Should We Want a Black President?

"Obama has mastered the art of political bullshitology."

This article was first published at The Black Agenda Report.

When Colin Powell considered running for president, the question on everyone’s mind was whether or not he could win. In other words, would white people who said they liked him really vote for him? Powell eventually decided to shoot for a high profile gig with the next Republican administration, and the question remained unanswered.

Unlike Powell, Senator Barack Obama has entered a presidential race. He is the candidate with all the buzz, and he has raised a ton of money. Hillary Clinton thought that being the boss’s wife would be enough to waltz into the nomination. All she had to do was bask in the Clintonian after-glow and presto, instant oval office residency.

Sadly for her, she shares her husband’s politics of meaninglessness but none of his personal charisma. She can’t get away with fence straddling, triangulating, or insulting the party base. Along comes Obama, a living reincarnation of Clintonian political charm straight from the glory days. Now that Hillary has been out Clintoned, she looks less like a sure thing.

“Is Obama more worthy of Black loyalty than any other Democrat?”

Obama has mastered the art of political bullshitology, and proven campaign fund-raising prowess. He does look like a contender. The likelihood of white people voting for him is still open to question, but that may not be the most important question. Black Americans will again support the Democratic nominee, but is Obama more worthy of that loyalty than any other Democrat?

If he is a winner, it will be in large part because he is willing to throw black people under the bus. He proved as much in his overrated speech at the 2004 Democratic national convention. “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 there is a black America, and most of us don’t want to pretend otherwise.

Obama’s 2004 speech does not mention racism, not even to say something bland such as, racism is bad. Obama sells color blindness in a country that is all about the color spectrum. It makes no sense for black America to embrace this obvious canard. Will we purchase a lemon if the seller looks like us?

When Obama says that the best way to end poverty is to keep teenage girls from having babies, he is insulting us all. If he wants to channel Bill Cosby he must know that it comes with a price. Our support is not his birthright. If he can’t bring himself to talk about the loss of high paying union jobs and the deliberate destruction of black public schools, he must know that he can’t expect unqualified support.

“If Obama wants to channel Bill Cosby he must know that it comes with a price.”

Obama doesn’t just represent the dangers of being proud when one of our own gets what the system tells us is the brass ring. He is also the culmination of the dumbing down, and selling out of the Democratic party.

In every election Democrats’ choices are worse and worse. Authentic Democrats can’t raise money or are ignored or destroyed by the corporate media. Just ask Howard Dean. The Democratic party’s insistence on selling out and not standing up for an ideology of any kind has all but destroyed the likelihood of having a decent presidential nominee in the foreseeable future.

The eventual nominee will in fact stay the course in Iraq. Hillary has openly said that she will keep troops there. Corporate Democrat chicanery causes apathy, fatigue, and finally acceptance of phony progressives like Obama. True progressives will legitimately conclude that compromised Democrats are as good as we are able to get.

While legitimate, those low expectations are very dangerous. Black Americans would be more likely to call Hillary out when she acts against our interests. Obama would get a pass from the “aren’t you proud to have a black president” crowd. He encompasses the worst of all possible worlds, a corporate beholden Democrat who won’t even be put on the spot by the party’s most loyal and most insightful constituency. In a spirit of charity, it could be said that Obama is no worse than Hillary Clinton. The expression “damning with faint praise” comes to mind.

“If Obama is the party choice, it will be because he makes white people feel comfortable.”

Every four years progressives wring their hands and vote for a Democrat they don’t really like. Obama would just be the latest manifestation of that sad quadrennial spectacle. If he is the party choice, it will be because he makes white people feel comfortable, and by definition that means not addressing the interests of black people.

Does it make sense to want a black president? Will we feel better seeing a black president even if he can’t find the right time to leave Iraq, institute single payer health care, end mass incarceration, or fight for affirmative action? In the future, we will again see a black presidential candidate claiming that there is no black America. If we adhere to the belief that a black face in a high place is always good, that throwaway line in a speech might just take on a more ominous meaning.

Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached at: Margaret.Kimberley@BlackAgendaReport.Com. Read other articles by Margaret, or visit Margaret's website.

17 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. pk said on May 17th, 2007 at 3:28am #

    being dissident for dissendence sake is always refreshing.

