Thoughts on Barack Obama
by Tom Grayman, Mon Apr 17, 2006 at 12:55:05 PM EDT
Tom Grayman is a pollster, publisher of The Intelligence Squad website, and author of the book Ghosts of Florida: Making Elections Fair for Blacks
I don't think Barack Obama is great.
Neither do I consider him a disappointment.
But I do think that much too much attention has been paid to, and too many expectations have been placed on the shoulders of, Senator Obama.
Before he set foot in the the Senate chamber, he was celebrated as the next political superstar, based entirely on the strength of his keynote speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention.
That was a mistake.
To be sure, it was great speech, overflowing with optimism, bonhomie, and shout-outs to the some of the best of traditional Democratic ideals. And it was delivered with a high degree of articulateness.
Yet the adulation heaped upon Obama coming out of that performance was clearly disproportionate for a man who had not even been elected to the Senate at that point. After all, even Georgw W. Bush has delivered a couple of good speeches in his time in Washington.
So why so much love for Obama?
Typically, any black Democrat who credibly espouses what are typically thought of as traditional Democratic values will be positively received by the overwhelimg majority of black voters, and by a solid majority of white Democrats. But one thing that often helps that politician win "crossover" support from white Independents, and that can make him a superstar with white Democrats, is a willingness NOT to openly acknowledge the racial divide that exists in the US. Just like Obama did in his star-making speech.
Now even as we speak, there are those who are preparing to divide us -- the spin masters, the negative ad peddlers who embrace the politics of "anything goes." Well, I say to them tonight, there is not a liberal America and a conservative America -- there is the United States of America. There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America -- there's the United States of America.
Of course, he is correct -- literally speaking. There is only a singular internationally and internally-recognized entity called the United States of America. But rhetorically, Obama's assertion is ludicrously Pollyannaish. My personal preference for brevity doesn't allow me to list the various data, facts, and philosophical differences which demonstrate that there are, for all practical purposes, a white America and a black America -- even if some members of either nation freely exist within the other. Even the Vice Presidential candidate he was endorsing that night was famous for pointing out that there were "two Americas" (divided by economics and power, which often serve as good proxies for race in America).
Obama's assertion was perhaps his first in what will be a long string of efforts to blur reality in an effort to seem "reasonable" and "electable" to those who could someday determine his presidential destiny. Other such efforts have included:
his speech six months ago before the Council on Foreign Relations, where he told us
"The President could take the politics out of Iraq once and for all if he would simply go on television and say to the American people `Yes, we made mistakes. Yes, there are things I would have done differently. But now that we're here, I am willing to work with both Republicans and Democrats to find the most responsible way out.'"
thereby ignoring the fact that the Republicans are not interested in finding any way out and that Bush won't admit any mistakes anytime before monkeys are seen flying out of my ass
and his appearance on ABC's "This Week," back in January in which he told us
while at the same time complaining that the filibuster is a sign that
"I will be supporting the filibuster because I think Judge Alito, in fact, is somebody who is contrary to core American values, not just liberal values."
"There is an over-reliance on the part of Democrats for procedural maneuvers."
And yet, I am not disappointed in Senator Obama. That's because I never actually anticipated greatness from him. It's not that I expected him to be a poor choice for the Senate. It's just that I've learned that when we fall head-over-heels for an elected official at first sight, we often wind up getting crushed.
Furthermore, I'm past expecting greatness from any U.S. Senator -- especially one who is widely discussed within the Beltway as near-term presidential material.
I'm past expecting Joe Biden to protect the finances of the middle class against MBNA's desire to re-write American's bankruptcy law.
I'm past expecting Hillary to acknowledge that it wasn't such a good idea to give George W. Bush the authority to launch an unprovoked military attack against a Middle Eastern Muslim country.
And I'm past expecting Barack Obama to publicly acknowledge that blacks and whites do largely inhabit separate Americas, no matter how much we wish it weren't so.
Now, on to the White House!