January 25, 2007

"Is Barack black enough to beat Hillary?"

Bob Wright and Mickey Kaus talk about that on Bloggingheads in a segment that begins with Mickey calling John Kerry a "terminal doofus" but gets around to the promised topic.

And here's the link to Kausfiles on that topic, which discusses this essay by Debra Dickerson that asserts that Barack Obama isn't (the right kind of) black. Bob Wright and I talked about the same subject in a segment of Bloggingheads last week, which was based on this blog post of mine, talking about this news article about black leaders not (yet?) supporting Obama.

ADDED: WaPo has a big story on the general subject today:
The question of how Obama chooses to define and approach race looms large as he moves closer to formally launching his campaign next month....

Melissa V. Harris-Lacewell, a Princeton University professor who has followed Obama's political ascent, said that he may be forced to choose: "You can be elected president as a black person only if you signal at some level that you are independent from black people" -- a move she said would be "guaranteed" to make black people angry. "He is going to have to figure out whether there is a way not to alienate and anger a black base that almost by definition is going to be disappointed," she said.

45 comments:

Anonymous said...

"You can be elected president as a black person only if you signal at some level that you are independent from black people."

No. A Democrat can only get elected that way.

This is another example of being hoisted on their own petard. As the Democrat party stands now a black person will not be allowed to be "President." They will have to be a "Black President." But if they run to be the "Black President" ala Jackson/Sharpton then they can't win.

All of this stems from the same political correctness that says that Condi Rice or Clarence Thomas aren't somehow authentically black and that it's okay to call them Uncle Tom or Oreo. By not shouting down this type of stuff immediately as being anti-black in itself they have screwed themselves and the black community over.

If we can get people to understand lessons like this and that "acting white" isn't a character flaw that will go a long way to healing some of the problems in the black community. Once a black kid in an inner city school can sit during lunch studying without getting beaten up we can have a black person as President.

Or, more likely, we'll vote in a black Republican.

MadisonMan said...

What a ridiculous question.

Are Hillary's breasts big enough to beat Barack? Is that tomorrow's topic of debate?

How about discussing, oh I don't know, their ideas on Iraq or Health care or something.

David said...

Talk about the "Soft bigotry of low expectations" how about selling himself as an American who knows the difference between a shiite, sunni, and kurd. Also, how about a statement on fighting radical islam anywhere but on U.S. soil in front of a photo of the plane flying into the Pentagon!

Middle class blacks will flock to Barack if he is strong on foreign policy and a bull on the economy. If he wusses out with platitudes he will lose the support of the middle class of all colors.

David said...

Talk about the "Soft bigotry of low expectations!"

Oh wait, that is the main selling point of democrats running for any office!

Art said...

I believe that in 2000, if Colin Powell had raised his hand and said, "OK, I'll run," he would have easily been elected as a Democrat, Republican or Independent.

Anonymous said...

How about if he runs as a human being on a particular platform?

Trey

Tex the Pontificator said...

"You can be elected president as a black person only if you signal at some level that you are independent from black people"

This presumes that, to be elected president, a black candidate must pander to the racial grievance lobby. I hope that's not true, and if it is, it is a sad reflection of the current state of our culture. We must get to the point where a black candidate can be elected, because he is the best candidate for all Americans of whatever color.

vbspurs said...

Gerald Hibbs wrote:

This is another example of being hoisted on their own petard.

Excellent turn of phrase.

If we can get people to understand lessons like this and that "acting white" isn't a character flaw that will go a long way to healing some of the problems in the black community. Once a black kid in an inner city school can sit during lunch studying without getting beaten up we can have a black person as President.

But this is where I think Barack Obama's AFRICANNESS can make the difference.

Maybe he sees himself as black, and as a young man, often struggled with identity issues about his origins, but many black people do not see him as authentically part of their community.

Coincidentally. --

As I write this, I hear Al Sharpton being interviewed on MSNBC.

He is fielding a question about his implied criticism of Barack Obama: "What does Obama know about the URBAN AGENDA?".

Democrats talk about Republicans using "shorthand" in their speeches, and what he said, is precisely that: shorthand for Barack Obama not personally knowing the struggles of the inner city. IOW, he's not black enough for some black Americans.

The point of it is -- just how much of this resenting tone is racial, and how much is it related to his education, and "white" presentation?

I wonder, would Sharpton ask a black candidate like Harold Ford "What do you know of the Urban Agenda?", just because Ford grew up middle-class and educated?

Which poster was it that made that (perhaps a bit clumsily) Obama's Africanness may count against him as a black man, ironically enough?

It's being borne out, bit by bit.

