Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Hopeface McRace

So, now that I have had the chance to digest Obama’s speech, which his supporters are literally calling the greatest speech ever given on race (thus demonstrating the limits of their own capacity for perspective), I offer my obligatory thoughts.

More than anything, the speech was extremely long. At 5,000 words, the thing reads like a treatise, minus any sort of details that might constitute a treatise. The speech was generally received very favorably, which stands to reason insofar as it said nothing that anyone could conceivably deny. Race has been a problem, and continues to be, but it’s gotten better, and Obama is multi-racial. Got it.

Headlines cite the allegedly blunt nature of the speech. It was not a blunt speech, for were it so, it would have offended some. Unless you are Geraldine Ferraro (you reap what you sow, lady) or Obama’s (deceased) grandmother, you walked away from that speech inspired.

Barack Obama’s possesses the valuable ability to cast banalities as “straight talk”. Obama asks us to applaud his political courage for refusing to let this issue “fade into the woodwork”, as though any politically aware person thinks that was an option. He honestly reflects that slavery once divided this nation, as though that particular piece of information forcing anyone to re-evaluate their sense of history.

When McCain helmed the “Straight Talk Express” in 2000, he offered quite a few banalities, yes, but also some fierce rhetoric, codified by action, with very real political consequences. It cost him endorsements and, absurdly, commenced a lavish tongue-bathing upon a certain moderate Mormon. McCain will lose votes because of his straight talk. Compared to McCain, Obama is as blunt as a plastic bag. I can’t wait to see what SNL does with this.

The real genius of Obama’s speech, however, was that he managed to turn a political negative into an opportunity to discuss race. By addressing the obscene rhetoric of a fruitcake (while carefully pretending he knew nothing about it), Obama provided a platform to interject racial reconciliation into the Democratic primary. As an added bonus, he gets to pretend that Reagan conservatives are standing in the way.

This was a brilliant coup. If this race is about reconciliation, how can a racial hybrid possibly lose? But wait a minute. One week ago, weren’t Americans worried about things like, I dunno, war and the economy? On March 1, who woke up thinking “wow, race relations are really not where I’d hoped they’d be”.

Indeed, the objection to Wright had nothing whatsoever to do with race. The most disturbing tirade, in which Wright asked God to damn America days after 9/11, was more about allegiance to Israel. Wright could have been a giant emu and the issue would have stuck. Wright’s appeals are scary because they are, essentially, all we know about Obama. Such is the life of a candidate without a platform.

And, guess what? We don’t know anything more about him now. In 5,000 words, Obama failed to provide one concrete solution to his proposed race problem (other than, of course, to elect him). He advanced no policy, and failed to even articulate what HE thinks about race in this country. Even those who were quick to praise him could only muster vague platitudes about his statesmanship.

What is a statesman? Is it a people pleaser? Obama is certainly that. If that is the case, America will need more than a statesman to navigate this country through a recession and a war against an enemy that would like to see us all beheaded. What we need is a leader. If these 5,000 words are any indication, Barack Obama is not one.

Reading and watching this speech, I was reminded that there is a reason why politicians are the way they are. Obama has challenged America in the way Americans love to be challenged, with unequivocal agreement and an appeal to their own brilliance. In doing so, he has solved a crisis of his own invention.

For one who fancies himself to be post-political, Obama has proven himself to be best of breed.


Anonymous kevin said...


12:34 PM  

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