast paced, "let's get jiggy with it" style of delivery is the last thing that hundreds of thousands of men across the country hear before going to sleep. After watching the stock market drop over 500 points yesterday, I wanted to see somebody putting some points on the board. So I turned to Monday Night Football. The Cowboys/Eagles game delivered just what I needed - four full quarters of offensive fireworks, with the Cowboys hanging on to a four point lead in the end to win it. During the game, I was flipping channels back and forth during the commercials, alternating between CNN, CNBC, and the game. Larry King had his usual suspects on CNN, squaring off on the latest controversies between the Obama and McCain campaigns with the same old tired platitudes they’ve been pedaling for weeks. Larry Kudlow had his usual suspects on CNBC, each of them staring squarely into the camera to proclaim that they had known all along what was really wrong with the economy and how we could fix it in three easy steps. Maybe, I said to myself as hit the remote to flip back to T.O. flashing his crocodile smile to the cameras after his first half touchdown, maybe we should take the experts on CNN and the experts on CNBC and swap them, the way they do on those reality shows like Wife Swap. As Stuart Scott and Emmitt Smith joked last night after the game, I wondered - just the thought of something like that happening
"Sarah P. - BOO-yah!"
in real life would be “sick nasty” – probably one of the only times in politics that a double negative could turn out to be an "unbelievably awesome" development. I was thinking this only half in jest, though, because for the life of me, I can’t understand why McCain would put that tongue-tied benchwarmer Tucker Bounds out there in front of a camera trying to run interference for him when Tucker can barely remember which lie he’s telling tonight. Why doesn’t McCain’s campaign have one of those square jawed, sharp eyed guys with the slicked down hairdos, the kind of guy who takes the art of telling a good lie seriously, the way they do on CNBC, instead of this rube? Why don’t they have a guy who looks like a real live Republican is supposed to look. Oh, I forgot, they’re all in high demand back at their day jobs on Wall Street, announcing that they will be “restating” the earnings they knew damn well their companies didn’t have in the first place. I hope they aren't on tomorrow night telling us how easy it is to "fix" the economy. The fundamental changes that would have to take place in our modern American society are sacrifices most of us aren't willing to bear anyway. I’ve been saying for awhile that when you start to hear those metaphorical dogs barking, when you start to feel those figurative water hoses stinging, you will know we are close. This thing we have all signed on for, to try to elect a black American to the presidency of the United States, is actually going pretty good. So good, in fact, that the people who want the opposition to win aren’t very happy right now. And a lot of them are on TV, masquerading as "fair and balanced" journalists. Oh, they smile for the cameras. They sit on the little TV news shows and puff out their chests and jut out their jaws and pontificate until it is time to go home. But if you could see them off camera, after they’ve walked down the hall, after they’ve exited the lobby and are looking for their car, you will likely see that the smile has fallen, that the proud jut has taken on a dour droop. In fact, they probably look a lot like most of us do when we leave work after a shitty day, exchanging our professional face for our off-the-clock one by the time we slide our seatbelts on. Kinda like the Eagles players did when they hit the locker room last night. At the rate the McCain campaign is going, any day now I expect them to inform us that the earth has always been flat, and anyone who tells you any different is a part of an effort by the Obama campaign to “disrespect” their beliefs. When I heard Ralph Reed’s high pitched voice earlier tonight on Larry King, asserting with righteous sanctimony that Sarah Palin was no longer going to testify in the Troopergate investigation because the investigation was tainted, my eyebrows went up. When he continued, adding that the investigation was being orchestrated by the Obama campaign, I understood right then why people throw things at their TV sets. Are we back in the thirties? A white woman gets in hot water, doing something she’s not supposed to
"Sarah P. - BOO-yah!"
be doing, and what does she do? She hauls a black bogeyman out of nowhere. Now that’s sick AND nasty. I imagine, if I can only haul one more Sarah Palin analogy out of last night's game before your eyes start to glaze over, that it would have to be this one. In the second quarter, while the Eagles rookie wideout DeSean Jackson was taking it to the house on a 61-yard pass play, Jackson flipped the ball behind him in celebration a half a step BEFORE he got to the end zone. What would Stuart Scott say during the Sarah Palin highlights after her last two weeks of running for the vice presidency? "Sarah, baby, next time, wait until you actually BREAK THE PLANE before you start getting your groove on. BOO-yah!"
Resisting The Evil That Dwells Within Thursday, September 18, 2008 There are things we believe we are as Americans, and then there are the things that we really are, the things we really do, the things we really believe in that shape our daily lives. Which pretty much brings me to the point of this piece – it is those things we really believe that can allow us to act on our most basic, most primal urges. I’ve been saying for weeks that we will know Obama is close to winning this election when we can hear the dogs barking and feel the sting of the firehoses. I had no idea they would be electronic. The rabid intensity of the peanut gallery that surrounds this year's presidential election has revealed a level of hatred and fear bigger than anything I’ve ever encountered in my whole life. Even on the talk shows, where there is usually an informal pecking order and some sense of decorum displayed by the panelists and guests, over the last week the discourse has gone beyond spirited debate, often becoming a frenzied free-for-all, with people speaking over each other or displaying intense and uncontrollable emotional outbursts. The things we are stooping to saying to each other are bad enough. The things we are stooping to doing, like hacking into someone’s email account, are even worse.
Resisting The Evil That Dwells Within
I’m no fan of Palin. But her being an ex-cracker doesn’t scare me. I’m not going to riot if MCain and Palin win the election. I’m not going to leave the country if McCain wins and dies in office, leaving Palin as our president. As stupid and as irresponsible as Palin was to conduct confidential business on a personal email account, something that anybody who has ever worked in corporate America knows is a security violation of the highest order, she does not deserve this. And if it turns out that this is really a political maneuver, a strategic tactic meant to confuse and diffuse the underlying issues, we do not deserve this. Wlliam Golding’s book Lord of the Flies was mesmerizing the first time I read it as a teenager, not for the depictions of unchecked violence that a band of boys stranded on an island perpetrated against each other, but because the author had tapped into the depraved part of my subconscious in a way that made me realize how close to a savage barbarian I could have been if it weren’t for the boundaries of behavior my civilized community rigorously enforced among its members. Too many of us lately seem to have lost the struggle to remain the ruler of the kingdoms that are our own minds, becoming mere servants instead, servants of those baser desires that lurk in its shadows. This latent fear of man’s primal urges, if left unchecked, is what is at the bottom of the psyches of the twenty percent of white Americans who claim they are afraid of us because we are black. It isn’t the part of us they know and see everyday that is so scary, but the part they can’t see that they know must be in us, because it is in them, that makes us so frightening. This feeling I have right now is the same. It is probably more than merely coincidental that the metaphor of the pig is central to the Lord of the Flies narrative, much as it has been central to the nonsensical venom that has been spewed the across the airwaves and on TV for the last week. Moral suasion was the central tenet of the civil rights movement – the notion that what our forebears were doing had the persuasive authority of righteousness on our side, in spite of the rhetoric to the contrary that typified the movement as a subversive element that needed to be eradicated. It is the remnants of this same sense of moral rectitude, at least in part, that is the impetus behind a lot of the momentum the Obama campaign has gathered this year. We’ve all heard it, or said it, from those who have exclaimed that they want to be “on the right side of history” to those who have extolled “it’s about time”. I’ve said these things and more myself, and can understand exactly why there is so much positive energy people are bringing to this campaign. In the battle of good versus evil, of might versus right, the choice I’ve made to support Barack Obama not only seems logical, it feels right. But this feeling I have tonight, the one these anonymous criminals have unearthed, is wrong, not just because its against the law, but because it feels wrong, the kind of wrong that makes my head tingle, that makes my stomach churn. This thing we are doing is hard, harder than hard. We will have remember, in the heat of the moments
Resisting The Evil That Dwells Within
to come, to be true to the ideals that got us here. Because on November 5th, I want to feel more than triumphant. I want to feel right.
Keeping Our Heads On Straight Friday, September 19, 2008 I am more than a little disturbed by the comment an anonymous poster left on yesterday’s post. "I'm having a problem with your premise ... You are suggesting that when a politician (and their party) declare themselves above the law in every definable way no one has a right to make public that politician (and party's) hypocrisy and malfeasance? It is precisely that "delicate sensibility" which leaves us now facing the possibility of ANOTHER FOUR YEARS JUST LIKE THE LAST EIGHT despite the carnage that has been wrought by the domination of republican policies for the past 40 years. Sarah Palin used that email account for official business precisely because she believed she could get around the public records laws. Neither she nor her actions merit respect from anyone. When I was on the grand jury panel here in Fulton County earlier this year, we had a person in our group who was very, very big on due process and very critical of police procedure. I’ll call him “Roger”. I was the foreman, so I had to pay attention to every burglary, every robbery, every theft by taking, every minor traffic stop that was escalated to a felony by the possession of crack cocaine, all the mundane shit that doesn't even rate making the paper but is prosecuted none the less. The jurors were more liberal than conservative, but after awhile, “Roger” started to get on everybody's nerves. Most of our cases were basic property crimes, with a little domestic violence thrown in for variety, a few shoot 'em ups, and the obligatory murder case of the day.
Keeping Our Heads On Straight
There was a particularly bad day, when “Roger” was a little testy, that he seemed to want to cross-examine the cop in every case, even when the perp was caught red handed and admitted to the crime. I got some coffee during a lull and was joined immediately by five or six jurors. "You've got to do something about ‘Roger’" they all pleaded. One guy, a pretty cut and dried fellow, said bluntly, "That guy is an idiot." I thought “Roger” was a bit much myself - the only indictments we ever no billed were the ones where over zealous officers tried to make judgment calls that was not substantiated by any physical evidence or credible eyewitness testimony. These were the kinds of things you could see a mile away - even the people who were dozing off in the back row would wake up when we heard a case like this. Worrying about the intricacies of police procedure for a guy who was arrested on top of a building with a blowtorch, bolt cutters, and a bag with fifty pounds of copper fittings in front of a row of disassembled air conditioning units WAS a waste of our time - he and his lawyer could sort that out in front of a judge. But I stopped everything, before we heard our next case, and gave a two or three minute speech to everyone about why we were there, why “Roger's” questions were within his rights as a citizen, and how his keen attention to detail helped me pay better attention to the presentations. As tired as I was of "Roger's" antics, as tired as I was of signing indictment after indictment listing young black males as the defendants, I HAD to make that statement. This was not just our job, but our duty as jurors, our duty as citizens. Just like it is with Sarah Palin's legal woes. This anonymous comment took me back to that jury room. This is kind of thinking that happens when government becomes a large, distant, omnipotent entity that is disconnected from the individual citizen, even as it develops into an overriding force in our lives. As true as this may be, mob rule is the last thing this Brown Man wants to return. Critical thinking, not testosterone laced posturing, is what we will need by the truckload these next few weeks. Critical thinking and voter registration. UPDATE - SUNDAY SEPTEMBER 21st Now Bill O'Reilly's website has been hacked in retaliation for O'Reilly's stance against the hack of Palin's email account. This is what I'm talking about. We CANNOT stand for this Wild Wild West shit. And I will say this even though I think that Bill O'Reilly acts like a complete and utter moron - "acts" because I know he knows better, but is just doing it to keep his show on the air.
SEC Fails To Regulate "Me, Me, Me" Brokerages Friday, September 19, 2008 I was talking to S. Wednesday night during a commercial break, while we were waiting for Screaming Sean Hannity, who was oddly subdued, to resume interviewing Sarah Palin. I'd just come in from smoking a cigar and reading the New York Times - well, I'd smoked the cigar, but I hadn't gotten very far in the paper, not after I'd read in more detail what had happened at AIG. The first commercial was for Pacific Life, the insurance company with the trademark scene they show of the whale diving into the ocean, its massive tail flipping over as it disappeared beneath the surface. I was instantly hot, not at Palin, but at the snow job I was smelling from the press about the AIG situation. "You know, I'm no economist, no insurance company analyst, but when was the last time you heard of a major insurance company going under?" S. had been on conference calls all day. She didn't answer at first, patting the dog beside her, with a look on her face that said "negro, I am through thinking for the day". When I opened my mouth to continue, I guess she figured I wasn't going to shut up about it unless she gave some kind of response. "Can't think of any." "EXACTLY!", I said. "'Cause insurance companies have to have a certain amount of reserves to cover the losses their policyholders could have." "But they do more than just insurance. They're all over the world doing all kinds of stuff." "So what? Those are subsidiaries. Separate books." "But don't they invest the reserves?" "Yeah, but they can't put them into just anything. Insurance companies are some of the most boring investors out there. Even Warren Buffet doesn't screw around with that shit." I may not have had a degree in economics, but I'd taken the Series 7 test enough times to know that the insurance industry's obligation to its clients required it to keep enough capital in reserve to cover claims - what the ratio was I had no idea, but I knew that for a company that size it should have been substantial. Karl Rove's fat face popped up on the screen after the interview, looking like the cat who ate the canary that was George Bush's presidency. He proceeded to carry water for McCain, smirking as he lambasted Obama for taking contributions from Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, two institutions now high on each candidates reform list. When he sat his fat ass up there and blamed the ENTIRE financial crisis on the alleged shortcomings of the underwriting process, I had to get up and walk away. You couldn't even get Desktop Underwriter, the proprietary underwriting system we use to determine whether or not a loan could even qualify to be sold to Fannie or Freddie, to take a sub-prime borrower. Alt-A products were as exotic as they got outside of FHA, and nobody was even doing any volume in FHA until last year, when there was no where else to take credit challenged (broke with low credit score) borrowers.
SEC Fails To Regulate "Me, Me, Me" Brokerages
Blaming the government sponsored entities (GSE's) for the mortgage crisis was like blaming the U.S. Mint for your gambling losses in Vegas because they printed up the money. Subprime lenders went under because the default rate on the paper they were holding was ten times higher than the GSE's. I fumed over this all that night and into yesterday, until I saw THIS headline at one of the sites I frequent: Ex-SEC Official Blames Agency for Blow-Up of Broker-Dealers By the time I'd gotten through the second paragraph: "The SEC allowed five firms — the three that have collapsed plus Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley — to more than double the leverage they were allowed to keep on their balance sheets and remove discounts that had been applied to the assets they had been required to keep to protect them from defaults." I started to get my equilibrium back. I knew damn well you couldn't have a collapse of this magnitude just because a few more loans than usual were late (default in mortgage biz lingo isn't the same as an actual foreclosure - it can also mean the loan is in technical default because the mortgagor is way behind). Over 95% of all mortgages purchased by the GSE's were still being paid on time. I read a little further. A smile crept across my face: "The so-called net capital rule was created in 1975 to allow the SEC to oversee broker-dealers, or companies that trade securities for customers as well as their own accounts. The net capital rule requires that broker dealers limit their debt-to-net capital ratio to 12-to-1, although they must issue an early warning if they begin approaching this limit, and are forced to stop trading if they exceed it, so broker dealers often keep their debt-to-net capital ratios much lower." A couple more paragraphs down, I hollered "I knew there was some kind of bullshit going on!" "Using computerized models, the SEC, under its new Consolidated Supervised Entities program, allowed broker dealers to increase their debt-to-net-capital ratios, sometimes, as in the case of Merrill Lynch, to as high as 40-to-1. It also removed the method for applying haircuts, relying instead on another math-based model for calculating risk that led to a much smaller discount."