Cheers,
Victoria

Veeshir said...

I've been wondering that myself.
He has an interesting balancing act. First off, he has to be black enough to be black, but he also has to be not-black enough to appeal to white voters. He has to be Will Smith. Too much Alan Iverson turns off whitey, too much Sinbad turns off homey.

Of course, it's much easier for a black Democrat to walk that fine line, it's much wider than it is for conservative blacks where people like Condi Rice, who worked her way up from poordom, isn't black enough but Obama, with his white-bread upbringing, is authentically black.

Nothing that happens this election will scare me any more. Even if it's Hillary!/Obama! against McCain!/Hagel.
I've embraced the horror.

vbspurs said...

BTW, in the MSNBC Sharpton piece, Chris Jansing asked the Reverend if during a recent Terry McAuliffe book promo, where President Clinton gave a less than rousing speech, ahead of his wife's own speech, if...

Bill is "dialing it down" a bit, so that he doesn't dwarf his wife's less than spectacular speech-making abilities?

I wouldn't at all be surprised.

Cheers,
Victoria

nunzio said...

He's certainly more black than Hilary.

Icepick said...

Obama needs to rap those lyrics from CB4:

“I’m black y’all! I’m black y’all! ‘Cause I’m blacker than black an’ I’m black y’all!”

That'll work!

AJ Lynch said...

Kinda of idiotic that the debates about these issues are always among white media elites.

Reminds me of the many times Chris Matthews has suggested that Peace Corps service qualifies one as having foreign policy cred.

bearbee said...

I appreciate the need to get beyond restrictive attitudes towards gender, race, religion, etc., but I do get tired of the.... endless.... hurdles.......

first Catholic - done that
first black*
first woman*
first Jew (Joe, as VP you coulda put this partially behind us)
first Muslim*
first gay
a) woman
b) man
first Hispanic
first Asian
first Native American
first divorced
first bachelor -ette
first transgender
first black lesbian Jew
first.......
first........

Doesn't this tell us we are stuck in a certain place and a long way from 'but by the content of their character?' Do people in other countries obsess as much as we do?

*If Hillary and Barack team up we've got a double and possible triple! in hurdle reductions.

Anonymous said...

I recall Billy Ocean (I think) singing "Am I black enough for ya?" How fitting!

LoafingOaf said...

Black people supported Obama in his Senate race. The 2008 campaign hasn't officially started yet, and he's still kind of a mystery man to the rest of the country.

Maybe it would be a legit issue if we're actually in the middle of the race and black voters in the primaries are, in fact, voting for Hillary Clinton over Obama.

Why are a few people raising this issue now, before it actually is an issue? To help Hillary? Or to warn him not to be a centrist?

And Al Sharpton is running for his party's nomination against Obama.

Mickey Kaus - isn't he a Clinton supporter? I'm forget. I'm pretty sure he's from the DLC wing of the Party.

It looks like a combination of white people who wanna endorse Hillary, plus far left university professors (and capitalista-hating radicals like Belafonte) who don't want the first black prez to be a moderate, plus other black candidates trying to win the Democrat primary, who are raising this issue. The voters aren't focused on the election yet and haven't had a chance to say anything.

Obama should run on what he believes and let the chips fall where they may. That would be a refreshing contrast with the Clintons that people of all colors would respect.

Revenant said...

Perhaps Obama can turn his problem into a lucatrative singing career?

AllenS said...

What a ridiculous subject. Bill Clinton was the first black president. We don't need Obamarama to be the second. Been there, done that.

Anonymous said...

You can be elected president as a black person only if you signal at some level that you are independent from black people.

This sounds a lot like the criticism that JFK had to endure that he would be taking orders from the Vatican.

Of course it is ridiculous. Why is it OK for Ronald Reagan to have reveled in his Irish heritage, and whatever else they may have said no one argued that there was anything wrong with Mike Dukakis being Greek, but somehow Obama has to deny his heritage (which isn't even strictly speaking 'American' black, by the way-- it is actually African black, from Kenya) in order to be viable.

Also, bearbee:

James Buchanan was the first bachelor (unless you want to count Thomas Jefferson, a widower). Ronald Reagan, who divorced his first wife before marrying Nancy, was the first divorced person in the White House.

R C Dean said...

Well, bearbee, the first and indeed only real hurdle, the ur-hurdle, is identifying people as primarily members of some collective or other.

Such as:

[first] Catholic
[first] black*
[first] woman*
[first] Jew

What you see as a solution -

we should elect Hillary because she is a woman and will clear the hurdle of being First Woman President!

I see as the problem -

we should elect Candidate X because of the ethnic/religious/gender group which he/she/it fronts for.

