Monday, September 15, 2008

Obama and the Angry Black Elephant in the Room

Found this excellently written editorial on, touching on a lot of what I've written about or considered since Obama began his run. There are growing rumblings about race starting to really mean something as the campaign tightens and it's apparent that one or two percentage points will decide this thing.

In the Time piece, writer Michael Grunwald reminds us that America has never warmed to the angry black man (or angry Hispanic, Asian, et al for that matter). This makes the calls for Obama to summon that righteous rage—something I've been conflicted about—seem shortsighted at best, and a volatile recipe for failure at worst.

Grunwald also speaks about the racial code wording ('flashy', 'uppity') rife in the campaign and as part of the public lexicon. How this will translate on election day is beginning to worry me and a lot of Democrats, especially as the opposition continues to appeal to middle American largely on cultural issues.

In an early URB editorial, I cited Obama's electoral improbability as a chief reason for my lack of support for his candidacy. Iowa went on to change my mind for the positive after his unexpected victory in a 95% white state. Fast forward to six weeks before the election, and I'm concerned all over again. Waking up from my Obama dream isn't something I want to do, but I'm preparing myself for it.


Rod said...

To the extent that race is a factor in the election, Obama's race is a huge net benefit. The number of people who will vote FOR Obama because he's Black FAR outnumber the people who will vote against him because he's Black.

All this talk about supposed "code words" is a pathetic attempt to find racism where there is none. Can't we do without the smears?

Obama himself said: "If I lose, it won't be because of race. It will be because ... I made mistakes on the campaign trail, I wasn't communicating effectively my plans in terms of helping them in their everyday lives."

I believe he's mostly right there. If Obama loses, it will be mainly because of the message, not the messenger. Americans will judge that his vision, the far-left-wing agenda, is just wrong for America.

Raymond Leon Roker said...

Rod, neither of us know what extent race will play in this election--and you're no more able to say it's a 'huge net benefit' as I can say he will lose because of it.

but you're delusional if you think code words are in my head. plainly and conveniently delusional. frankly, when folks are as dismissive about race issues as your email is, I wonder how sincere they are about a legitimate debate. you have to at least start with some truths.

agree, and have said that in my obama editorials too, that a democratic loss this fall will mean they didn't articulate the vision with enough gusto, or america wasn't down to a large enough degree.

I also didn't say that america was simply racist--and neither did the time columnist. what we did say was that america has an acceptance level for race in this country, and it stops way shy of perceived 'anger' and, watch for it, 'uppity-ness'.

I would be happy with this being an issue based election, alone, but there's no denying that other factors are pulling at it both ways.

Rod said...

First, my criticism wasn't aimed at you, but at people like Grunwald and Gov. Paterson ( But I think the delusion is in the minds of those who infer racism from any innocuous comment, just because they NEED to believe their opponents are racist.
Really, c'mon: Flashy? Blue-collar? Community organizer? Can't "inexperienced" just mean someone who hasn't had much experience?

You say we have to at least start with "some truths". I say at the very least, you have to allow that someone means what he says. I grant Obama that. I believe that he intends to do just what he says. I just believe those are wrong for the country. If you're serious about "legitimate debate", you must allow the same for the other side.

I'm not being dismissive about race. On the contrary, I think it's become far too big a factor in this race. As you said, I'd be happy if this was only about the issues. But the fact is, half the country is caught up in the "beautiful idea" of a Black man becoming president in a "historic election". To me, that's not an issue. Nor is it a qualification or achievement.

Rod said...

How do I add a live link, rather than just show the URL?

Raymond Leon Roker said...

rod, the remarkable thing is that those holding the power only get, ahem, uppity, when it's undermined, or they perceive it to be.

where have whites been for 232 years while the only faces that marched to washington have been theirs? no outcry about racism in politics then. no special commentary about 'this jerk wouldn't be here had he not been white.' or 'he's unqualified, but he's getting votes based on his skin color.'

we can both agree that barack starts out on a footing that isn't equal, but I've written it before during the ferarro mess (here) it's so convenient to make the case that obama is more aided than harmed by his race. that all of a sudden, america, in one grand collective overcompensation, puts a black man at the head of the ticket, and that the forces that would keep him from that are suddenly weaker after 200+ years. how f'n convenient, my friend.

as for live URLs, join all of this:

a href=
"paste URL here"
linked word goes here