SEC Fails To Regulate "Me, Me, Me" Brokerages
Only five companies were eligible for this program when it was rolled out in 2004. Guess which ones? Bear Stearns, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Goldman Sachs, and Morgan Stanley. The first thing that came to my mind when I read this was a quote I'd created as a part of a series of quotes that were sprinkled throughout a fictional story I'd published a couple of years back called The Black Folks Guide To Survival: "White folks, and white men in particular, have always found ways to alter, bend, or just totally ignore the rules they've made up when something doesn't suit them." Real life wasn't imitating art here - I'd simply expressed as directly as possible facts that we all already knew to be in existence. And here was the SEC chairman, proving my assertion once again. While you were on the internet at work, scrolling past ads extolling the wisdom, foresight and prudence of the companies managing your retirement money, your SEC chairman was waving his magic money wand over the capital accounts of these companies, effectively doubling or tripling their buying power without the addition of one red cent of actual money to their coffers. He turned the cash they had into supercurrency. If you've been in the financial services game long enough, even on the retail side, like I have, you had to learn the "Four C's" of a lending transaction - character, capacity, credit, and collateral. Ignoring any one of these items means you can't properly qualify the risk in front of you. In this case, the argument was and will continue to be that the track record and the reputation these companies possessed was the deciding factor in making a decision like this. THIS was the same criteria we used to make stated income loans. Which made reading this morning's latest SEC announcement on The New York Times website temporarily banning short selling of financial stocks all the more ironic. The quotes from the chairman got me so jacked up I didn't even need any coffee this morning: "The commission is committed to using every weapon in its arsenal to combat market manipulation that threatens investors and capital markets" Market manipulation is now the enemy, after you manipulated the make-sense rules that were already in place? Are these motherfuckers smoking crack? The phrase "alter, bend, or just totally ignore the rules they've made up" will be reverberating through my head for the next few days as I watch these politicians and industry regulators who know better continue to point fingers at Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, and the subprime mortgage lenders who have closed down.
Homeownership Philosophy Americans Believe In Deeply Flawed Tuesday, September 23, 2008 "NON-reviewable" "Non-REviewable" "Non-reVIEWable" "Non-reviewABLE" This is what you would see today if you could look inside my brain. This is the most ridiculous, most incredible part of the Treasury Secretary's proposed bailout plan that has seared itself deep into my synaptic nerves. "Decisions by the Secretary pursuant to the authority of this Act are nonreviewable and committed to agency discretion, and may not be reviewed by any court of law or any administrative agency." It wasn't until I clicked my mouse on one of my archived folders last night that I realized demonizing Treasury Secretary Henry Paulson's desire to operate a bailout fund was obscuring another part of the problem -that some of the fundamental philosophies American citizens believe in were also a huge contributor to this problem. Every other group in the animal kingdom accepts the fact that some of its members will occupy the low end of the totem pole, or remain at the bottom of the pecking order. Blaming congress for our personal shortcomings isn't even a shot in the right direction. All of these ways to bleed a borrower dry depend on the borrower feeling the NEED for things they WANT. Nobody NEEDS a $1200 a month car payment, but you would think they gave BMW 745i's away around here in Atlanta the way they pop up at every stop light. I can't think of one portable electronic device that is a necessity - including cell phones - yet most of us think we can't live without them, that our kids won't be safe if we can't have a way to instantly contact them at all times. Unless you work in the field, which most of us don't, you don't need them. I have a phone on my desk and two at home. When I forget my cell, I don't even miss it. The most expensive meal I ever ate growing up cost less than ten dollars at the local Western Sizzlin'. My father could take all of us out for steak dinners on Friday nights for less than forty dollars. The last time we all ate together the bill was almost a hundred and fifty bucks at a casual dining restaurant the kind of place we would have dressed up for thirty years ago. $5 coffee concoctions, $100 athletic shoes, 80 inch TV screens - all of this good living everyday will kill us dead if it doesn't bankrupt us or smother us in our own fat first.
Homeownership Philosophy Americans Believe In Deeply Flawed
In the meantime, I will be watching Mr. Non-reviewable himself, Henry Paulson, author of "The Audacity Of Debt" proposal, like a hawk. Fixing a ridiculous situation with an even more ridiculous proposal is about as stupid as it gets. I mean, if all of these investment bank problems are such surprises to the people who who run the banks, how do you even know if $700 billion is enough? Because as bad as some of the loans were that I and my fellow loan officers made, every step of the mortgage process is, was, and always will be REVIEWABLE.
Sticking It To "The Man" Tuesday, September 23, 2008 There was a Sprint commercial a while back that portrayed a CEO, grey haired, square jawed and in a pinstripe suit, sitting at his desk in his high rise office, playing with a new phone while one of his lackeys stood to the side. "Is that a new Sprint phone?" the lackey asked his boss. "Uh huh. With Sprint's new Fair and Flexible plan, no one can tell me what to do. I can talk when and How I want." The CEO turned to his lackey and sanguinely intoned, "it's my little way of sticking it to "The Man". His lackey, looking bewildered, blurted out, "but you ARE "The Man". The CEO stared straight ahead. "I know." There was something in the absurdity of that exchange that has had me thinking of John McCain more and more these days. The latest debacle in his logic-defying campaign has swirled around the refusal to allow any reporters to get within recording distance of Sarah Palin, his vice-presidential candidate, as she posed for photos with world leaders in New York today and tomorrow for a United Nations meeting. CNN pulled the plug on its TV crew after its reporters were barred from attending, leaving the media and the McCain campaign to play a high-level game of cat-and-mouse that has ended with McCain capitulating, agreeing to give a fifteen minute press conference today at 4:00 pm, presumably with Sarah Palin in tow. This will be the first press conference McCain has given since August 13th. In a lot of ways, McCain's actions over the last thirty days make me wonder when he will have to finally admit, like the CEO did in the commercial, that he is "The Man".
Debate Delay Dicey Decision Wednesday, September 24, 2008 Here I was, planning on giving up going to the first night of my college class reunion, S. beginning to get ideas about a debate party of sorts, when my boy John McCain's picture popped up as I surfed through the New York Times website to come across this headline:
"McCain Seeks to Delay First Debate Amid Financial Crisis"
I had just finished listening to our resident teenager explain to her mother, with the slick smoothness of a TV defense attorney, why it was perfectly okay for her to go shopping in the middle of the afternoon ON A WEEKDAY when she is flagging her economics class (is this some irony or what?). Although, according to her, her grade is low only because there are some "slight discrepancies" between what she "knows" and the right answers to the latest test questions. So when I saw that headline, I felt like I was reading about the teen-aged version of John McCain. Being unpredictable has worked for McCain lately, keeping the Obama campaign off its stride. But once McCain goes over the limit with these kind of decisions, he'll turn from maverick to menace in a heartbeat. Does it really matter if he and Obama go to Washington? They've been briefed personally by the two architects of the bailout plan on a daily basis. They've focused almost exclusively on national issues the last few months, as opposed to issues that are germane to their constituents in Arizona or Illinois. McCain is in a tighter spot than Obama. Oppose the bailout to distance himself from Bush, and the public outcry will be deafening. Vote for the bailout, even a new version, and the shadow of the Bush presidency he's been avoiding all summer will come back to haunt him. If you live with a teenager, you understand the power of pretext better than just about anybody. The pretext of postponing Friday's debate... ...opens the door to postponing the vice-presidential debate with Sarah Palin, who has never debated anything ever on a national stage. You do the math. Something tells me that yesterday's fracas over access to the network feeds touched a nerve in someone behind-the-scenes. Whether I'm right or wrong about this surely won't matter for long, though, as McCain and Palin are apt to change their minds back at any moment - just like our resident teenage diva.
"Negro, Do You Know Who I Am?" Thursday, September 25, 2008 As I watched the predictable news pundit responses tonight about McCain’s Mississippi Maneuver, I was snatched back to the first of the year, when something between Obama and an agitated press corp made me compare Barack Obama’s reactions when provoked to the classic performances by Sidney Poitier in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner and In The Heat Of The Night. Poitier’s characters acted as the moral authority in these pictures, rebuking prejudice through the only stance a black man could take in a movie in those days – coolly restrained rage crossed with a furious sense of righteousness. There is a heightened level of agitation I am seeing, not just in John McCain, but in a large section of the American population, a visible anxiety about Barack Obama’s ever growing support that is now threatening to ratchet itself up to the next level – an outright racially based fear that these particular white Americans who say they support John McCain and Sarah Palin can’t seem to escape. At the press conference he held yesterday to announce he was suspending his campaign to help his fellow senators wrestle with the Wall Street bailout plan, McCain’s eyes and his facial expressions told me what you already know - that his defiant stance was being backed by millions of his supporters, who had long been waiting for McCain to "show that uppity Negro" who was really in charge here. The way he looked at the camera when he said “I informed Obama of what I planned to do,” I could see his brain ticking – "negro, don’t you know who I am?" I don’t have to waste time conducting any damn polls to tell you what kind of nervous jubilation is erupting in this segment of America tonight. For these people, McCain is their Great White Hope, the last obstacle between that black man and the Oval Office. So long as he doesn’t pop up as a suspect in the Jon Benet Ramsey case, he can do no wrong. For Barack Obama supporters like me, watching their white hero in action, I get the same sense of preposterousness I have when I watch an obviously aged Clint Eastwood punch out men decades younger than him in his movies. But this preposterousness is laced with disgust, because I know the same thing you all know – white America has mastered the art of believing its own bullshit. There is a scene in the movie In the Heat Of The Night, set in Sparta Mississippi, where a young, vigorous Sidney Poitier, who plays a Philadelphia detective, confronts the old Southern aristocratic banker who is responsible for the death of a wealthy progressive industrialist. Poitier got slapped hard across the face by the banker when he asserted his authority as an officer of the law, something the banker had undoubtedly done many times before to rebuke impudent, uppity blacks who threatened his way of doing business. It was Poitier’s arm slinging back automatically, as if by natural reflex, his brown hand cracking the aristocrat square across the face, that brings me back to this picture year after year. I have watched this scene many times from the relative comfort of the new millennium, but isn’t until now that I really understand what that slap meant, and why John McCain is really doing everything in his power to avoid facing the movement that is Barack Obama. Suddenly withdrawing from the presidential debate to be held Friday in Mississippi has virtually nothing to do with the Wall Street crisis. It was the white community's sense of shame that the civil rights movement exploited, because it was
"Negro, Do You Know Who I Am?"
the only weapon they had. This white shame that the movement's organizers marshaled into a palpable moral authority literally disciplined America. This metaphorical visit to the woodshed is something these particular white people remember all too well, and are not interested in going through again. To have to see that brown skinned face standing behind a White House podium for at least four years means that they are wrong, that their belief systems are wrong, that the bedrock of the principles by which they live their lives, which most certainly does not include any notion of true equality by black or brown people, are just plain wrong. These are the things nobody wants to talk about, because the kind of kindergarten equality we have today is only tangentially related to an actual universal equality. Universal equality means anybody could potentially wield the power to retaliate, the power to dictate the agenda, and the power to rearrange the fabric of the lives we have come to believe are authentically American. What black Americans want to see from Barack Obama, the thing that will let us finally look upon him as a fully formed man, are crackling, spontaneous reactions to this kind of bullshit, a reaction whose aggressiveness exploits the power behind him. A reaction that says in no uncertain terms that he means business. His campaign managers know better than this, though. They know intimately the levels of depravity to which a lot of white Americans, including some of those who have decided to support Obama, can sink to in a hurry. So we won’t get to see Obama metaphorically cock his arm back when he is confronted with the rest of the bullshit that you know is about to come. But what we will see is an increased level of agitation in McCain and his supporters as the eight million volunteers and the $400 million plus dollars that under gird the Obama campaign conspire to do what our standard bearer cannot – retaliate against the odious stench of race baiting, fight to dictate the American agenda, and work to rearrange the very structure of the lives we actually live until we finally begin to really become the Americans we think we are in our minds.
Are You Suffering From Electile Dysfunction? Friday, September 26, 2008 • Do you find yourself getting frustrated with your political opponent? • Is it hard to maintain your concentration on current events ? • Are you haunted by your choice of running mate? • Is the leadership of your own party confused about your actions? • Are you finding yourself unable to hang on to your core constituency?
Are You Suffering From Electile Dysfunction?
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White Americans And The Politics Of Race: A 4 Part Series Sunday, September 28, 2008 WHITE RACIAL THINKING IN THE NEW MILLENNIUM I am approximately six feet tall – a little taller than the average American male, but not tall enough to really tower over a gathering of other adults. Every once in awhile, though, I find myself in a social situation where I am standing on a riser or a step or an incline that lifts me just two or three inches higher than my normal height. From the vantage point that someone six-two or six-three would have, the world looks entirely different. The people look different, as if I am getting to see another angle of who they are. Just that slight shift in my perspective lets me see, at least for a little while, what tall guys see when they look at the rest of us. This is what is missing from the debate on race and the affect it is having on the presidential election - a comprehensive look at the perspectives of white people, including those who, despite similar political beliefs or party affiliation, are having a problem voting for Barack Obama. The punditocracy gives the topic lip service, jumping from the question of why this is a problem straight to their favorite labels – Soccer Mom, Walmart Mom, NASCAR Dad, Joe Six Pack, Ma and Pa Kettle, Evangelical voters, Values voters, Rural voters, Bubba voters – before spouting off a pat answer that assumes these voters are either in love with the idea of a black president, or ready to kill the first black president. But if black people, as we have been asserting for some time, aren’t monolithic, why should we believe anything different about white Americans?
White Americans And The Politics Of Race
So I started doing some research, even before the polls started to record the phenomena of white Democrats who could not fathom voting for a black man last week, just to see what COULD be going on with my white brethren. I ran into a very good sources, including one whose findings anchor this series, The Black Rage In The White Mind, by Robert Entman and Andrew Rojecki. Their study categorized white racial thinking in four ways: Racial comity and understanding Multi-dimensional conceptual thinking – can hold positive and negative views and acknowledge that having varied interests do not make black and white interests mutually exclusive. Racial ambivalence A complicated combination of assumptions, misinformation, emotional needs, experiences and personality traits that all bear on a white person’s thinking about race. Can sometimes allow denial of the existence of racism. Racial animosity Persistent pathological biases that include stereotyping, denial, political rejection, demonization and fearful, angry emotions. Can include the extent to which white people see themselves as having group interests that conflict with those of blacks. Racist Believe blacks share such homogeneously negative characteristics that they must be an inferior rank of human against whom discrimination is inevitable and justifiable. To really have a chance at understanding the origin and motivations of these four different points of view, we’ve got to back up a bit and look at how we process the information we receive. One thing that all of these states of mind have in common are the basic cognitive functions of perception - attention and emotion - which are functions essential to an individual's knowledge of the world and themselves. Hopefully, this exploration of racial thinking can utilize the traditional building blocks of perception to provide a clearer picture of how white Americans tend to think when they think about race. Why is this important? Because in these final days of this presidential campaign season, when the "Racial Polarization" game begins in earnest, you will need to remember who the good guys are if you support Barack Obama. Because I've found myself beginning to do what a lot of you might be thinking - railing
White Americans And The Politics Of Race
against white Americans as a group instead of railing against the individuals, black or white, or the organizations who threaten my candidate's chances. Because in the end, even though black voters will be very important, without the scores of white voters, white volunteers, and white donors, Barack Obama would not have gotten this far.
Can We All Just Get Along Already? Monday, September 29, 2008 Racial comity If you take a look at photographs from a year ago of just about any gathering of staunch Obama organizers or supporters around the country, before getting on the Obama bandwagon became fashionable, you will immediately notice, even in the urban areas, the significant number of middle aged white men and women who were smiling in the pictures, not because they were supposed to, but because they seemed to have finally been able to put into practice the philosophies they try to live by. White people in America who have achieved a level of comity about race are a small but growing minority. They are the Peace Corp volunteers who go on a two year tour of duty and end up staying for ten years. They are people who care for the sick. They are the priests who serve in urban parishes. They are corporate executives who have avoided being indoctrinated into "meism". They are the scientists whose theoretical minds have reduced race to the trait that it is. My own student council adviser back in high school was one of these people. She approached her council advisory duties with the intensity and zeal of a high school football coach. In a small town Southern high school where 90% of the student body was black, she tirelessly spent her time and effort to mentor and train my school's council members, inspiring us to participate in regional and national association meetings and leadership workshops. We got to know each other pretty well by my senior year. One day she was upset about something another teacher had said to her about wasting her time with us, and needed to vent. I didn't realize until then that she had had to sacrifice a part of group identity in order to treat us the way she did. "There are some people in this town," she said that day, her mouth pursing in anticipation as she fumbled for her cigarettes, her eyes glittering, "who think I am wasting my time trying to work with you guys. It's because so many of you are black. They wonder, 'why does she do it?'" "Why do you do it?" I asked her.
Can We All Just Get Along Already?