Bruce Hayden said...

He's certainly more black than Hilary.

But remember, she is married to the first Black president.

Revenant said...

This sounds a lot like the criticism that JFK had to endure that he would be taking orders from the Vatican.

The JFK thing made no sense for the simple reason that there were scads of Catholic politicians in America and none of them were on the Vatican payroll. There are almost no black politicians in America who treat the electorate in a color-blind manner, and scads of black politicians who put the interests of black people ahead of those of white people. The white majority quite naturally wants guarantees that that won't happen; they want to know that they're getting a black Kennedy, not a Sharpton, Jackson, Ford Sr., or McKinney.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Revenant,

Isn't that a bit of a double-standard? Hillary panders like crazy to black people. If Hillary can do it, Barack should be able to. If no one should pander to blacks, then we should be criticizing Hillary for what she has done rather than criticizing Obama for what he appears unlikely to do.

As an aside, what is wrong with politicians paying more attention to the issues and concerns of blacks? I don't see how that necessarily harms anyone who wants to reform health care and education.

Bill Dalasio said...

Well, I'd like to propose a different candidate. Barry Obman. He's only been in the Senate a couple of years. Before that, he was in the state legislature. He won the election to the Senate against a very weak candidate in a pretty favorable state after his opponent dropped out due to a scandal. He's solidly left-of-center, though to be fair, he's generally pretty sensible in tone. Now, I'll grant, he's a middle-aged white guy, but there's no reason not to support him right?

Revenant said...

Isn't that a bit of a double-standard? Hillary panders like crazy to black people. If Hillary can do it, Barack should be able to. If no one should pander to blacks, then we should be criticizing Hillary for what she has done rather than criticizing Obama for what he appears unlikely to do

Barack's done just as much pandering to blacks as Hillary has -- he is, after all, a liberal Democrat. What he needs to show is that he won't go beyond the usual white Democratic pandering and into the realm of black Democratic overt racism.

Maybe it is unfair, but politics is about perception -- and there's a well-earned perception that black politicians can't be trusted to do what's in the interests of the white majority.

Maxine Weiss said...

I noticed, with each successive webcast.... Hillary's eyeliner has become more darker.

And, her foundation has become darker and more bronze.

Trying to look more exotic

Peace, Maxine

amba said...

When I posted on this (quoting your commenter Mortimer Brezny), a black reader showed up and scolded me, but in the process he also said his wife and her friends were solidly supporting Obama, which I found heartening.

Birkel said...

I love it when Democrats begin to discuss their own inherent racism.

Makes me proud.

/sarcasm

Mortimer Brezny said...

What he needs to show is that he won't go beyond the usual white Democratic pandering and into the realm of black Democratic overt racism. Maybe it is unfair, but politics is about perception -- and there's a well-earned perception that black politicians can't be trusted to do what's in the interests of the white majority.


1. Why do you think it is necessarily in the interest of the white majority for politicians to be wholly unresponsive to the interests of black people? As I said before, the issues that matter most to blacks matter to most Americans: health care and education. Unless your argument is that most white people prefer being uninsured to being insured and unaffordable college tuition to affordable college tuition, your argument is nonsensical.

2. President Bush was widely regarded as right when he spoke at the NAACP. There, he noted the Democratic Party takes the black vote for granted. That is, Democrats "pander" to blacks to ensure their votes, but then do absolutely zero in exchange. How would Barack Obama be harming white people by committing to enact some percentage of what white Democrats routinely promise black voters?

Anonymous said...

not a Sharpton, Jackson, Ford Sr., or McKinney.

What elected office has Al Sharpton or Jesse Jackson ever been elected to? We really don't know how they'd govern because they've been candidates, not office holders.

Ford Sr. was before my time. But even his opponents seemed to think he did a good job as a Congressman, though he lost his race for the Senate. Cynthia McKinney was the only incumbent Democrat in Congress to lose last year-- the Democratic voters in her Atlanta district (the large majority of whom are black, by the way) decided they'd had enough of McKinney and fired her in the primary.

hdhouse said...

Another fine case of the right wing throwing out a strawdog and then using their own idiotic proposition to further their point.

Frankly I'll vote for Brownback because he is a neutral brown. McCain..is he too Scottish to win? And Newt...I'll always vote for the eye of the newt...or is that too ADDAMS? Can Rudy get the Notre Dame vote? Was that football movie really about him?

You neo-cons are so stupid and transparent as to make my feet hurt.

Pogo said...

Madisonman, you noted "What a ridiculous question.", which is operative, I agree.

I find it curious that it is the Left's media raising the issue (Salon, WaPo), and folks like Sharpton and Jackson opining against the man.

