Much has been written in the press this last week about US Senator (from Illinois) Barack Obama’s announced 2008 candidacy for President of these United States….mostly either rehashing of the typical right-wing smears about his supposed "dual identity" as a converted Muslim to Christian (including the trumpted up charge of being raised in a militant Islamic madrassa school, which turned out to be more like a typical public school..which is probably good enough for our crypto wingnutters)…the bloviating of the "mainstream" press (mostly locked in for Hillary Clinton) about how he’s simply "too liberal" and inexperienced for the Presidency. (Interesting how any Black candidate to the left of Alan Keyes or Michael Steele who claims himself to be a Democrat is always tagged as "too liberal" and "too far to the Left"..even if he spends his entire political career pandering to the Right on matters of war and economics.) Still, Obama has shown the gift of being quite…shall we say…articulate in the art of flowery speech making and overarching world vision — what the late John Kenneth Galbraith once tagged as "Dawnism"…and that may be enough to carry him at least to the primaries….before the full weight of DLC attacks, media intrusion, the stacked primary system, and Hillary’s money tree do him in…if he doesn’t get assassinated first by some crackpot nativist, that is.
The problem, though, for those of us who actually believe in progressive principles who may be moved to Obama due to dislike of the alternatives, is that underneath all that beautiful prose and verse that Obama spouts lies a hollow shell of a political platform not that far removed from the typical DLC center-right agenda…and especially for the masses of Black people looking for a leader that can fully represent their basic left-of-center interests, the Obama candicacy looks more and more like another hidden trap door to nothingness.
Some of the best critical analysis of Obama from the Black Left (though Kenneth Alexander Gray’s latest missive in CounterPunch is pretty decent) has come from the pens of Glen Ford and Bruce Dixon, the former founders and co-editors of the Black Commentator website who have now split off to run an more independent site caled The Black Agenda Report (BAR). (Apparantly, Ford and Dixon didn’t like the movement of BC towards more conventional liberal Democrats.) Their original writings on Obama was when he was campaigning for his present seat, and covered the many ways in which Obama would mask his "centrist" politics with a progressive sheen….and his flip-flopping relationship with the Democratic Leadership Council. He had signed himself onto a list of DLC prospects; but when called on it by Ford and Dixon — then still at BC at the time — he crawfished and took his name off that list…only to resubmit it surrentipiously after he got elected.
The latest issue of BAR (in addition to a reprint of the Kenneth Alexander Gray CounterPunch article linked above) includes Glen Ford’s most recent blast of Obama as a pretender and a hollow shell of a Black politician pandering to conservatives and centrists at the expense of his Black progressive base. While the entire article is worth reading in its entirity to get the full flavor, a few excerpts are in order to set the tone:
Corporate media, an extension of Madison Avenue, eats this crap up. Barack Obama has “wide appeal” and is, therefore, a “saleable” product. But what are they selling, and to whom? They (and Obama) are certainly not selling an end to U.S. wars of aggression, or universal health care, or the right to housing, education, and a minimal standard of income. Most insidiously, Obama-mania does not even market substantive measures toward racial justice. Quite the opposite: it presents an Obama presidential candidacy as a palliative – a soothing potion – that on its face serves as an historical benchmark showing how far “America” – meaning [W]hite America – has come.
Such is Obama’s carefully orchestrated message: Vote for me, and I’ll set you free – free like me! – from any obligation to reverse centuries of past wrongs or current crimes against African Americans; free to abandon universal health care as a national priority; free to warn Iraqis that there will be “no more coddling” of them, as if 600,000 Iraqis have died from excess coddling; free to threaten “surgical missile strikes” against Iran in early 2006, and free to later back away from the warmongers’ bully pulpit when the political winds changed. Free!
[Picture of Obama canoodling with Hillary from original article]
Further down the article:
Barack Obama has methodically created the impression that he feels no special obligation to African Americans (“There’s not a black America and white America and Latino America and Asian America; there’s the United States of America.”) – the source of his meteoric rise. It matters not what he feels inside, or what he wrote in a decade-old biography. Obama has eagerly signed on as a candidate of the center-right of the Democratic Party – a hair’s-breadth from Hillary Clinton, with whom I suspect he will eventually team-up.
[Pic of Ebony magazine cover of Obama and his wife in original snipped here due to formatting issues]
And what do African Americans get out of the deal? Far less than nothing. By assisting white Americans to believe that painless absolution of collective responsibility for the past and current national sins can be achieved by looking kindly on an ingratiating Black man’s presidential candidacy, Obama has become an active participant in the Great Diversion. He repeatedly reinforces the notion that noisy “partisan politics” is what’s wrong with America, rather than rapacious corporations, structural and overt racism, and rampaging militarism.
Like I said….you have to go to the BAR site and read the entire article to get the full flavor of Ford’s bombthrowing…but it is more than worth it.
Of course, it’s not just liberals who play the "articulate Black man to address our issues" card….remember Congressman Harold Ford, who ran for the Tennessee Senate in ’06?? The one who got pilloried in the infamous "Call me" ad implying his love of White flesh and Playmates?? The Blue Dog conservative Democrat who actively sought after the Klan vote…even to the point of wearing Rebel and Stars and Bars gear to honky-tonks throughout the state?? [Scroll down to the Nov. 11th post.] The one who James Carville recently promoted as a better chair of the Democratic National Committee than Howard Dean….exactly ONE WEEK after Dean helped orchestrate the great Ass Kickback last November?? The one who is now the current chairman of the DLC??? Of course, his brand of "articulation" won’t quite get the ire….errrrrr, admiration….of the likes of US Senator (Del.) Joe :"Mr. Clean" Biden…. but then again, he only works FOR the establishment and is an open panderer.
Damn you to Hell, Jesse Jackson….if you ‘d only had bolted the Dems in 1988 after Dukakis punked you and ran as an Independent, we wouldn’t be in this sorry shape today. Oh, well..I guess another year of spoiling my vote again.
[Update: Memo to self: Damn, ‘Dog….can you please respect Jesse Jackson a bit more by properly spelling his freakin’ name in the title of the damn post??? Corrected.]