"Because somebody's got to do it," she said, her neck rearing back, her eyes still hot. "And I'm that somebody." There are various studies that will tell you, with stupefying certainty, what percentage of the population falls into this group. I don't believe them. What I do know from my own life experience is these are the people who accepted racial reconciliation long ago, back when it wasn't fashionable, and in spite of the resistance of their relatives, their coworkers, their neighbors. It is as natural as breathing for them to be able to reach out their hands and their hearts to us. They are avid practitioners of multi-dimensional conceptual thinking. They can hold positive and negative views of blacks simultaneously, and are able to acknowledge that having varied interests do not make black and white interests mutually exclusive. But even progressive white people, as well meaning, as clear thinking and as open hearted as they are, often unwittingly replicate the structures and hierarchies of the status quo. An inability to conceive of or reproduce minority experiences first hand does not stop them from creating their own ideas of minorities from their own data or their own information gathering. Because he doesn't acknowledge that he has much, if any, discernible capacity to discriminate by race, the white progressive feels that he no longer poses a threat to minorities, and in fact, may feel let down by those who contrive to accuse him of having any kind of racial bias. If you are black, you have a good chance of knowing someone like this, no matter how you look, how much money you have, how much education you’ve got. They don’t pull any punches, and they don’t expect you to either. They often focus so intently on the human condition that in their presence the factor of race often recedes so much you forget, even if you are looking right at them, that they look different than you do. The trait that distinguishes this small group from almost all other white people, in my opinion, is not their capacity for empathy, or their willingness to give you everything including the shirt on their back, but their belief in a universal subjectivity. My point of view is as valid as theirs is ALL the time, not when they feel like it, or because I am a recognized expert, or because I share the same social station, but because I am a human being. The media has focused on the high percentage of black people who have voted for Obama, but these white people, even though they are only a small percentage of the population, still number in the millions. They are a large part of his real ideological base, and will have a huge impact over these next few weeks, above and beyond the number of raw votes they represent, on Obama's chances for victory. Why are these people so important? Because without them, Barack Obama would have been back in
Can We All Just Get Along Already?
the Senate months ago. It was people like these who gave Obama's campaign the time to attract enough skeptical blacks (like me) and ambivalent whites to give him the momentum he needed before the primaries. It is their experience as cultural translators that has enabled the diverse makeup of volunteers in this campaign to keep from being bogged down in petty misunderstandings. Why am I saying this today? Because somebody out here in this neck of the internet that attracts black bloggers and black blog readers needs to say it, and today, I'm that somebody.
The Tipping Point and Racial Ambivalence Tuesday, September 30, 2008 The presidential campaign of Barack Obama, at its heart, has always been a calculated bet, a $500 million dollar gamble that enough racially ambivalent white Americans could see beyond tradition and precedent and measure Obama's candidacy in terms of the value it brings to the table instead of the history it makes. Could they be wrong? It didn't strike me how much of my life was spent around white people until I listened earlier this year as a black coworker chastised a white coworker for offering him some sliced watermelon she was sharing with the rest of the office. "What do you look like, offering a black man watermelon? Don't you know that it's RACIST to assume I like watermelon?" He looked at me with a self-satisfied smirk on his face. The woman, a pretty feisty New Yorker, looked bewildered while she backed away from him, her normal aggressiveness reduced to a few half hearted "ums" and "ahs" as the corners of her eyes crinkled in. When she was gone, I looked at him. "You know, in the few seconds since you said "racist", I tried to remember the last time I've used that word. And you know, I couldn't remember when it might have been." If you have a lot of white friends and acquaintances, especially those from Middle America, you are very, very rarely going to use the "R" word. Among the racially ambivalent, it throws up an instant bar155
The Tipping Point and Racial Ambivalence
rier. So long as we dress alike, drive the same cars, have similar educational backgrounds and share similar dreams, racially ambivalent white people are okay with you. You will get a pass on your politics, even if they are Republicans, so long as you are a moderate. In fact, you are accepted into the fold as a neighbor, as a golf buddy, as a fellow cigar smoker or poker player precisely because of the moderation in which you seem to take all things in life. But behind the casual intimacy of these types of relationships lies a surprisingly complicated combination of assumptions, misinformation, emotional needs, experiences and personality traits that all bear on an ambivalent white person’s thinking about race. Psychologists Irwin Katz and Glenn Haas demonstrated in their research that anti-black attitudes correlated with white perceptions that blacks violate values related to the Protestant work ethic and that pro-black attitudes correlated with humanitarian and egalitarian values. They concluded that racially ambivalent whites can simultaneously possess both sets of attitudes. Their investigations showed that in this group, reactions toward a single black individual could be affected by a small push in either a positive or negative direction (e.g., slightly superior or slightly inferior credentials for a job applicant). From my own experience in living rooms of friends here in Atlanta's northern suburbs, I have listened with my own ears as people we've known for years have begun to talk out loud about why they are either for Obama or considering Obama as their presidential choice. For the few Democratic diehards around here, there has been little visible resistance to the idea of Barack Obama as president. In some of the more moderate Republican households, which is the group who people the suburbs around me, there seem to those who are at least open to giving the idea serious consideration. The neighborhood I lived in for ten years is only about ten minutes away from where I live now. The last time we were over there, during Labor Day weekend, we ended up in the great room of our old neighbors from across the cul-de-sac, talking about politics, something that had never happened in all the years we’d known them. It was interesting to hear the husband, who is some kind of research engineer, describe out loud to us why he was dissatisfied with what the Republicans had to offer, and how he was seriously considering voting for a Democrat for the first time in his life. He sounded more disturbed by the fact that the Republican candidates didn’t seem to measure up than he was about voting for a black man. Is he going to campaign for Obama? Probably not. Is he going to wear an Obama t-shirt or button? I seriously doubt it. But in those conversations about politics, when no one black is around, I would like to believe that he would build a case for his candidate the same way he did on Labor Day weekend. Why is this important? Because Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, in pointing out some of the characteristics of the way we exchange information, laid out a fairly plausible theory that attempted to explain "the levels at which the momentum for change becomes unstoppable." This middle of the middle class, who tend to be the least dogmatic of any group, have powered a large number of the trends Gladwell explores in his book. The biggest thing those who are racially ambiguous seem to have in common is that they have never found the need to hate black people or never were indoctrinated into a culture that promoted this kind of hatred. Extrapolating broad generalizations from specific incidents is a waste of time for people like
The Tipping Point and Racial Ambivalence
this. If they pass one of the many black homeless people who stand at the end of in-town off ramps or in the parking lots of downtown gas stations, I am not automatically linked to that image. But a realignment of the “natural order” of things in America can still be unsettling to people who, by and large in their day to day lives, don't have any real need to think about race. Which is why you will often hear the statement "I wasn't there when all that happened" when a conversation on race gets beyond the surface topics we've made it palatable to talk about, the ones that don't really ask any introspection from either blacks or whites, just an empathetic recitation of the Top Ten "Important Things Black People Have Done" list, or the obligatory adulation of the Top Three "Dead Black Civil Rights Leaders". And if a discussion develops, like the one about Barack Obama in my old neighbor’s den, it will only go so far, because it can be hamstrung by the boundaries of the compartment their racial thoughts reside in. In that particular discussion about the election with our old neighbors, we went around the room a few times, each of us adding our own thoughts about Obama or McCain in a casual yet slightly measured way, as if we were around an imaginary conference table, weighing in on a corporate project. We hadn’t made it to the ten minute mark when the women started talking about the obstacle Obama’s race posed to certain voters. After a couple of minutes, the husband got a look on his face, a slight scowl about the temple that signaled he was getting tired of this. The next thing you know, we were talking about the trip to the beach we are going to take together next month. Black People/Black Issue Fatigue Syndrome, which can either mean "we've spent enough time on this and need to get back to a neutral topic" or "I am uncomfortable with the direction this is headed", is one of those things when acted upon that gives the person expressing themselves this way a sense of getting back to some sort of middle of the road equilibrium. In times like these, in a town like Atlanta, black people, including myself, can get pretty aggressive when the topic of race is on the table. Should I have pressed my old neighbor that day to keep on talking until he could understand my outsized commitment to the Obama campaign effort? Was I a "sellout" for allowing him to change the topic so quickly? In the coming weeks, this is where Obama will draw his greatest number of “undecided” or “on the fence” voters like my old neighbor. If Obama’s campaign strategists are right, the things that make Barack Obama an appealing candidate, those traits that have been on stage front and center during the Wall Street crisis and the recent debate, will do more than anything I could say towards helping those voters “get over the hump”. So if my old neighbor, or your neighbors or your co-workers who are white are willing to talk to you for five minutes about the issues they’ve been wrestling with or the idea of possibly supporting an Obama candidacy, collect those five minutes just like they were campaign donations. Say "thank you" mentally when they look at their watch. Better yet, think of these people’s time and their growing interest as casino winnings. Because these are the things that happen when a $500 million bet begins to pay off.
Afraid Of The Dark : Racial Animosity Wednesday, October 1, 2008 The places I have run into the most resistance to my presence because of the color of my skin are mostly bars. Maybe it is the combination of alcohol and the concept of safety in numbers. Maybe it is the idea of a bar as a sort of sanctuary. Having a drink with people you know in a place that feels like home, even in today’s modern culture, isn’t much different than it was in the rum houses and the pubs that thrived back when the United States was founded. I was in my own neighborhood bar a couple of years ago, a bar I had frequented enough to have a few friends and a rapport with the bartenders that found my favorite beer waiting on me by the time I sat down, when I ran into a guy on a mission. There was only one seat open, so I sat next to him. Because the bar was busy, I had to wait for my beer to be served. The next thing I knew, the guy sitting next to me turned in his seat, looked directly into my eyes, and said, "You know buddy, I think you’re looking for another bar." He looked like all the other guys in for a few cold ones, guys whose company I’d grown to enjoy. So I said "what’s wrong with this one?" He leaned in, as if I was a mouse in a cage in a science lab, his eyes piercing, a snide laugh escaping his lips. "I just figured – you know – a fellow like you might like this bar over in Roswell a little better." I was kind of annoyed because my beer was taking so long, so I answered him before I realized what he was trying to say. "Dude, this is the closest bar to my house. Roswell is too far." He snorted, his nostrils flaring, and took another tack. "I think you’ll enjoy the music they play over there better than the stuff they play here. You know, the music your kind of people like." In half a second, he had taken all the prospective fun out of my Friday night. I was alternately livid and outraged, as well as angry at myself for getting too comfortable in a place where I stood out like a sore thumb. In another half a second, I’d made up my mind. "This sum-bitch is not running me out of this bar tonight" I said to myself as I glared back at him. Then a smile came over my face. I leaned in towards him. "Actually, I like the music in this place. Jeff is a pretty damn good musician. When he does Sinatra, he’s on the money." Just then my beer showed up. The bartender was a woman who often waited on me. “Here you go, hun,” she said as she cleared away the bar area in front of the two of us. The guy tried to bait me with a couple more heavy handed attempts to tell me I didn’t belong there. But I had my beer now, and since I planned on paying for it, and at least one more, I had as much of a right to my seat as he did to his. Somewhere along the way he realized that I was a regular patron. His shtick calmed down considerably. By then, I had started grilling him about where he lived, and what he did for a living. By the end of the night, I’d found out that his ancestors had settled the area, building the first mill in these parts in the 1700 or 1800’s. In ninety minutes, we’d gone from adversaries to two men who at least had achieved a semblance of understanding the others position.
Afraid Of The Dark : Racial Animosity
Do I do this all the time, as if I am Sidney Poitier, when someone is "afraid of the dark"? No. If I'm not in the mood to be bothered, I head out the door. But once I've made an investment, of time or money, I'm usually inclined to stick it out. As infrequently as it happens, this kind of confrontation is going to happen again. We all know that this is a part of the deal you make when you move into largely white areas. Incendiary comments and racially insensitive innuendo are often directed at us in order to get us to engage in a tit for tat, a mano a mano shouting match that reinforces the self image of the aggressor. I guess I could prepare for something like this, could memorize a selection of vile retorts and phrases to couple with "motherfucker", forming my own cache of verbal grenades, but what really happens when you do that? And I’m too old to get locked up for knocking a man off a bar stool. One of the things I’ve found in talking with people who are angry at black people is an almost religious conviction to reveal literally how they feel about us, as if it is their duty to present me with a laundry list of every bad thing every black person has ever been known to do. According to Entman and Rojecki, racial animus is consistent with "persistent pathological biases that include stereotyping, denial, political rejection, demonization and fearful, angry emotions" and "can include the extent to which white people see themselves as having group interests that conflict with those of blacks." How does this happen, though? How does an otherwise sane person who lives in modern times get this way? One of my cigar buddies who grew up in Philadelphia opened up to me after awhile. One day, when we were watching a lackluster football game at his house, he wanted to talk. "I hated black people growing up. I just hated ‘em. My father worked for the transit authority. He had started as a bus driver and worked his way up to a supervisor. But he got stuck there. Every time he would come up for a promotion, he would come home mad, because somebody black had to be promoted first. He had that same job for a long time,” my friend said to me. “And we lived in the Italian section. My parents grew up there, my grandfather made shoes there, I went to school there, I went to church there – I didn’t know anybody black until after I graduated high school. What I did know was black people had kept my family from having a better life." You will hear the words “affirmative” action come up a lot when you talk to someone like this. You may hear them assert that black Americans have been "given" their rights and fair share of opportunities, a semantic shuffle that sidesteps any acknowledgement that those same rights were in fact "denied" before being restored. In this world, black people are seen as being subjective, emotional, illogical, uneducated, and untruthful, while these white people see themselves as objective, reasonable, logical, educated, and truthful. This group, though, closely mirrors a large contingent of black people who are prone to do some of the same demonizing, the same stereotyping, the same denial and angry emotions. Even though these are largely defense mechanisms for us, we have to ask ourselves - how long we are going to continue to contribute to this impasse? This same friend of mine from Philadelphia, who is a vice president at a multinational technology company based here in Atlanta, told me that day that even though he eventually came to terms with the idea of diversity, he still struggles from time to time with those old urges to stereotype people. He admitted that he was still prone to forming opinions based on information he’d gotten from listening to talk radio, even though he knew what the shock jocks were doing. I told him that I had some of the
Afraid Of The Dark : Racial Animosity
same struggles with old urges. We talked that day for a couple of hours, a sort of free-for-all where he asked dozens of probing questions about stereotypes he’d believed all his life, until we’d burned through a couple of cigars apiece debunking his misconceptions. Do I do this kind of thing every week? Hell no. But there is one less white guy in the world who gets his information about black people exclusively from the media. Talking about race in America is uncomfortable. It calls into question a person's own sense of morality. It forces people to examine closely all those inequities we have learned to rationalize instead of challenge. The Obama campaign strategists seemed to anticipate this right up front, devising as the backbone of their game plan what they call a "grass roots" organizing strategy. But what I see is really more of a hybrid of community organizing tenets and multi-level marketing techniques that has traded, from the beginning, on the power of personal relationships between individuals to build what is probably the largest peer-to-peer network we ever seen dedicated to a political pursuit. The "Each One Teach One" feel the Obama campaign has is deliberate – it allows a message to penetrate into hard to reach, insular groups of people who are experts at holding their ground against new ideas, people like the guy at the bar or my cigar buddy. Because when you get right down to it, we all have enough things in common, even if they aren’t obvious at first glance, that can allow us to see the person in front of us for who they are, rather than who we think they are. Why is this necessary? Why should I even waste my time writing about people like this, who are so outspoken about their bias against Barack Obama? Because in many, many areas of the country, not just Wyoming and the Dakotas and Utah and Idaho, but states like Missouri and Michigan and Wisconsin and Ohio and Indiana and Pennsylvania, there will be many white people, according to the latest polls, who will be thinking about voting for a black candidate for the first time ever. But these voters don’t live in a bubble, or in gated subdivisions that only admit “ambivalent voters leaning heavily towards Obama”. They live, work, eat and socialize with the people who are biased against blacks. Sometimes they are related to them. In any case, there will be constant jibes from this contingent between now and November, a constant flow of “he’s a muslim”, “he used to sell dope”, they think he’s the antichrist”, “he’s going to let black people take over everything” that will act like a river against the rocks in its bed, wearing away at those who have “lost their way”, hoping these new found Obama voters will come back from the dark side.
"Negroes Smell Like Copper": White Racists Thursday, October 02, 2008 Journalist Richard Leiby used this personal anecdote years ago, presumably to add authenticity to a "fish out of water" account of a white journalist at a black journalist's convention.