What gives?
I think it's this: Voting 'black' isn't about skin color at all, it's about toeing the Party line as expressed in the so-called "Urban Agenda".

Urban Agenda?
..."an action-oriented public policy, research and advocacy organization dedicated to building a stronger and more diverse labor movement and a socially, environmentally, and economically just New York City.
...promote economic vitality, environmental sustainability, and social equity.
...Housing Justice Campaign ...affordable housing construction. ...incorporate environmentally friendly materials and design and ensure safe working conditions and living wages and benefits for construction workers."


or these guys maybe?
"Martin Luther King's Neglected Legacy: Economic Justice; Can't Afford to Get Sick; No Relief for the Working Poor "

Whatever. It's not that he needs hip hop ho videos on his iPod, they're pointing out Obama's lack of street cred on socialism. That's all. He'll get the picture soon enough. His epiphany will be apparent by using the Correct Party Terminology in his next public statements.

bearbee said...

James Buchanan was the first bachelor (unless you want to count Thomas Jefferson, a widower). Ronald Reagan, who divorced his first wife before marrying Nancy, was the first divorced person in the White House.

Excellent. Two hurdles hit the dustbin. I believe the 1952 nomination of the divorced Adlai Stevenson kicked up a storm of controversy. Reagan settles that issue. Of course Stevenson had not remarried. Uh, oh..... do we have a 'First Divorced and not Remarried' hurdle?.

What you see as a solution -

we should elect Hillary because she is a woman and will clear the hurdle of being First Woman President!


I see it as a 'solution' only to the extent that it finally extinguishes this incessant national chatter of a candidates ethnic/religious/gender classification, and rivets focus onto content, quality and character.

Pogo said...

I wonder when the first Zoophilic President will finally be elected.

The universal emotion of Man-Horse love needs representation, too.

Kirk Parker said...

Mortimer,

"Why do you think it is necessarily in the interest of the white majority for politicians to be wholly unresponsive to the interests of black people?"

And why do you think that white and black people necessarily have different interests?

Mortimer Brezny said...

And why do you think that white and black people necessarily have different interests?

I never made a claim to categorical necessity.

But, as an empirical matter, there are almost no black Republicans. I think it is rather easy to run for President ignoring health care and education while focusing on foreign policy concerns that most blacks do not care about and retail issues germane to states with low black populations. That's what Republican candidates often do, and because Iowa and New Hampshire have very low black populations, South Carolina was inserted early on in the Democratic primary season.

I would also note that by "wholly unresponsive" I was referring to politicians reneging on what is explicitly promised. Obviously, whoever is President, black people will still receive mail. I never denied that all citizens have an interest in a functional postal service. But do you really think this discussion is about the Postal Service?

Revenant said...

Why do you think it is necessarily in the interest of the white majority for politicians to be wholly unresponsive to the interests of black people?

I never said anything of the sort. Where'd you get that from?

What is not in the interests of the white majority is having a President who favors overtly racist policies and hate speech directed against white people. Most black Democratic politicians favor such policies and speech, ergo they aren't going to get much traction with white people.

How would Barack Obama be harming white people by committing to enact some percentage of what white Democrats routinely promise black voters

Because "what Democrats routinely promise black voters" is that they'll take jobs and money from white people and give them to black people. They then (mostly) renege on those promises because they're not stupid.

Anonymous said...


Because "what Democrats routinely promise black voters" is that they'll take jobs and money from white people and give them to black people. They then (mostly) renege on those promises because they're not stupid.


So you're basically saying black people are stupid.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Because "what Democrats routinely promise black voters" is that they'll take jobs and money from white people and give them to black people. What is not in the interests of the white majority is having a President who favors overtly racist policies and hate speech directed against white people.

I must say I have no idea what you're talking about. Most promises that white Democrats make to black voters involve health care reform, Social Security, and education. I honestly have no idea how reforming health care and subsidizing higher education is necessarily a racist policy designed to take jobs away from whites to the benefit of blacks. I certainly have never heard of white Democrats engaging in hate speech to attract black voters, nor do I think Barack Obama would engage in hate speech. Indeed, the idea of Barack Obama giving a hateful speech seems contrary to the central theme of his candidacy, which is that we need to get beyond partisanship. Can you give me some examples of white Democrats promising to take jobs and money away from white people and give them to black people?

ergo [Democrats] aren't going to get much traction with white people.