"Negroes Smell Like Copper": White Racists
"Back in the seventh grade, at the all-white school I attended, an English teacher announced to our class one day, for no reason I can recall, 'Negroes smell like copper. If you ever get close to one, you will know it.' I tried. I licked and sniffed a penny. Was that it? "I never got close to a black person until my first year in college, when a black professor hired me as his work-study student and patiently mentored me in journalism. He smelled of rich cologne. But I could never get that insidious notion out of my mind." "RACIST!" Say this to a group of black people, and everybody nods their heads after reading a passage like the one above, all of them feeling in their own way a phantom sense of hurt not unlike that of an amputee who thinks he can feel his missing limb. Say this to a group of white people, and it becomes a verbal assault weapon, the linguistic equivalent of a drive-by shooting, peppering its victims with a sense of out-sized guilt for not seeing right off the bat the proper amount of vile and malicious intentions the author has woven into this tale. "RACIST!" "If someone white accidentally sneezes on me, THEY ARE A RACIST!" "If my paycheck is short due to a clerical error, but no one else’s is, THE COMPANY IS RACIST!" "If the white principal sends my kid home for setting the teachers desk on fire, HE IS A RACIST!" Calling someone "racist" is a reflex action these days for some of us African Americans. But if someone who is white points out something that is true in a tactless manner, that doesn't make him a racist, it makes him a boor. A lot of the incidents we cite to indict someone as a bona fide racist are in fact racially insensitive acts. In America in Black and White, a book by Abigail and Stephan Thernstrom, their research showed that in almost every European country, about four out of ten people say that they dislike a prominent minority group: Bulgarians and Germans dislike Turks, the French dislike North Africans, Poles dislike Ukrainians, Russians dislike Azerbaijanis, and so on. In the United States, by contrast, only one out of every eight white Americans dislikes blacks. To someone white who is a racist in modern day America, I am not just black, I am the enemy. Decades
"Negroes Smell Like Copper": White Racists
ago, when racial bigotry was commonplace, I would assume that a large contingent of white people were passively racist, just as a large contingent is racially ambivalent today, mostly because it was easier to "go along with the crowd". What we are seeing when encounter dyed-in-the-wool racists these days are the last of a fast disappearing breed, people who have become isolated from the very part of society they want to protect. According to Entman and Rojecki, white racists are people who "believe blacks share such homogeneously negative characteristics that they must be an inferior rank of human against whom discrimination is inevitable and justifiable." "Knowing" the truth, they tend to search for confirmation of these beliefs, able to dismiss even the strongest evidence to the contrary. Often, research by psychologists has shown, they cannot face the underlying shame of their own insignificance in the world. With all of the the things going on around them - black people who are not only integrating but also assimilating into the larger society more and more everyday - to be hell bent on despising black Americans, they have to really work at maintaining the fictions that such a system of beliefs requires. Since one of our biggest fears as human beings is psychological disintegration - what we colloquially refer to as "losing our minds" or "going crazy" - this kind of person must claw at the merest shred of inadequacy we display to maintain a hold on their own sanity. "Our brain has developed a capacity to create for us a world of our own imagination and making," wrote William Gaylin in The Rage Within. "Very few of us live in the real world. We live in the world of our perceptions, and these perceptions differ dramatically according to our personal experiences. We may perceive danger where there is none. If the distortion is ever enough, we may think we are living among enemies even when we are living among friends." Think locally, act globally is someone’s corporate tag line, but I have adopted it as my own short hand for how to handle personal conflicts and one-on-one confrontations. So I’ve been trying since the beginning of last week, when I started outlining this series, to think outside of the box about those people who are bona fide racists. But it hasn't worked. There is no known kryptonite that weakens the resolve of these kinds of people. Depravity will spew from the minds of these folks for the next few weeks, the kind of degeneracy that seeks to publicly humiliate Barack Obama and derail his candidacy, as if their very lives depend on it. You will hear "Obama Loves America Like O.J. Loves Nicole". "Barack Obama - Half Honkey, All Donkey". "If he is elected president, he will let the black people make us all slaves". You may even get a glimpse of the latest email making the rounds that shows Barack Obama shining Sarah Palin's shoes. In the end, what will all of these machinations really mean to us? MY shiny, unlicked two cents says, "not a damn thing".
No Vice Presidential Candidate Left Behind Friday, October 3, 2008 Joe Biden is running for the vice-presidency of the United States of America. He looks like it, sounds like it, smells like it, smiles like it. Sarah Palin better be glad the "No Child Left Behind" program didn’t apply retroactively, because her ass would be sitting in study hall right now, boning up on all the physical science, social studies, and economics concepts she obviously missed. She needs to be running for the nearest library, not the vice presidency of the United States – of MY United States. To stand behind this kind of incompetence in the name of supporting your party is WRONG. To dissemble, hedge, and beat around the bush about this woman’s performances on TV is WRONG. The second worst thing about all this is, Sarah Palin is not a stupid woman. Which means, if she sat through classes on physical science and social studies and history and economics in high school AND college, she had to really work hard at not absorbing ANY of the knowledge floating around. She must have avoided the library like the plague. Maybe she was practicing winking those big brown eyes - WINK WINK WINK - when she was supposed to be studying. The worst worst thing about all of this is the insistence by the people who support her that someone is finally on the ticket that can relate to the common man. Would you want the people in charge of your company to go “eeeny meeny miny mo” when making corporate decisions? Would you take your child to a doctor who couldn’t pass the medical boards? Would you have a contractor who wasn’t very good at reading blueprints to build your house? Would you want to be on a plane flown by an airline pilot who thinks the answer to a problem is "all of the above"? Hell no! I think it is this insistence, at every level, from the idiot “man on the street” interviews that show clueless voters parroting the bullshit they hear on TV - “well, Soledad, I really they finally SPOKE to me as a person” – to the punditocracy themselves, who seem hell bent on believing that if they simply REPEAT THE SAME BULLSHIT over and over, it will become a part of the narrative, looping back to Main Street in a day or so to give the clueless some direction. The name of this blog is “Brown Man Thinking Hard” for a reason – because I am committed to promoting deep thinking as a normal, everyday American activity. Clinging to ignorance is as unpatriotic as it gets; willful stupidity in my mind is the most treasonous act you can perpetrate upon your country if you have ASKED FOR PUBLIC RESPONSIBILITY. If Barack Obama and Joe Biden lose this election because the undecided voters say “I’m with stupid”, then I guess I'll have to live with it, but America will deserve what it gets from these substandard second-rate CARTOON CHARACTERS. I can’t think of a bigger, more heartfelt way for a citizen to say “God Damn America” than to cast a vote for Dumber and Dumber-est.
Barack Is Back Monday, October 06, 2008 Barack is back. The full-court press by Barack Obama is on. His surrogates started going to one-on-one microphone matchups yesterday, unfurling the history of the Keating Five Savings and Loan scandal as if it just happened last week. It is the timing, more than the coordinated effort itself, that seems inspired, coming after a two week effort by the McCain campaign to stop the bleeding on several fronts. With only 60 odd hours before Tuesday night’s debate, the domination of the news cycles by this new twist on the campaign trail narrative will certainly ruffle the feathers of an already irritated John McCain. I would imagine the campaign has planned for the inevitable push by Sean Hannity or Rush Limbaugh or Michael Savage to somehow connect last weeks O.J. verdict with Barack Obama. This is going to take a bit of imagination, but these guys can’t pass this up. Six Degrees of Separation will become Three Degrees of Taint by Association. Somehow, O.J.’s erratic, attention craving antics will be shoehorned into a box with all the misinformation about Obama, even though O.J.’s temperament and decision-making abilities are in the same league with McCain. If you thought you heard some convoluted logic during last week’s vice presidential debate, you better watch out, because the real bullshit is about to start flying. But Barack is back, his troops manning up, a body on a body, refuting all Republican talking points almost as fast as they are conceived. Now they are playing a little offense, with a email blast/drumroll to announce in tantalizing fashion the unveiling of a 13-minute documentary called "Keating Economics: John McCain and the Making of a Financial Crisis", available at KeatingEconomics.com today at noon, along with background information that every voter should know. Did the "mavericks" think they were shooting at a sitting duck? Once again, Barack Obama has changed the game, bringing out the big stick on the back nine, just like Tiger Woods does when he knows its time to put some distance between him and the rest of the field. The size and strength of his organization, with almost 40 million dollars and three hundred and fifty paid staffers in Florida alone, have begun to trump the McCain organization at almost every turn out in the field, rendering even the voter suppression tactics the GOP is famous for all but moot in the face of the largest voter registration drive in America’s history. George Will made a very cogent point on the George Stephanopoulos show yesterday. He said "Barack Obama will be the beneficiary of the biggest mailout in political history in the next couple of weeks – the 401(k) statements that will be hitting mailboxes all across America." Will feels that for many who are uncertain or undecided, seeing the dramatic drop in the account balances of their 401(k)'s will be the final push many people need to start believing that ii really is time for a change, putting one of the last nails in the coffin of the McCain campaign. Barack is back.
New Voters "Money In The Bank" For Obama Tuesday, October 7, 2008 I am slowly beginning to understand Andy Rooney, the curmudgeonly old guy who used to do a five minute segment at the end of the news show 60 Minutes about things he didn’t like. In the last couple of weeks there are a few words and phrases I’ve gotten tired of hearing: “gaffe” “Joe Six Pack” “energy independence” "also" “maverick” The one that is probably the most bothersome is the one I am sure will be used to death over the next twenty four hours as the punditocracy chatter among themselves on their pre-debate and post debate panels – “gamechanger”. I was reminded of this as I watched the Minnesota Vikings take on the New Orleans Saints in the Superdome last night. New Orleans amassed four times the yardage of Minnesota in the first half, but just couldn’t get the ball in the end zone enough. There had been too many errors in the execution of their gameplan, and too many fumbles by their star running back Reggie Bush. Minnesota was leading at one point by 10 points. And then, just like that, in the space of a few seconds, Reggie Bush electrified the crowd as he returned a punt from deep in his own territory for a touchdown. A few minutes later, he did it again, to put New Orleans in the lead. What was the first sentence out of Tony Kornheiser’s mouth? “This guy is a gamechanger.” Finally, I said to myself, someone uses the phrase “gamechanger” phrase appropriately. And as I sat there, watching Reggie Bush’s teammates pat him on the back, I thought about what it was that got me so agitated whenever I heard a political pundit say “will this be a gamechanger” when they attempted to predict the impact each candidate's performance could have on the TV audience. As I sat back, watching the two football teams fight it out on the screen, I could see exactly what it was. In a football game, you saw it all right there inside the stadium, the players on the field, the players on the bench, the coaches, the back ups, the special teams, the team owners in the skyboxes – everything that could affect the game except the training room was right there on display. In this election, we are seeing only a fraction of the manpower of the opposing campaigns. The podiums and the cadre of aides each of the Democratic and Republican candidates are usually seen with in news clips tend to be equalizing images. The thing that is so maddening to me is that if you could visualize, as I do all the time, the difference between the manpower and the financial resources of the Obama and McCain camps, you would quickly realize that there is no way John McCain or Sarah Palin could have the kind of effect on this election that Reggie Bush had on the game last night. There is no running room in virtually any state. No way a Hail Mary pass will make it to the Electoral
New Voters "Money In The Bank" For Obama
College goal line. And even if McCain/Palin recover a fumble, Obama/Biden have too many players on the field for them to get very far. One of the bulwarks of Obama’s basic strategy – significantly expanding the electorate – was derided by the conventional wisdom as being a costly, time consuming endeavor. Now these newly registered voters are like money in the bank for Obama - although these days, "money in the bank" might be an oxymoron. The “gamechanging” has been taking place for the last eighteen months, one door and one voter at a time. The army of Obama volunteers will finally get a break after mounting the biggest voter registration drive by a political party in modern times. No 30 second TV ads will change this. No debate zinger will matter. Reggie Bush's heroics didn't change the football game enough either last night. New Orleans lost by 3.
McCain Succumbs To Obama Mojo During Debate Wednesday, October 08, 2008 For all the policies and programs and progressiveness Obama might address in his debate appearances, it is the images, more than the rhetoric, that will ultimately decide his fate. Last night, in a debate setting that looked more like the studio of PeeWee's Playhouse than an actual townhall meeting, Obama was able to use his physicality in a way that we haven't really seen before, subliminally reinforcing the theme of youthful vigor with the relaxed and confident ease he displayed while waiting for his turn to answer a question from the audience. Obama's rhetoric is decades old - the logic, centuries old. But it was his image on the screen that stirred the blood of the debate watch group I was with last night. I watched the last two debates at home. Mindful of the tendency for crowds to be noisy and distracting, that was the best place for me, because I am not above telling someone to be quiet if I can't hear what's being said. But somewhere between looking at Bloomberg's chart of the 500 point drop in the Dow and checking my half dozen email accounts, I came across a reminder yesterday for a watch party that was being held right down the street from us here in John's Creek, Georgia, at a local sports bar called Barnacles. The stars aligned themselves perfectly - an absent teenager and a need to eat dinner - and we found ourselves walking into the sports bar right about 7:30 pm. I didn't really think about us being in Republican central until we walked into the place. The most interesting thing was the family we passed on the way to the banquet room in the back. The oldest child,
McCain Succumbs To Obama Mojo During Debate
a blonde-haired, animated girl who looked like she was in the third or fourth grade was standing by her mother's shoulder, talking into her ear as she pointed at the t-shirts the line of people dribbling into the room were wearing, explaining to her mother that the symbol on them matched the symbol on the posters tacked to the wall. Her mother was nodding her head, listening and eating at the same time. The most interesting thing about the whole scene was the fact that they were the only family sitting in this area - this restaurant was normally pretty busy, especially around family dinner time, every day of the week. We originally sat in a booth, but ended up switching to a table closer to the middle of the room. There were two huge projection screens at either end of the room, showing four fifteen foot tall shots of Lou Dobbs' head as he railed against something while Republican ex-contender Romney smiled. Sixty TV's lined the connecting walls, 30 on each side, all of them perched on a narrow ledge just above the booths, all of them showing Lou Dobbs. For some reason, Max Headroom came to mind. Many of the people there were regulars, folks who had come to know each other from the previous parties that had been held at the same location. Even though we were in a bar, there was a forthright earnestness in many of the people that reminded me of church. Sitting at a table for six out in the open seemed to function as a unofficial signal that we were open for company. We met a lot of people, including a couple that we already knew, between eight and nine. A lot of them seemed to repeat the same story - the turnout was lighter than usual, probably because there had just been a debate a few days ago. A young guy told us about his next Youtube video he was planning. A woman joined us - her husband, she said, had just been here last week, and was playing tennis tonight. Several women came over to say hello to her, relating the same tale - "my husband said he was just here last week". But between the looking for work woes, the high school exit exam horror stories, and the recent gas shortage tales, political trivia and rumor weaved in and out of the ever-changing conversation at every turn. I looked at S. and our new friends. "This place is like an opium den for political junkies." As I said that, I pictured the internet in my mind as a ghost town, the pathways to The Drudge Report, Huffington Post, Jack and Jill Politics, Daily Kos, Salon, Slate and Black Planet all gone slack with excess capacity as we all trained our eyes on the candidates walking across the stage. The room went silent as Brokaw spoke. I was impressed. The only real difference between watching the debate there instead of at home, at least at first, was the audience applause whenever Obama made an especially crisp point, and their sighs whenever McCain said "I can fix it". A Syrian couple I'd run into earlier on the way to the bathroom sat down at our table about fifteen minutes after it started. These two were too wound up. The husband could not be quiet, fidgeting, gesticulating, distorting his handsome face in disgust - it was like watching an interpreter for the hearing-impaired. The crowd quickly tired of McCain's stump speech standards, hissing whenever he said "my friends", or asserted "I can fix it". The longer the debate went on the more I thought of the famous Nixon/Kennedy debate in 1960 that many felt was one of the keys to Kennedy's victory that year because the TV cameras seemed to work against Nixon. McCain didn't just sound recycled - he looked old.
McCain Succumbs To Obama Mojo During Debate
In the last half an hour, before he seemed to gather himself for a final push, he sounded like a doddering old man, grasping at the tail end of sentences, looking a little unsure of himself as he pointed that finger again and again, still insisting, as if we hadn't been listening, that "I can fix it". His jokes were absolutely horrible, with a wooden delivery that seemed more like they were launched at predetermined times rather than the spontaneous zingers we all have seen him spout. And when he pointed at Obama, referring to him as "that one", you had to wonder whether it was past McCain's bedtime. Obama looked like he had had a very good night's sleep, and moved quickly, surely, and confidently around the stage. His biggest bugabear, the professorial stammer, was mostly kept in check, only rearing its head a lot near the end of the debate. After a tough two weeks and a Dow that closed down another 500 points yesterday, it was hard for him to get his inspirational mojo going, but you could feel it, right there under the surface, sitting right next to the sense of self satisfaction that his campaign plan was coming together. There is no doubt that McCain could feel it, could sense it, but couldn't combat it. EVERYBODY in the room seemed to know the early voting statistics for Georgia, and one guy just flat out declared that Obama was "winning Georgia right now". As I watched the big screen antics being multiplied along the rows of TV's along the walls, I was simply amazed at how big a part electrons had played in this election, from the Obama website to radio to phone banking to internet donations. I was glad it was coming to an end - the background color had gone from jarring to irritating. Back at home, we watched the recap by the CNN gang. Jeffrey Toobin could not let go of the idea that "that one" would be hung around McCain's neck for the rest of the campaign, much as the dead albatross hung around the neck of the Ancient Mariner. Nobody, from Castellanos on down, seemed to be particularly impressed with McCain, but none of them were blown away by Obama either. Something tells me, though, that in the bizarro world that this campaign season has become, Sarah Palin will be snarling "that one" at her campaign rallies before the sun sets tonight, even as we watch the Dow Jones Industrial Average falter lower during today's trading, as if name calling will obscure the financial crisis America is facing
Obama's Kryptonite Crippling McCain Campaign Thursday, October 09, 2008 I heard from three friends of mine in the same hour this afternoon. "What's going on with this ACORN?"
Obama’s Kryptonite Crippling Mccain’s Campaign
"Do you think Obama's got it in the bag now?" "Do you think it looks like Obama's going to win?" After the third call, it started sounding like the "30 Dirty Tricks In 30 Days" segment of the McCain campaign's fall strategy had gotten up to a full head of steam. Throw enough mud long enough, and even the most faithful will begin to waver a little. So I decided to see if I could find anything to ease their minds as the negative campaigning season begins in earnest. After looking around, I could see why my friends were calling - it looks like Old Spice and Scary Spice were at it full speed ahead today, manufacturing new slurs by the hour to try to combat the rising tide of bad news that threatens to drown their struggling campaign. But there's no need to dwell on that stuff - there will plenty more of it for the next few weeks from Old Spice and Scary Spice as desperation sets in. Just remember, stories like the ones I am listing below are like kryptonite to the McCain campaign. The more of them there are, the weaker they get, no matter how negative their attacks are.
Alaska Supreme Court Refuses To Block Troopergate Inquiry Obama Buys Half-hour Of Network Primetime Obama Polling +8 In Virginia
Hopefully, for those of you who have begun to get a little nervous like my friends, these items will give you a little more confidence, or assuage any doubts that may have popped up this week. Old Spice and Scary Spice can yell "terrorist" and "William Ayers" and "he's not one of us" as loud as they want - it is being drowned out by the roar of the Dow Jones Industrial Average crashing down through the 9000 point mark. Losing another six hundred points will put the Dow Jones under 8000, a very real possibility in the next few days. The only gamechanger this year will be the economy. Although I'm sure there are some people in a small, airless room somewhere near McCain campaign headquarters who are trying to figure out a way to pin this on Barack Obama. I'm still waiting for them to connect Obama with O.J. At the rate these two are going, you know its just a matter of time.
Making The News Monday, October 13, 2008 My mother went to Benedict College in Columbia, South Carolina back in the late fifties, when black Americans were protesting segregation and joining together in protest marches all across the country. So when the documentaries begin to air in January and February, she often shares a favorite story: "We used to get dressed up and do our hair, then go to downtown to one of the places that had a lunch counter. We'd stroll right up to the counter and take a seat. We'd sit there until the word got out and the newspaper reporters and the TV cameras showed up. Then we would race back to the dorm to see if we could see ourselves on TV." She would laugh as she recalled the scene. "Man, if you went at the right time, you could make the news everyday." A lot of the things I saw on TV last night were about people who were "making the news". About people who were mugging for the cameras like my mother and her college buddies used to do. Fidel Castro's recent pronouncements about race and America, Mitt Romney's criticism of the McCain campaign strategies, and of course, Mr. James Harris, the black guy calling himself a conservative whose infamous performance at a recent John McCain rally has become a youtube.com classic, all had something in common - a desire to make the news. So who did I see on CNN last night but THE James Harris, who turned out to be - guess what? A radio talk show host - with a big cheesy grin on his face as he fielded questions from commentators. The thing that made it even more surreal to see Harris basking in his 15 minutes of fame was the fact that I had just watched the movie Head Of State with Chris Rock. Some of the things Rock had played for laughs were actually taking place in the real live presidential campaign of John McCain and Sarah Palin. With the final presidential debate coming up in two days, even as voters have been casting their ballots in many states for over a week, in some ways this election is beginning to feel like the Georgia Dome during the fourth quarter of an Atlanta Falcons football game - vendors cleaning up, people streaming out of their seats, security directing traffic, all while the game is still in progress. The professional commentators on the cable news channels look like they are getting tired. The liberal squawkers seem triumphant but fearful. The conservative talkmeisters appear to be combative and embarrassed. In the next 48 hours, the Obama campaign will announce its September fundraising totals. With the planned ad buys that have already been announced, the expectations are that the total will surpass 100 million dollars. I am glad to be back. Unlike a lot of my Atlanta Falcon fans, when I go to the Georgia Dome, I stay in my seat until the clock expires, even if one team is running up the score.
You Know You Flipped That Switch, John McCain Tuesday, October 14, 2008 When YOU flipped the switch to start the negative campaigning in earnest, John McCain - YOU know what switch I'm talking about - YOU signaled to your troops how low YOU were willing to go. I’m here to tell you that you wasted your breath dismissing the comments by Congressman John Lewis that compared recent actions surrounding your campaign to those promulgated by arch segregationist George Wallace. This is EXACTLY how you motivate people to believe your message, John McCain, when logic and common sense have to be abandoned. It's the same way you do it in wartime when you have to learn how to hate an enemy you don't know. The Gordian Knot of race didn't tie itself. And in all those years since the first guy - who I am certain was not one of us pesky minorities, who have caused all the rest of the nation's ills, including the latest financial crisis - since that same first non-minority guy thought up the concept of discrimination based on skin tone and ethnicity, there were a whole lot of non-minority people through the ages who went along with the idea. Why? Because it gave them an advantage. But now that the shoe is on the other foot, having an advantage because of the color of your skin seems to be bad all of a sudden. It isn't a coincidence that the party who has adopted Christianity as one of its main sponsors is paying the price for this. Over zealous religious believers have been some of our nations most dedicated and fervent oppressors, with centuries of practice under their belts, and even now, they have retained the unique ability to spit intolerance out of the same lips that they use to ask God for personal salvation. Barack Obama is as much of a politician as the next guy, which is why I will applaud his use of any means necessary to corner, cower, antagonize, browbeat, and generally keep his opponent off balance. You know who Obama is, John McCain. He's the one wearing the white trunks, not the right trunks. He's the one who you've said is "all show and no go", although he asserts that he is the second coming of "float like a butterfly, sting like a bee". He's the one that's taller than you. He's the one you've been chasing around the country these last few weeks, trying to keep up with Obama campaign rally ropea-dope. Now you're about to find out what Joe Frazier knows - the "sting like a bee" part can hurt you real bad. But its not the "race card" that's doing all this, John McCain, its the collective strength of all those community organizers - remember them? - who are really taking a toll on you, who are showing in these final days that having a longer reach is as invaluable in politics as it is in boxing. If I were you, John McCain, I would immediately demand an apology from George Wallace, Strom Thurmond, Joe McCarthy, Jessie Helms, Lee Atwater, Bull Connor, Lester Maddox, and all the rest of those whose vile and despicable acts of the past have forced you to have to try to be a decent and honorable candidate, especially when the cameras are rolling. Because it's too late to flip that switch back - it's stuck in the "ON" position
This Is Not A Horse Race - Again Wednesday, October 15, 2008 One of the fallacies that has been propped up by our main stream media journalists for the last three weeks is that this election is still a horse race. What almost all of them conveniently ignore is the tremendous amount of energy, time, money, and an improbable shift in the actual demographics of the remaining battleground states that would be needed for the Clinton McCain campaign to garner more than a 50% total of the outstanding pledged delegates votes in each of these states she is projected to get based on current state by state estimates. I wrote the original paragraph above back in May, when Hillary Clinton’s campaign was flailing against Barack Obama’s organization. The title came back to me as I thought about the political pundits on TV last night. There was no real tension in their voices as they speculated about tonight’s final presidential debate and the things each candidate needed to accomplish, because they know what you know – John McCain and Sarah Palin have very little chance of winning this election. The thing that is maddening to me this time around is that every journalist in the country who is on the political beat or is a political columnist, people whose job is to understand the actual mechanics behind getting out the vote, don’t do a better job of focusing on why the feeling of an inevitable loss by McCain/Palin is so similar to the feeling you got back in May when Hillary Clinton’s team was on the ropes. Barack Obama and his top strategists have taken the business of politics as seriously as the Mafia took the business of crime. Their decision to make the internet and the small donor the backbone of their fundraising efforts was as revolutionary to American politics as Henry Ford’s assembly line was to the manufacture of automobiles. The methods they used to mobilize and deploy their campaign resources - money, manpower and volunteers – are as pioneering to political organizational planning as John D. Rockefeller was to the distribution of oil. Do you think you will hear any of this tonight after the debate from your favorite political pundits? This level of execution has changed the dynamics of our electoral process so much that our traditional political bellwethers have become anachronistic. Tonight’s debate is almost a formality. Too many people are planning to vote this year, people who don’t seem to understand that they are supposed to have landlines, like good Americans, and that they are supposed to wait by their phone to be polled. Too many dollars have been raised from individuals who don’t seem to understand how much quid pro quo is supposed to be gotten in exchange. And waaay, waaay too many people are on the internet, talking to each other when the latest "information" being disseminated doesn’t seem to add up. But the people who get paid the big bucks to analyze this election will be telling you the same old stuff they said last week. The campaign commercials will recycle things you already know, but with a more insistent tone in the narrator's voice. The campaign surrogates on both sides will continue to parrot their talking points, with the Republican ones trying their best to look particularly earnest. And John King, the guy on CNN who plays with the snazzy electoral vote map, will be working overtime tonight to explain to you just how John McCain and Sarah Palin might still be able to pull this out.
For Those Who Have A Hard Time Believing In Obama’s Chances When The Polls Are Not Enuf Wednesday, October 15, 2008 At a blog like mine, where there are no R Kelly updates, no photos of Malcolm X, or no list of a journalistic pedigree, what it pretty much boils down to is a certain level of trust that develops between me, the writer, and you, the readers. I'm pretty strident in the positions I take because...well, because that's the way I am, especially after getting my arms around enough facts to let my brain cells go to work. And I stand behind everything I write here, which is why I have no problem putting my real name on my Creative Commons license. But one thing I've had to learn working in the mortgage business, where I can ask total strangers to turn over their social security numbers, birth date, tax returns and bank statements in less than five minutes over the phone, is that sometimes you have to look at things from the perspective of the customer, who is pretty much gauging whether or not to fax some of their most closely held personal and financial information on the sound of a voice and the inflections of a few key words. When I sense this, I step back for a second from talking about the four things I need to know to give them an accurate rate quote and slide into a quick session on how to evaluate a loan to make sure it meets their needs. By the time we get back to finishing up the actual loan application, they've often gotten to see how I think and what I know long enough to finally get comfortable about sending me their documents. So this post is for Melinda, who needs to see a little more today than my opinion. I am not a big fan using of Huffington Post as a source, but this account, unlike most of the essays they post, is a pretty detailed account of what really is going on in the Obama campaign. I will also have some links below the excerpts from "The New Organizers" by Zack Exley that I posted a few months ago, when I wanted to know what was under the hood of the "O-Train". Melinda, I don't know if you know anything about cars, but back when I was a teenage boy, I used to study magazines like Sports Car Graphic and Car and Driver as if my life depended on it. At that time, back in the early 80's, the Porsche 930 Turbo was one of the fastest cars in the world. Porsche's engineers were considered to be among the world's best at building performance cars. Not a single car rolled out of the factory whose engine hadn't been fully tested and test driven. But for the richest Porsche aficionados, that wasn't good enough. They'd buy the car and get it shipped directly to an independent performance engine builder here in the States. These guys, for a fee hefty enough to buy you a small car even today, would take the entire brand new Porsche motor apart and then put it back together again to tolerances closer than the minimums specified by the factory blueprints. This process was called "blueprinting" an engine. Barack Obama and his guys have not only come up with a brand new way to look at organizing a presidential campaign. They were also willing to "blueprint" their own ideas, taking them apart and letting their volunteers and lower level staffers help put them back together again - while the campaign was going on.
For Those Who Have A Hard Time Believing In Obama's Chances When The Polls Are Not Enuf
The New Organizers, Part 1: What's Really Behind Obama's Ground Game EXCERPTS: The "New Organizers" have succeeded in building what many netrootsoriented campaigners have been dreaming about for a decade. Other recent attempts have failed because they were either so "top-down" and/or poorly-managed that they choked volunteer leadership and enthusiasm; or because they were so dogmatically fixated on pure peer-to-peer or "bottom-up" organizing that they rejected basic management, accountability and planning. The architects and builders of the Obama field campaign, on the other hand, have undogmatically mixed timeless traditions and discipline of good organizing with new technologies of decentralization and self-organization. In 2004, it was unusual for volunteers to have persistent roles and responsibilities—both at the Kerry campaign and the independent field operation Americans Coming Together. That is the norm for electoral organizing campaigns, and perhaps organizing in general these days. In contrast, the Obama neighborhood team members are organizers themselves, sometimes working more or less as staff alongside the young Field Organizers. The link above is to a long article. If you don't do anything else today, read the whole thing. And then send it to your friends, and ask them to read the whole thing. Because even though you're not out there on the street, just your believing and your positive energy will help the cause. My own post from the past is yet another collection of links that describe the beginning of all this: Under The Hood Of The O-Train EXCERPT: I wanted to know what the real deal was behind the “O-Train”. Is it the smile? The near Sidney Poitier level of courtliness? The much vaunted “charisma” that seems to work its way into the opening lines of nay article about Barack Obama? Or could it be simply - superiority. Because he seems to have a superior level of fund raising, superior advisors, superbly crafted speeches – from the outside looking in, it appears that he has met and exceeded his challengers at practically every organizational detail… …that’s what I really want to know – what do the nuts and bolts of their operation look like? A little research turned up the playbook and the be174
For Those Who Have A Hard Time Believing In Obama's Chances When The Polls Are Not Enuf
ginnings of its execution. Again, hats off to this wonderful internet (which I’m sure will be more closely regulated in the future) for providing access to ACTUAL INFORMATION when a brother wants to know how things work. So if anybody tells you they are not sure Barack Obama can be trusted to run this country, you tell them that he has so much faith in this country that he has trusted average, everyday Americans to organize, staff and manage the backbone of his campaign.
No Intellectual Peacocks In This Debate Thursday, October 16, 2008 Luckily, I dozed off during the closing statements of the debate, so I avoided what must have been a painful night for the political pundits who were waiting with baited breath to dissect this last presidential debate. Because there was really nothing John McCain could do, short of beating Barack Obama in the head with a baseball bat, that would change the course of this election. Actually, the main thing that was running through my mind just before I went to sleep was a burning question - who the hell runs CNN? And what do they have all those god dammed dials and charts and lines on the screen for? That stuff was beyond distracting – do they think the kind of people who watch debates are video game junkies? If I was one of those live bloggers who posted comments to the web about the debate every two or three minutes, I would have sent fifty nasty emails to the network last night. The thing that the pundits probably spent a lot of time telling you about is what those seismograph looking lines meant as the debate went on, as if every reaction you have as a human being is directly related to a substantive input. I will watch Sunday Night Football even if Detroit is playing the next worst team in the league because my old buddies John Madden and Al Micheals are calling the game. Why? Because its the sound of their voices that I want to hear, a pleasing and familiar combination that lulls me to sleep on the very same couch I fell asleep on last night. When I woke up, the actual debate was being played again. As I lay on the couch, gathering myself so I could sleep in an actual bed, I thought about the voices of Barack Obama and John McCain that were piercing my semi-consciousness, and something my best buddy had said after the last debate.