Actually, Democrats have been complaining for some time that divisive wedge social issues (gay marriage/abortion) and divisive foreign policy (Irq War/War on Terror) are what get in the way of Democrats stressing their strengths. It is true that polls have shown Americans trust Democrats more on health care and education and Social Security, and Dean in 2004 tried to make that argument, but was bogged down by bickering over Iraq. I can't say whether it is 100% true that Democrats never get to talk about their domestic agenda because wedge issues and national security are always thrown in their face, but that explanation is more coherent an explanation of Democratic losses -- excluding 2006 -- than your gripes about the Democrat conspiracy to rob white people of their labor value.

Revenant said...

So you're basically saying black people are stupid.

No... I'm saying that Democratic politicians *aren't* stupid. It is better to renege on a promise to a minority of the electorate, and leave them no worse off than before, than it is to fulfill that promise by hurting the majority of the electorate.

I guess you could say that black voters are "stupid" inasmuch as they keep falling for this, but (a) the lousy voter turnout among blacks suggests most of them *aren't* falling for it and (b) white voters get suckered by similar promises every year. Sheesh, look at how many people really believe that the Ponzi scheme known as Social Security is really going to help them with retirement.

Revenant said...

I must say I have no idea what you're talking about.

Well, that explains a lot, then.

I honestly have no idea how reforming health care and subsidizing higher education is necessarily a racist policy designed to take jobs away from whites to the benefit of blacks.

Well, in the imaginary fantasy world where Democrats promise that black voters will get the same government benefits as white people, neither more nor less, that would certainly be true (although whites, being on average wealthier, would of course still be getting stuck with the bill). But Democrats have a habit of promising extra benefits for black people, whether they be affirmative action (i.e., racial discrimination against whites) or aid targeted specifically at minorities. Then, of course, there's the support for racial quotas in hiring and in the workforce... the list goes on and on. Heck, some Democratic Senators and Representatives, white *and* black, have even hopped onto the loony Slavery Reparations bandwagon.

ergo [Democrats] aren't going to get much traction with white people.

If you'll reread what I wrote, you'll see that that should be "[black Democrats]", not "[Democrats]".

Actually, Democrats have been complaining for some time that divisive wedge social issues (gay marriage/abortion) and divisive foreign policy (Iraq War/War on Terror) are what get in the way of Democrats stressing their strengths.

That's just another way of saying "if it wasn't for the fact that most people dislike a lot of our political positions, we'd win". Duh. A Republican could just as easily say that if it wasn't for entitlement issues, *they'd* always win.

But in any case, the Democratic Party has, as I recall, lost the white vote in every single Presidential election since Johnson's 1964 landslide -- through war and peace, booms and recessions, and since abortion and gay marriage were even on the national political radar. It is quite obvious that, whatever its other flaws may be, the Democratic Party is also failing to appeal to white people.

Mortimer Brezny said...

(although whites, being on average wealthier, would of course still be getting stuck with the bill).

This, of course, is the problem with your entire analysis. There are many whites in the same economic position as many blacks with regard to health care insurance and affording higher education. The fact that Bill Gates and other mega-rich CEOs happen to be white, rendering whites wealthier on average, doesn't mean that whites who cannot afford health care of higher education would be resentful of plans to provide them with health insurance and make college tuition for their children more affordable. You just have some sort of animus toward black people that has nothing to do with reality.

That's just another way of saying "if it wasn't for the fact that most people dislike a lot of our political positions, we'd win".

No, it's a way of saying that the issues that most people care about aren't discussed because the debate is influenced by extremists on both sides. The idea of a silent majority wasn't b.s. when Nixon coined it, and it isn't b.s. now. Health care is a major issue, but is rarely the centerpiece of Presidential platforms. That seems to be changing, and that change has nothing to do with black people controlling the levers of power to screw over white people, which is your paranoid fantasy.

But in any case, the Democratic Party has, as I recall, lost the white vote in every single Presidential election since

I have no idea why you would suggest that no white people vote for Democrats. That's insane.

Anonymous said...

"I certainly have never heard of white Democrats engaging in hate speech to attract black voters"

I missed those KKK meetings with Senator Byrd as well.

Trey

allbudgetsmedical said...

If Africans are not blacks then Obama is not, if any African American with any kind of white dna in them are not black then Obama is not black. If Africans are not black then any offspring of Africans can not be black.

So who is the real black man, maybe my four years old is right, there is really no black man , what he see is brown man and that is how he describe blacks as for whites he call them pink.

NCP Bloggers said...

If Africans are not blacks then Obama is not, if any African American with any kind of white dna in them are not black then Obama is not black. If Africans are not black then any offspring of Africans can not be black.

So who is the real black man, maybe my four years old is right, there is really no black man , what he see is brown man and that is how he describe blacks as for whites he call them pink.