No Intellectual Peacocks In This Debate
"Bill Clinton is probably the best debater ever-" "Bill Clinton," I said to him that day, "has been arguing his whole life. It was a survival mechanism." While I listened to the voices of Obama and McCain with my eyes shut, repeating words and phrases I'd originally heard a couple of hours before, I recreated their personalities in my mind's eye to match the images their inflections and intonations suggested. And then I compared them to Clinton, looking for a way to delineate the differences between the three of them in terms of their personal styles. Obama sounded like some of the guys I grew up with, the kind of guy who had always drawn attention because of his "otherness" instead of any preternatural ability to speak to people. McCain reminded me of all the short guys I'd ever known, who had always had to do unnatural things to stand out in a crowd. Clinton's draw has not been his looks, or his height, or his charm, but his intelligence. Maybe I know this because I am a small town native myself, but in the kind of place Clinton was from, where he didn't grow up in the biggest house, or have a black father, or six fingers, he was known as the kid who knows everything. Obama, as we have seen time and time again, reluctantly displays his smarts. McCain doesn't seem to care whether you think he is a smart guy or not. But for a guy like Bill Clinton, it was being an intellectual peacock that made him stand out in a crowd, that got him in front of opportunities his mother never could have shown him, that garnered the awards, the fanfare, the presidency, and the women, starting with his wife. As Obama's stammer and McCain's bluster invaded my thoughts, repeating many of the same talking points we've come to memorize over the last couple of months, hectoring each other over "Joe the Plumber", I wondered if there had really been anything of value in this last debate, other than the fact that John McCain had obviously practiced looking Obama directly in the eye. "If I'm starting to think about Bill Clinton," I said to myself as I clicked the TV off, "probably not."
Cut That Zero, Get With This Hero Friday, October 17, 2008 Is Barack "The Professor" Obama starting to get jiggy with it? Could he possibly have Doug E. Fresh's Greatest Hits on his IPod?
Cut That Zero, Get With This Hero
In a recent picture, Obama is flashing what looks like the commonly accepted sign for “O.K.”, his thumb and forefinger curving to form an “O” as he offers a wry, close lipped smile to the camera. This could be signaling a lot of completely innocent things. But if you have a multi-track mind like I do, one that can go off in ten directions at the drop of an absentee ballot, you might get the crazy idea that he's trying to show us:
•The number of percentage points McCain and Palin increased in the polls today. •The number of children Obama expects his daughters to have before they are 21. •The amount Joe The Plumber's taxes will go up on the income he ACTUALLY earns. •The sum total of all the game changing ideas the McCain campaign has left. •The total quantity of mooseburgers Obama will ever eat in his life. •The number of text messages Obama has sent Rev. Jeremiah Wright this year. •The amount of times Obama has considered "suspending" his campaign. •The number of times Obama wished he'd chosen Hillary Clinton as his running mate. •The total quantity of bombs Obama helped William Ayers build and detonate. •The number of terrorist cells Obama heads up. •The number of aides Obama needs to help him navigate the internet. •The amount of chittlins Obama intends to keep stocked in the White House kitchen.
Now I'm sure his gesture was in response to something more serious, like the amount he plans to raise taxes on the middle class, or the number of times he voted for the war in Iraq, but with all this repetition of these talking points about the ISSUES, my mind has become the devil's workshop. November 5th can't get here soon enough.
Doing The Colin Powell Bounce Sunday, October 19, 2008 In the last twelve hours, I've heard Chris Rock advise white people on when it is appropriate to use the word "nigger" in public, come across a very recent photo of Colin Powell doing the "Colin Powell Bounce" on stage in London, watched the Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin replace her own alter-ego in a cameo appearance on a comedy show AND sing along to a rap song that makes fun of her own candidacy, all capped off by the announcement that Barack Obama's campaign raised $150 million dollars in September. Whew! Then "The Last Boy Scout", Colin Powell, decides to finally announce his presidential election endorsement, after shaking up his image this week with an impromptu performance on stage with a hiphop group. Powell commented at the Africa Rising Festival on Tuesday in London, ""I stand before you tonight as an African-American. Many people have said to me you became secretary of state of the USA, is it still necessary to say that you are an African-American or that you are black, and I say, yes, so that we can remind our children. "It took a lot of people struggling to bring me to this point in history. I didn't just drop out of the sky, people came from my continent in chains." Colin Powell was back to his stone-faced self this morning, though, as he praised Barack Obama, criticized John McCain, and then looked into the Meet The Press camera and said "I'm voting for Barack Obama." His announcement got the cable news pundits atwitter, with some of them, especially the ones on CNN, reading so much into the phrases he used that you thought they were fortune tellers instead of journalists. Watching Newt Gingrich on the George Stephanopoulos show, I had to force myself to remember that he had been a college professor before entering politics, because the stuff coming out of his mouth this morning was more ridiculous than usual as he recited a laundry list of "leftist" and "liberal" policies that were about to be unleashed by Obama and Congress on the American public. To hear Gingrich say that Democrats wanted to "redistribute" the hard earned money of ordinary Americans almost made me fall out of my chair. We just gave the biggest wealth transfer in the history of the country to the smallest, most personally financially secure sliver of citizens EVER, a "redistribution" that will dwarf anything coming down the pike for years, and people who can add "2 + 2" are supposed to react to smug faced sound bite? The thing all the Democratic pundits missed was an opportunity to hammer home Powell's endorsement. The reality of Powell's decision is that he threw his support behind the most conservative candidate in the race. If you can see beyond the rhetoric of the hot button issues, what you've got is what you always get when a black guy rises to a high level in America - someone who does their homework and is prone to act out of an abundance of caution. I need to go practice my dance steps - looks like Powell might have a few moves on me.
H.N.I.C. Rebukes G.O.P. Tuesday, October 21, 2008 For years, Colin Powell has been the Republican Party's favorite black man, their beloved "Head Negro In Charge" who didn't threaten any of the Party's leading presidential contenders because he was not going to run for president. He was their light skinned Morgan Freeman - wise, solemn, with a dignity and a bearing that made him the conservative movement's bulwark against the Jessie Jackson's and the Al Sharpton's, an accomplished, polished, no nonsense kind of black guy whose dynamic personality appealed to the GOP's free enterprise capitalism ideologists. You couldn't have ordered a black actor from central casting, if Morgan Freeman was busy, who could better play the role of the Republican Party H.N.I.C. than Colin Powell. Which is why Sunday's announcement of him coming out in support of Barack Obama was all the more heartbreaking for John McCain and his allies. In an excerpt from a piece of short fiction I wrote a couple of years ago, titled The Black Folks Guide To Survival, I expounded on the Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice's images within the power structure, and how they were relevant to any young black professional who had his eyes on the executive suite: There are ex-Crackers out there, especially the ones you work with, who wonder why we all can’t be like Condoleeza Rice or Colin Powell – smart but not uppity, aggressive but not angry, ambitious but not power hungry. As unpopular as some of the decisions are that Rice and Powell have made in our community, they are still two black folks in blue suits using complex language on television to articulate their thoughts. DO NOT FALL FOR THE OKIE DOKE! Condi and Colin don’t want to get to the top spot in their organization. You do. If your goal is to be “The Man” in your organization, you are going to have to take the gloves off and duke it out sometimes. As I watched Powell calmly and methodically lay out his reasons for supporting Barack Obama, his mannerisms seemed reminiscent of those of a high school principal who has gotten tired of his students who are perpetual troublemakers. His blunt assessment of his own party's failings was probably the most candid seven minutes of presidential election commentary that has been shown this year. The talk radio court jesters didn't miss a beat, mercilessly pounding on the validity of Powell's actions since then, but what they don't seem to realize is they are not talking about O.J. Simpson. Colin Powell has stood in foxholes. Colin Powell has commanded battalions.
H.N.I.C. Rebukes G.O.P.
Colin Powell had four stars to go along with the rank of general. Colin Powell was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Colin Powell was Secretary of State of the United States of America. Beside Powell's thoughtful, measured comments, these radio shills sound like all the other pretend Republicans and fake conservatives who feel the need to cling to a rigid ideology instead of allowing their thinking to be guided by core principles. The "Straight Talk Express" can't haul much more of this hypocrisy - the wheels were already starting to fall off of the McCain campaign. Rush Limbaugh and his cohorts are trying to turn the clock back to 1945, when black soldiers who fought to keep America free were supposed to get back in their "place" when their ships hit our shores. When the black man's opinion, whatever his station in life, only mattered when the rest of the country wanted it to matter. The drumbeat on the airwaves, the kind of revealing dialogue being shown between these scared white men and their audiences about what THEY'RE feeling - by last night, when the evening news shows came on, I had become more than a little ticked off, partly at myself for lumping this rhetoric into the same old "this is the kind of shit black people have to put up with" and partly at the way the media pundits had taken out their toolkits to subtly reshape the boundaries of discussion, imperceptibly pointing their commentator colleagues into directions they were more familiar with. If our faith-based friends would only exhibit a little more "faith" in the process, instead of worrying about what they see in front of them, I think they will be able to get through this. Because Colin Powell and Barack Obama are going to be black for a long time.
GOP "Legion of Doom" Shrink Black Vote Thursday, October 23, 2008 The polls are open now for early voting in many states. Black people are voting in droves - campaign volunteers who stripped off their "Obama ‘08" t-shirts in the parking lot, policy wonks reading emails and surfing the web on their Blackberries, along with a whole lot of us who only turn on the news at 6:59 pm to see what the day’s winning lottery numbers are. And yet, you already know which voting precincts are going to make the evening news in your town
GOP "Legion of Doom" Shrink Black Vote
on Election Night. You know the ones I’m talking about – the ones that will still have long lines of angry black people waiting to vote - while the TV reporter describes the scene behind him in the same detached monotone he uses to report on a car wreck. This is what minority voter suppression looks like. You saw it during the primaries in Gary, Indiana, and Houston, Texas and Cincinnati, Ohio, and you will see it again in over the next two weeks Florida, North Carolina, and Virginia. Count on it. According to the Associated Press, "there are 9 million newly registered voters who are overwhelmingly Democratic." And the Obama campaign has millions of campaign volunteers who are knocking on doors, making phone calls and coordinating rides to the polls across the country, an operation whose sheer size dwarfs anything the McCain campaign or the Republican National Party has organized to get out the vote. But when you have the Legion of Doom with their super powers to call on, like the Republicans do, you can level the playing field a bit. I can just about reel off the names of the Secretary of State in places like Indiana, Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, and Florida from memory, because there isn’t a day that goes by that you don’t see one of them on the news, talking about "voter integrity" . The thing is, only 24 people IN THE ENTIRE COUNTRY were convicted of illegal voting in federal elections between 2002 and 2005, according to ProgressiveStates.org. Back in the sixties, it was pretty easy to figure out, with all those dogs barking and the water hoses from those fire hydrants going full blast, that if you had brown skin, you weren’t going to be greeted at the voting booth with open arms. It was the beginning of the real "Southern Strategy", when Harlington Wood, the GOP Deputy Director of Ballot Security, authored a "Ballot Security" handbook in 1964 to guide their field troops in an effort called "Operation Eagle Eye". The Wood manual originated the tactics we have come to associate with Lee Atwater and Karl Rove. Voter intimidation, voter misinformation, voter credential challenges, and poll watchers taking pictures of voters – it's all there, a fully formed strategy that the GOP nurtured and spun off into the Republican National Lawyers Association (RNLA) and various "voter security" organizations. Add voter caging, voter ID, lack of polling site resources and polling site placement, and you are looking at the Republican Party’s last chance to upset Barack Obama's quest to win the White House. So check your registration online. Show people you know how to check theirs, or do it for them if they don’t have access to the internet. Make sure you have your photo ID when you go to the polls. Leave your Obama t-shirt at home. And if you see any poll watchers out there, taking pictures... ...give them a big "Yes We Can" smile for their cameras.
Will Democrats Nationalize Your 401(k)? Friday, October 24, 2008 Just when you thought this presidential election was almost over... ...just when you figured the worst thing over the next two weeks would be the juvenile name calling that was bound to erupt from McCain/Palin supporters, instead of bringing your mama into it, they brought your 401(k) into it. If there’s anything that will get my attention, my mother and my money are at the top of the list. The latest gossip going around - a rumor that will no doubt be bandied about the talk radio circuit like it’s the secret antidote for the McCain campaign - is the suggestion that Democrats want to nationalize the country’s existing 401(k) plans. The way it's being presented on websites will look something like this: Powerful House Democrats are eyeing proposals to overhaul the nation’s $3 trillion 401(k) system, including the elimination of most of the $80 billion in annual tax breaks that 401(k) investors receive. House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller, D-California, and Rep. Jim McDermott, D-Washington, chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Income Security and Family Support, are looking at redirecting those tax breaks to a new system of guaranteed retirement accounts to which all workers would be obliged to contribute. Being the natural born skeptic that I am, I noticed immediately that this hearing was held TWO weeks ago. On the eve of an election, this seems to play right into the fears of voters who are on the fence about supporting Barack Obama and Joe Biden for president. Combine this news with the drumbeat of “he’s a socialist”, and it has the potential to breathe life back into all of the innuendo about Obama’s "radical" associations just when they seemed to be fading away. The bad thing about an excerpt from an article like this one that gets spread all around the web is the verbiage is always the same, which leads me to believe that there is very little research or fact checking going on. This year of political soundbites should have shown you by now that the testimony of professor Teresa Ghilarducci of The New School for Social Research was one of several of proposals put before the committee at that one hearing alone, but its dramatic nature made it the one you get to hear about. What are the facts? No legislative proposals have been introduced on this issue. Congress is out of session until next year. Of the five people who testified before the committee on October 7th, only Professor Ghilarducci proposed a detailed solution instead of general policy advice. And even if the Democrats gain a majority in the Senate and the House, you just saw with the Fed Bailout proposal
Will Democrats Nationalize Your 401(k)?
how hard it is to get anything through Congress without close scrutiny. The bottom line is, Barack Obama is not a big bad socialist Democrat who is going to huff and puff and blow your 401(k) down. I wouldn’t worry about the alarmist rhetoric surrounding this issue – with the stock market already down several hundred points today, bringing up this issue takes voters right back to how bad the economy is doing these days. But if I were you, I would be concerned about my money. If you have the means, and are concerned about protecting your assets, find a reputable fee-based financial planner if you don’t already have one – it will be the best $300 you spend this year. If you’re just starting out, pick up a copy of Money magazine when you are at the grocery store. For $3 a month, it has the most practical financial information available, including things you can do today. Since they only brought my money into it, I’ll stop right there. Now, if they start talking about my mother...
Focusing on the Fear of an Obama Presidency Sunday, October 26, 2008 Some evangelical Republican, an anonymous writer calling himself "Christian 2012", obviously had a lot of time on his hands earlier this week. Instead of getting out in the streets to knock on doors or hitting the campaign office to do some phone banking for John McCain and Sarah Palin, they sat down and put their creative energies to work to come up with a fifteen page missive titled "Letter From 2012 in Obama’s America". But the group who is circulating the letter, Focus on the Family Action, is not anonymous. Its leader, Dr. James Dobson, is one of the most influential evangelical leaders in the country, and was purported to be instrumental in the behind-the-scenes decision making that lead to the selection of Sarah Palin as John McCain's running mate. You might imagine, then, that Dobson's political influence and huge email list makes this more than your ordinary chain letter. If you’re a fan of science fiction, you’re pretty familiar with the format the writer chose, where they take you forward in time and describe the changes that have taken place between now and then. If you decide to click on the link above and read the whole thing, you will quickly figure out that the writer is no optimist.
Focusing on the Fear of an Obama Presidency (continued)
The letter itself is preceded by an introduction which rambles all over the place in an effort to state that the letter is not a “prediction”, but "a ‘what if?’ exercise", using the past performance of Barack Obama , liberal judges, and the liberal leadership of congressional Democrats as a basis for the doomsday scenarios the writer presented. The next fifteen pages (can you believe that? I can rant with the best of them, but FIFTEEN PAGES?) read like something out of a political Mad Max and the Thunderdome. Many of our freedoms have been taken away by a liberal Supreme Court and a Democratic majority in both the House and the Senate, and hardly any brave citizen dares to resist the new government policies any more. The anonymous writer predicted a 6 to 3 Supreme Court, with a liberal majority that decimates laws on marriage, religious speech in the public square, abortion, pornography and gun ownership, using extreme examples and the slipperiest of slippery slope arguments to illustrate what could happen in each instance. For example, this segment: Homosexual weddings: “The land of the free”? Church buildings are now considered a “public accommodation” by the Supreme Court, and churches have no freedom to refuse to allow their buildings to be used for wedding ceremonies for homosexual couples. If they refuse, they lose their tax-exempt status, and they are increasingly becoming subject to fines and antidiscrimination lawsuits. was one of many that leaned on homosexuality, while this segment on the Freedom of Choice Act: Congress lost no time in solidifying abortion rights under President Obama. In fact, Obama promised, “The first thing I’ll do as president is sign the “Freedom of Choice Act” (July 17, 2007, speech to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund). This federal law immediately nullified hundreds of state laws that had created even the slightest barrier to abortion. 22 States can no longer require parental involvement for minors who wish to have an abortion, waiting period, informed consent rules, restrictions on tax-payer funding or restrictions on late-term abortions. The act reversed the Hyde Amendment, so the government now funds Medicaid abortions for any reason. As a result, the number of abortions has increased dramatically. The Freedom of Choice Act also reversed the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003, so infants can be killed outright just seconds before they would be born. States whose laws were overturned challenged the law in court but it was upheld by the Obama Supreme Court. “The land of the free”? There is no freedom for these infants who are killed by the millions. pulled no punches, throwing out the image of dead babies as an instant heart tugger.
Focusing on the Fear of an Obama Presidency
I’ll have to give it to mister anonymous writer, he didn’t miss a beat, ticking off everything on the list, from religious freedom to home schooling to gun ownership to healthcare. He had a special emphasis on the future of terror, with this to say about Iraq: “The home of the brave”? President Obama fulfilled his campaign promise and began regular withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq, completing it in the promised 16 months, by April 2010.31 All was peaceful during those months, but then in May 2010, Al-Qaida operatives from Syria and Iran poured into Iraq and completely overwhelmed the Iraqi security forces. A Taliban-like oppression has taken over in Iraq, and hundreds of thousands of “American sympathizers” have been labeled as traitors, imprisoned, tortured, and killed. The number put to death may soon reach the millions. Al-Qaida leaders have been emboldened by what they are calling the American “defeat”and their ranks are swelling in dozens of countries. His mention of talk radio and the prosecution of the Bush administration officials was predictable, but it was this diatribe about the future of Christian literature that had my jaw dropping: After the Supreme Court legalized same “sex marriage,” homosexual-activist groups targeted three large Christian book publishers that had publications arguing that homosexual conduct was wrong based on the teachings of the Bible. The activists staged marches and protests at Barnes & Noble stores around the country, demanding the stores remove all books published by these “hate-mongering” publishers. Barnes & Noble resisted for a time, but the protests continued, there was vandalism and secret defacing of books, and eventually the cost was too great and Barnes & Noble gave in. The same thing happened at Borders and other chains. Then they staged a massive nationwide computer attack on Amazon.com, with the same demands, and the same result. As a result, those evangelical publishers could no longer distribute any of their books through any of these bookstore chains. Any Christian publisher that dares to print works critical of homosexual behavior faces the same fate. As a result, several Christian publishers have gone out of business. If you haven’t gotten it by now, homosexuality seems to be at the bottom of just about every problem these Christians followers face. Near the end, the writer revisits his opening theme with a leap in logic that defies the laws of…well, of logic: Many brave Christian men and women tried to resist these laws, and some Christian legal agencies tried to defend them, but they couldn’t resist the power of a 6-3 liberal majority on the Supreme Court. It seems many of the bravest ones went to jail or were driven to bankruptcy. And many of their reputations have been destroyed by a relentless press and the endless repetition of false accusations.
Focusing on the Fear of an Obama Presidency (continued)
Forty eight months is obviously longer than I thought. You can barely pay your car off in four years these days. Half the people who go to a four year college take at least five years to graduate. Although, if you need psychiatric help, like this guy does, four years might be long enough for an intensive treatment regimen to begin to help him regain his mental equilibrium. Is this guy serious? Who does this pseudo Christian think he is? Does he realize that his religion is not built on the idea of fear, but the very same “hope” that Barack Obama espouses? Are we seeing the beginnings of a “Christian Jihad” in the making? I might have to start my own organization – “Focus on Fake Christians” – to help Mr. Anonymous “Christian From 2012” understand that the purpose of religion is individual salvation, not political organization.
Obama Controversy # 137 Monday, October 27, 2008 When I click around the internet, checking the latest the latest political tidbits, I know I can count on two things – a condescending potshot at Sarah Palin on Huffington Post and a blaring anti-Obama headline at The Drudge Report. The latest treat from Matt Drudge is this Monday morning mouthful:
2001 OBAMA: TRAGEDY THAT 'REDISTRIBUTION OF WEALTH' NOT PURSUED BY SUPREME COURT
I guess the next big revelation will be “Obama Point Shaving Scandal During High School Chess Tournament”. You will be hearing excerpts from this four minute youtube video for the next few days. Phrases that look to become Sean Hannity and Rush Limbaugh favorites will likely include the text in the video that is being shown while the audio portion plays, things like "Obama wants to redistribute your wealth to African Americans".
Obama Controversy # 137
Now for some facts. Barack Obama made appearances as a guest on Odyssey, a talk show produced by Chicago Public Radio. Obama, then a State Senator and Senior Lecturer at the Law School, was on the program 3 times between 1998 and 2002. According to Josh Andrews, who produced the shows, "when he joined us, he was more than willing to set aside his political persona and put on his academic hat. Obama participated in discussions on the evolution of the right to vote, the politics of electoral redistricting, and the uneasy relationship between slavery and the constitution in early America." The excerpts in the youtube video were taken from this hour long audio recording made January 18, 2001 from a program entitled "The Court and Civil Rights" hosted by Gretchen Helfrich. What did Obama really say on the air? See for yourself: OBAMA: "You know, if you look at the victories and failures of the civil rights movement and its litigation strategy in the court, I think where it succeeded was to invest formal rights in previously dispossessed peoples, so that I would now have the right to vote, I would now be able to sit at the lunch counter and order - as long as I could pay for it I’d be okay. But the Supreme Court never ventured into the issues of redistribution of wealth and sort of more basic issues of political and economic justice in this society. And to that extent, as radical as I think people try to characterize the Warren Court, it wasn’t that radical. It didn’t break free from the essential constraints that were placed by the Founding Fathers and the Constitution, at least as it has been interpreted, and the Warren Court interpreted it in the same way, that generally the Constitution is a charter of negative liberties, says what the states can’t do to you, says what the federal government can’t do to you, but it doesn’t say what the federal government or the state government must do on your behalf. And that hasn’t shifted, and one of the, I think, the tragedies of the civil rights movement was because the civil rights movement became so court focused, I think that there was a tendency to lose track of the political and community organizing and activities on the ground that are able to put together the actual coalitions of power through which you bring about redistributive change, and in some ways we still suffer from that." HOST: "Let’s talk with Karen – good morning, Karen, you're on Chicago Public Radio." CALLER: "The gentleman made the point that the Warren Court wasn’t terribly radical – my question is – with economic changes – my question is, is it too late for that kind of reparative work economically and is that the appropriate place for reparative economic work to take place?" HOST: "You mean the court?"
Obama Controversy # 137 (continued)
CALLER: "The court, or would it be legislation at this point?" OBAMA: "You know, maybe I’m showing my bias here as a legislator as well as a law professor. But I’m not optimistic about bringing about major redistributive change through the courts. You know, the institution just isn’t structured that way. You know, you just look at very rare examples where, in during the desegregation era the court was willing to, for example, order, you know, changes that cost money to a local school district – and, the court was very uncomfortable with it, it was very hard to manage, it was hard to figure out, you start getting into all sorts of separation of powers issues, you know, in terms of the court monitoring or engaging in a process that essentially is administrative and takes a lot of time." OBAMA: "You know, the court’s just not very good at it, and politically, it’s just its very hard to legitimize opinions from the court in that regard. So I mean I think that, although you can craft theoretical justifications for it legally, you know, I think any three of us sitting here could, could come up with a rationale for bringing economic change through the courts." What seemed to be the more interesting excerpt, at least to me, in this program was a comment by Obama about the seemingly contradictory relationship between liberal political ideology and the traditional African American approach to religion and politics. HOST: "Let’s talk with Joe (I guess this must be "Joe the Liberal") – good morning, Joe, you're on Chicago Public Radio." CALLER: "Good morning. What I'd like to know is, considering that the civil rights movement was fought very much on moral grounds as much as legal grounds, and therefore religious grounds - I mean, Martin Luther King was a reverend, after all - what impact is that having now on the Supreme Court, and perhaps, with Ashcroft being nominated, in the future." OBAMA: "Well, you know, I think it’s an interesting question, you may be pointing out, sir, what has been a longstanding contradiction, not just in the Warren Court or liberal lawyers, but, sir, the liberal community generally, and that is the contradiction between on the one hand basing many of its claims for justice on moral and ethical grounds, and at the same time being suspicious of church encroachment into the political sphere. That's been less of a contradiction traditionally in the African American community, and for whatever reason psychologically, the country has always been more comfortable with the African American community's marriage of spiritual and, and political institutions. But I think that is a genuine contradiction that exists, you know, I think in the ideological makeup of the left in this country that hasn't been entirely resolved."
Obama Controversy # 137 (continued)
My father has always maintained that integration was doomed to have limited success because "they didn't integrate the money". Neither he nor Obama were calling for any kind of reparations. They were simply acknowledging out loud what a lot of black Americans knew all along - that without adequate access to capital for investment, our community was guaranteed to struggle along. Its not like we were asking for 700 billion dollars - just some real access to capital to go along with all that freedom we had. But even more ironic than that is the frenzied hate over this latest "finding" that will be harbored by people who have nothing to redistribute but negligible equity in their homes credit card debt and virtually empty 401(k) accounts. This has to be the greatest Jedi Mind Trick of all time - rich elites have the broke "Joe SixPacks" who comprise their base of supporters championing their cause. For people who love to call the Democrats socialists, it is the most collective ownership ideology out there. "If you tack a picture of my big house and nice cars on the wall of the house you can barely pay for, you can call yourself a capitalist. Just don't be late to work, cause I need you to make me some more money, Joe." Racial equality without economic equality is like having a car with no gas - at that point, it just becomes something to look at and polish once in awhile so you can remember what it used to look like when back when you first got it. The even funnier thing about all of this is, "Joe the Plumber" has more in common with "Jamal the Plumber" than he realizes. But you can't tell Joe that. All I know is, if I run into some Joe SixPack or Joe the Plumber who starts sputtering about how Obama is going to "redistribute" wealth he probably will never have to "African Americans", I am liable to tell him the same thing Cuba Gooding said to Tom Cruise in Jerry McGuire when he told Cruise his future depended on Cuba staying with him - "all he's got to do is 'show me the money, baby!'"
Replacing The Hate I Feel With Hope Tuesday, October 28, 2008 There are certain words that are almost guaranteed to be included on the front page of any major metropolitan newspaper: Rape, murder, death, killings, merger, law, charge, arrest, body, suspect, gunshot, busted, trial, case, drugs, assault, order, owe, guilt, allegation, alleged, cost, budget, weapon, factor, fatal, record, statement, meeting, won, lost, launch, success, failure.
Replacing The Hate I Feel With Hope
"Assassinate" will get you a spot above the fold, with your very own headline, every single time. According to the New York Times, "two young men who are believers in “white power” have been arrested and charged in Tennessee in what federal officials described as a plan to assassinate Senator Barack Obama and kill black children at a school." It is amazing how energetically someone like Daniel Cowart, the young man in the picture above, will cling to a tradition of hatred that is so barren, so desolate - until you remember that there are people who grew up in the desert who think cacti are beautiful. The article also stated, "federal officials said that both of the men who were arrested — Paul Schlesselman, 18, of West Helena, Arkansas, and Daniel Cowart, 20, of Bells, Tennessee. — told interrogators that they had talked of assassinating Mr. Obama." To assimilate into America's mainstream, when the rest of the life you know and have known is a relic of days gone by means to many that they must disavow their own self-image; in more cases than you can imagine, this is an impossible emotional hurdle for them to overcome. We live in a world where we want measurable, quantifiable, scalable action plans that will tell us, if we devote a certain amount of hours, and a certain amount of money, that the kind of racially oriented problems people like Daniel Cowart and his accomplice, Paul Schlesselman, represent will disappear. I wish it were that easy - actually, I pray that some one comes up with the formula to turn the lives of people like this around. Because it is going to be hard to replace the hate I'm feeling right now with hope. Hope that when the fever over this election dies down, people like this will finally begin to see how brown skin can be just brown skin, even when it belongs to the president of the United States. Hope that those who harbor racial animosity, who may be only a few degrees to the left of these skinheads, will finally see more of our similarities than our differences. Hope that those who are racially ambivalent will generously accept the added emphasis that will be placed on racial diversity. But I've got to do it, otherwise, I'll be held hostage by these two even while they sit locked in their jail cells. My hatred of them would be the same as their hatred of me. I will not let them intrude into my life long enough to truly, deeply loathe them the way I know it should be done - I cannot afford to waste the time it takes to be thoroughly disgusted, nor the energy it would require to completely revile their very existence. Because if I don't replace this anger in me with some kind of hope that this time is one step closer to the last time this happens in America, I am almost certain to make the paper's front page myself "Murder Suspect Arrested In Fatal Killings"
Getting The Early Vote Lead: Vote TODAY! Wednesday, October 29, 2008 One of my younger cousins sent me an email a couple of weeks ago, asking me to write a piece about the safety of early voting. I was a little surprised, because she is a lawyer, with a lawyer for a husband – definitely not your low information voters. But her email was really striking for another reason – in it, she said "a lot of people are waiting until the day of the election because of fear. These are very political-minded people who are still scarred by the 2004 election." Which means that some of the most highly educated African Americans under thirty don't have a lot of confidence in our electoral system. I didn’t really have an answer for her at the time, because I had no idea myself what really happened to the votes that are cast before November 4th. And we are in Georgia, the heart of the South, which has given even people this young many, many reasons to think some kind of trickery might go on after they push the button on a voting machine, so I can feel where these voters are coming from. What does happen to your vote once you cast it? Most of the literature I surveyed about states who used electronic voting machines have fairly similar procedures. Here in Georgia, according to the Secretary of State's website, these are the mechanics of their ballot security procedure: After you cast your ballot, your votes are immediately stored in the voting unit in two separate places. One location is part of the unit itself. The second location is a memory card that is locked into the voting unit during the election. At the close of the election, the memory card is removed and used to count the votes. The two internal sources plus the memory card comprise a two-part audit trail, ensuring that every vote is recorded and counted the way the voter cast them. A back-up power supply ensures that once the system has been activated for an election, the contents of the audit record will be preserved during any power interruption to the system until processing and data reporting have been completed. If there is a power failure, your vote remains intact. Does that mean these things are totally safe? No. And as average, ordinary citizens, some things, like whether or not the ballots are secured by sheriff's deputies or private security firms, or whether or not there are paper trails to audit voting machine performance, are not things we can do anything about as individuals at this late date. But these fears are far outweighed by the psychological momentum early voting tends to give to the party who can "turn out" the most voters the fastest. When the margin of Democratic voters who vote early outweigh the Republican early voters, the numerical totals that are reported nightly can act as a incentive for other Democrats to "join the crowd", while having the opposite effect on the Republican voters, who might be less inclined to vote at all if they feel it is a lost cause. So we need to vote early. We need to vote and remain vigilant about this end of the process, the one
Getting The Early Vote Lead: Vote TODAY!
we can have an impact on, by doing things like reporting malfunctioning voting machines, and triple checking our ballots before we push the "FINISH" button. So cuz, if you're reading this, you need to encourage those friends of yours to get to the polls Thursday and Friday. You need to go yourself. Because the old folks were right - the early bird DOES get the worm, and the early votes WILL help elect Barack Obama as your next president.
GOP "Hack-A-Shaq" Can't Stop Obama Thursday, October 30, 2008 My buddy called me yesterday to catch up on the latest political developments in the presidential election. “Man, I don’t know,” he said, “do you think Obama is going to be able to pull this off?” I was on the web at the moment, half listening, half reading the teasers on my blogroll, when I heard the question. My head jerked. “Dude, what are you talking about? Obama is in the lead. Obama is spanking that ass. Obama is –“ “Alright, alright, I got it. So you think he’s going to win, eh?” “Dude, his plan is working.” There was dead air for a few seconds, then he said, “so how many electoral votes you think he’s going to get?” “Three fifty” leaped out of my mouth – but wasn’t that the number I kept seeing everyday at FiveThirtyEight.com? Wasn’t that a conservative estimate, given what I figured would probably happen once people supporting McCain realized he wasn’t going to win. “Are you sure?” Finally, my buddy had something to be skeptical about. “That’s mighty optimistic, don’t you think? Three hundred and fifty electoral votes?” “I really think he’ll be bumping up against four hundred.” “Four hundred! Four hundred electoral votes? Come on!” “Dude, do you understand what’s happening here?”
GOP "Hack-A-Shaq" Can't Stop Obama
“But what about Florida? What about Ohio? Or Indiana?” “Don’t matter. There are other ways to get to two seventy, buddy. These guys are showing you a new way to play this ballgame.” We went back and forth for a few minutes, until his faith in the almighty Republican vote stealing prowess started to get on my nerves. “Dude, you’re looking at this wrong. I mean, I know where you’re coming from. And in a close race, where it all came down to these same old states, you would have a point. But Obama has changed the game. He basically has done what some middle school kids did on the basketball court when I was growing up. These kids weren’t tall, but they were quick, and more importantly, they could shoot from what we now call three point range with ease. So they didn’t have to go in the paint to score points. Ohio and Florida are "in the paint" states - states conventional wisdom dictates that you MUST win to get to the White House. But the Obama campaign's sharpshooters won’t let the GOP candidate just hang out there like they are Shaquille O'Neal. So the McCain campaign has had to leave "the paint" of Ohio and Florida, because they have to go to man-to-man against Obama's people in Florida, Pennsylvania, Virginia, Missouri, and even ARIZONA, of all places, to even have half a chance of getting McCain into the White House. You've watched basketball games with runaway scores before. What does the team that's down by a few points do near the end? They start committing intentional fouls. They hack the big men, they hack the ball carriers - they would hack the referees if they thought they could get away with it. The only way something like this works in politics, like in basketball, is if the score is close. In the case of politics, if the media is providing the ready made “horserace” narrative and voter turnout is low, the Republicans can go to their "hack-a-Shaq" offense, one that usually allows them to manipulate enough votes within the system to make a difference. But this time, there will be no need for the GOP to manufacture the right kind of votes by the thousands. No need to lose the wrong kind of votes by the thousands. No need to risk the careers and the personal freedom of their operatives on any voter intimidation tactics, or phone bank jamming, or software tampering that are the hallmarks of Florida and Ohio elections. Because when the buzzer goes off next Tuesday night, Florida and Ohio will turn out to be icing on the cake for a job well done by the Obama campaign.
Things I Have Learned This Election Season Friday, October 31, 2008 I feel like I've gotten a PhD in political doublespeak this year. When John McCain's campaign was BEHIND almost ten points in the polls, what did he announce? "We've got them right where we want them". At this point in the race, with four days left, I wouldn't be surprised at anything. Some of the other things I've learned this year: Huffington Post has headlines that are more misleading than the ones on the Drudge Report. John McCain wears $400 Ferragamo shoes - but HE can afford them. Sarah Palin has upgraded to a Neiman-Marcus wardrobe - but she has to give the clothes back at midnight on November 4th. Barack Obama owned a Chrysler 300 before he ran for president - now he has a Ford Escape hybrid - I don't know HOW he and Michelle fold those long-ass legs in THAT tiny pretend SUV. A "capitalist" is someone who takes money from the government when his business goes bad. A "supporter of free markets" is someone who takes government campaign funds instead of raising money from private citizens. A "socialist" is someone who pays for their own health insurance so their employer can pay out dividends to its stockholders. A "supporter of socialism" is someone who raises campaign funds from private citizens and manages to stay with their budget. Alaska is an "energy rich" state. Lump sum taxpayer financed bailouts are "rescue packages". Individual tax rebates to tax payers are 'welfare". "Mavericks" can stab each other in the back and still say they are on the same page. One half-digested fact from the campaign trail can hold the interest of the entire cable and network news universe for 24 hours. Cable news anchormen you see on your TV screen are smaller than they appear.
Things I Have Learned This Election Season
The amount of a candidate's zeal for explaining his tax plan is inversely proportional to the likelihood that it will be implemented if the same candidate gets elected president. Casting your vote early only heightens your anxiety until Election Night. Black people can suspend "C. P. time" when they feel like it.
415,631 Black Men In Georgia HAVE NOT Voted - Do YOU Know Any Of Them? Sunday, November 2, 2008 This post is personal. This is for all the black men who: can figure out how to pay their child support on time, even when they are between jobs, without selling drugs or robbing anybody. have survived Iraq, Afghanistan, Desert Storm, Vietnam, Korea, and World War II. are preaching their hearts out this Sunday because they know in these final hours how much we need it. take care of their elderly parents. teach other peoples children how to read and write. introduce music appreciation into your life. clean your teeth, listen to your heart, and keep your eyes healthy. ride on the back of garbage trucks to make sure our streets are clean. deliver packages, or groceries, or gas, or lumber, or concrete, or office supplies. pledge their very lives to protect and serve.
415,631 Black Men In Georgia HAVE NOT Voted - Do YOU Know Any Of Them?
260,432 of the 676,063 black men registered to vote in Georgia have already cast a ballot in this presidential election. Which isn't bad... ...until you see that twice as many black women - 439,434 - voted last week. If you will lose your job because you stood in line for eight hours to vote, I can understand why you haven't gotten to the polls yet. But the guys like the ones I listed above, who are as busy as you are, are no doubt a majority of the black men who made a way to vote early last week. Which means, guys, that here in Georgia, the ball is in your hands on Tuesday. I say "yours" because I already pushed the button. And I'm a "three days before Christmas" type of shopper, so I know how it is when you are prone to wait until the last minute to get something done. The reality is, if you haven't voted yet, you probably aren't reading this blog. But the people who do read this blog know exactly who you are. They are your brothers and sisters. They are your parents. They are your children. Your poker buddies. People who go to your church. Your neighbors. Your video gamer friends. Your MySpace and Facebook friends. So if you know someone who you think has not voted yet, just ask them. I was out of town for a couple of days last week, and I asked almost every black man I saw whether he had voted yet or not - harder than it looks when you try to work a question like that into casual conversation. LeBron James gave Obama more than $20,000. Jay -Z asks us to vote every time he steps in front of a mike. Emmitt Smith not only wrote checks, he's on the streets, getting people organized. EVERYBODY is getting in the game this time, fellas. I just don't think, when the dust clears on Wednesday or Thursday, and the numbers start being totaled, that we could live with ourselves as men if we didn't turn out to push that button on Tuesday. Is Obama going to fix our problems over night if he wins? Nope. He may even have to leave a whole lot of them untouched, depending on where our economy goes. But that doesn't mean that getting him elected isn't important. We can't put everything on the "government" without acknowledging that at some level, the government is us. It isn't a mirror of who we are on a literal level, but rather a reflection of the things we are passionate about as well as the things we choose to remain ignorant about as a collective. So between now and Tuesday, especially my blog readers hear in Georgia, but readers everywhere - tell the guys you know who are prone to let voting slide: They can "get on their grind" AFTER they stand in line. They can "stack that paper" AFTER they help complete this election caper." They can "handle their business" AFTER they they do this.
Brown Man Thinking Hard Featured On TV One Election Coverage Tuesday, November 4, 2008 Tonight, Brown Man Thinking Hard will be one of the featured political blogs on the TV ONE Election Night special. I'll be providing regular updates on last minute voter suppression efforts and voter reactions here in Georgia. Silver Spring, MD -- TV One will offer comprehensive coverage of the Presidential election returns November 4, beginning at 7 PM ET, with Election Night 08: A Vote for Change, anchored by team members from its highly successful Democratic convention coverage in August. With seven different remote locations around the country, including live cameras at the McCain and Obama headquarters and coverage from the Associated Press' national vote tally center, TV One is ready to document this historic night from all angles. Arthur Fennel and Joe Madison , of TV One DNC Coverage, return as host along with Jacque Reid anchoring from the TV One Election Newsroom. The anchor team will be joined by Tom Joyner, Michael Eric Dyson and more who will provide commentary all night long. Shawta Walcott, one of the top pollsters in the country, will be on board analyzing the votes and exit polling. As the first polls close in the East at 7 pm (ET), TV One will be anchored in Sen. Obama's election night headquarters in Chicago, ground-zero for this historic event. In addition, Roland Martin, who TV One shares with CNN, will be reporting live from CNN Election Headquarters in New York. This election is expected to have unprecedented turnout among young people and African-Americans, and TV One has responded with remote broadcasts from two colleges in battleground states: Florida A&M and North Carolina A&T . Here, we will hear and see first hand how these groups are responding to the election in real time. Finally, TV One Online offers late breaking developments in the campaigns and around the world. A special correspondent in the Election Newsroom will be reporting what's going on online with the election in real time. With news, analysis, insight and historical perspective, TV One will chronicle what could turn out to be the most important event in the African-American community in this century. TV One's election night promises to be one exiting and compelling ride. Witness history take place only on TV One, November 4 at 7 pm (ET). I've had a whole lot of fun with this blog since I started it. I hope all of you who read this blog regularly have enjoyed it half as much as I have. I can't think of a better way to have my efforts recognized than to be asked to participate in the national media coverage of the most important moment in black history in my lifetime.
Barack Obama - PRESIDENT!!!!! Tuesday, November 04, 2008 My duties are done for TV ONE. You already know this, but I will say it again - Barack Obama will be the next president of the whole damn United States of America! Phones ringing off the hook. My favorite foods, uneaten. Beer, (mostly) untouched. Cigars unsmoked. And even though I am here in Georgia, where my vote didn't end up doing anything, it still feels REAL GOOD - I mean REAL GOOD - to know that I pushed the button for Barack Obama. The night will be long. And I will enjoy every minute of it.
Yes We Did!! Wednesday, November 05, 2008 I am writing this quickly, as John McCain's voice praises Barack Obama's candidacy, and concedes the presidential race to Obama, because I don't want to miss A SECOND of the speech we are all waiting to hear. The phone has been ringing off the hook, the dog is barking, a teenager is howling, every brownskinned being in our household tingling because Barack Obama has just been elected the president of these United States. It is as if all of black america has taken this journey together along with Senator Obama from Springfield, Illinois to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Transformed from a skeptic last fall, I became a fervent believer in the abilities of Barack Obama and the team he had assembled before the primaries began. I have spent the last ten months writing about the man and the campaign almost every day. My mother exhaled when she heard my voice on the phone, as if it had been she and I on the campaign trail instead of Obama and Biden. My brother howled as if his favorite football team was guaranteed to win the Super Bowl for the next ten years. My voicemail has several messages that I haven't retrieved yet. I will probably be silent once the phone stops ringing, silent and pensive, as the word "African American" begins to resonate louder and louder every time an announcer says it on TV. I will only be thinking one thing when I finally go to sleep tonight. Yes We Did!
The Best Email I Got Yesterday Wednesday, November 05, 2008 I haven't really slept at all for the last couple of days - an hour here, a couple of hours there - and it is finally starting to catch up with me. Consequently this Brown Man's thinking is starting to go a little soft, even as I feel a wellspring of new ideas coursing through my head, words and phrases that are begging to be captured by my keyboard. Tonight, I will actually turn the TV off and sleep in a bed. But before I do that, I have to share something I got from one of my frequent visitors. Her original email just came out of the blue, a very nice "attaboy" that added fuel to last nights fervor. dear brownmanthinking: i want to thank you for your thoughtful writing as we approached this historic day. you are partly responsible for my getting off my butt and putting my money and time where my heart's desire is. this country will, i hope, be on a new road when the sun rises on wednesday, november 5, 2008. cheers, karen So I asked her to elaborate, so I could include her story in the posts I was sending to TV ONE. They didn't use it, but I liked it so much, I feel I have to share it. The story Karen tells is why I struggle mightily with my imperfect original drafts to make sure that the pieces I post here speak directly and clearly and passionately to all of you. dear kris: i am a 51-year-old "white" female and i live in fall river, massachusetts (if i tip out of my chair, i'm in rhode island, and i'm originally from white plains, new york, via connecticut, nigeria, saudi arabia and boston). although i have worked as a poll worker in three elections over the past 20 years, i have never donated to a political campaign before and never volunteered to work in any capacity for a campaign. this election things are different. i have contributed money and time to senator obama's campaign. i seek out blogs with good content, not based on racial, sexual or religious orientation. i don't remember exactly when it was that i first found your blog
The Best Email I Got Yesterday
through a link from somewhere else but it was after the democratic primary had narrowed to clinton and obama. what has kept me coming back is that you made me feel that we are part of the same community. you shared the joys and difficulties and concerns of this important election. you expressed skepticism and frustration without bitterness and with humor. you are realistic in your expectations of other people. i see those same attributes in senator obama. race is such a tricky issue. am i really as colorblind as i think i am? i like to think so. despite the name of your blog, i don't think of you as a black man, i think of you as someone with something relevant to say. the historic nature of senator obama's candidacy given his skin color is something to be celebrated, but i am not voting for him because of his race, i am voting for him because of the content of his mind and his character. at the same time that i am voting for senator obama, i am voting for you and me and the dozens of people i have met on the internet and in "real life" throughout the last six months -- people who i believe hold the same things dear and are willing to make that effort to build a better community, a better america, a better world. i don't think i have really said well what is in my heart because it is so full at this point and i cannot stop worrying until the next president has been announced, but i hope i have in some small way communicated what i'm thinking. please dear god, if you exist, make my dearest hope a reality. karen fall river, massachusetts
Thank you, Karen. And thank you to everyone else who comes here regularly to see what this Brown Man has to say.
The emotional release on Election Night 2008 was cathartic. For several days, I watched the evening news on television, something I rarely do. But I wasn’t really watching a newscast. I was restlessly flipping between the channels, pausing just long enough to hear an announcer say, “…in other news, President-Elect Barack Obama…”before switching to another station to hear this phrase intoned again and again. At the rate I was going, I really didn’t think I was going to make it until January 20th, when word “elect” would be dropped from Obama’s new title. This had been no ordinary campaign for many of us, brown and white and red and yellow alike, who had been on edge the last few weeks, wondering if a skinny black man from Illinois by way of Hawaii with an awkward name could actually ascend to the highest office in the most powerful country in the world. The Reverend Joseph Lowery of Atlanta, who would give the benediction at the presidential inauguration for Barack Hussein Obama Jr. two and a half months from now on a cold January day, summed up all of the fears and frustrations of many of those who stood before him to see this African American man be sworn in as the 44th president of the United States of America. Lowery repeated into the microphone before him a new version of the household ditty many of us had grown up hearing: “Lord, in the memory of all the saints who from their labors rest, and in the joy of a new beginning, we ask you to help us work for that day when black will not be asked to get back, when brown can stick around - when yellow will be mellow when the red man can get ahead, man - and when white will embrace what is right. Let all those who do justice and love mercy say amen.” Amen.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kris Broughton is a writer and blogger in Atlanta Georgia, where he maintains the blog Brown Man Thinking Hard. His work has been featured in the Chicago Sun-Times, Reuters The Post Tribune, Beacon News, and TV One Online. He is also a regular blog contributor at Big Think.
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