  2. mesen hotep said on May 17th, 2007 at 9:06am #

    Dear Ms Kemberlay,

    After reading your strongly opinionated rebuttle of Barack Obamas presidential possibilities one might have to ask oneself if YOU are unscrewing the bulb before seeing if it works or not. Let´s take the first issue. Are you saying that the art of Bullshitology is strictly for white possible canidates and the nerve of Obama mastering it as well? As far as his ability or inability to convince the white voter that one of his ridgit concerns would be a UNITED america respectful of all nationalities and races (which would be an incredible feat for any president let alone one of color) and TRUE JUSTICE for all its citizens. You say “Blacks” will, as usual support the Democtic candidate, no I say they will surely vote for Obama just by what he professes to believe….a
    unified strong America for all of us without “cream on top” illusions that have plagued progress for us all. Íf anything else, he´s worth a try. You know as well as I that there is always a way to radify everthing. His loyalty to Blacks and Whites would depend on positive support of the right persons. If they want him to suceed and support him, he may well do so or fall depending on american principles and idiology. He doesn´t need to express his view on *Racism* you already know the answer to that one as I do. If you are saying that is he willing to function as a…let´s say a Clarence Thomas (for lack of a more viril candidate), in order to get approval by those who do not want to change things, I think that would not be the main issue of this person. Why is having to put your head through the hole and having eggs thrown at your face a pre-requisit for american politics? You went for the “Juggerler” as most persons who would seem to be against a possible “JUST” person who appears to be interested in bringing american values to the forefront and administrating successful political agendas with americans in mind and not just rogue personal and political gains. Anyone who has read this article would plainly see a rooted bias in all that what said and not cast it off as a mere political opinion. We all have our opinions, don´t we? I think it would be more constructive on your part to refocus on the aspects of positive change rather than quoting what the “System” in it´s present state dictates that you say and do. MNH

  3. prissy said on May 17th, 2007 at 12:46pm #

    summary of article:

    a black man who can be president in this RACIST country would be the one who doesn’t mention racism in every speech he gives.

    My own deduction:

    the first black president will be a republican.

  4. Erik Rose said on May 17th, 2007 at 1:29pm #

    Apparently, it IS possible to write a 400 word response and not make a single point. What the hell is the “Juggerler”?

  5. nina said on May 17th, 2007 at 1:51pm #

    poor barack. a vision he only sees, a world he only lives in.

  6. Hue Longer said on May 17th, 2007 at 2:17pm #

    I don’t know if Ms. “Kemberlay” will respond to your letter Mr. Hotep, but I have read the article and see (“plainly” is begging compliance a bit wouldn’t you plainly agree?) logical observation which makes the search for bias moot. Barak has expressed racist ignoring racial views by insinuating he doesn’t have any, and Margaret made that point by quoting, ““There is not a Black America and a White America and Latino America and Asian America – there’s the United States of America.”, then pointing out the obvious institutional racism that Obama will not notice when he makes Cosbyesque statements. Using the subjective reality begging statement, “We all have our opinions, don´t we”? Not only shows a cog dis fear of truth, but as well renders whatever you previously said to that same heap.

  7. Tusker said on May 17th, 2007 at 8:39pm #

    Just one question :

    Does anyone think that white America will allow a black president ? Especially one with a name like Barrack Obama ?

    NO WAY ! Someone is in deep dreamland here !

  8. sheldon g said on May 18th, 2007 at 9:51am #

    they are all full of shit, all the presidential nominees, they will try to solve are problems one bit by bit by signing bills and we will be in the same boat in 2012 and the powers that be (who support your rent-a-kings) don’t want to end poverty, racism, sexism becase of profit, but don’t take it from me…….

  9. mike perez said on May 18th, 2007 at 2:51pm #

    the nation needs a change the votes showed the people wanted gore but politics and money do not forget fraud put baby bush in a know durg user if not cocaine then alchohol the nation needs a new outlook this administration has destroyed the U.S. credability across the world and to finally pull the troops out of an illegal war. do not forget bush and cheney need to be tared and feathered and put in jail.

  10. Tram said on May 18th, 2007 at 8:40pm #

    “When Obama says that the best way to end poverty is to keep teenage girls from having babies, he is insulting us all. ”

    Obama is as middle class as it gets.

    He doesn’t know anything about poverty.

  11. Rowan Berkeley said on May 19th, 2007 at 8:59am #

    You know as well as I that there is always a way to radify everthing.

    — um… radify?

  12. Ariadna said on May 19th, 2007 at 8:17pm #

    Obama is black?!?
    I had no idea.
    I heard him on the radio and I read some of his statements and he sounds as white as Hillary or all the other white lying opportunists.
    Chappelle (of the eponymous show) would auction him off as white together with Ms Rice and Michael Jackson….

  13. James said on May 21st, 2007 at 8:05am #

    Wow, who let the KKK in to this discussion?

  14. Ariadna said on May 21st, 2007 at 8:55am #

    Who, James, point him/her out!

  15. James said on May 21st, 2007 at 8:57am #

    Look in the mirror.

  16. Ariadna said on May 22nd, 2007 at 5:14pm #

    James, have you ever heard of sarcasm? Or is it a reading comprehension problem?

  17. Al said on May 4th, 2008 at 12:01am #

    For those of you that dont feel there is racism in America go to the Blog pages all over the internet.
    Ok Both democrates have good points and bad. Although i personally feel that this country is making a mistake I feel that the election is all about race its funny most Whites are saying i’m voting republican or i’m voteing hmm lets see whos around me ok Hillary or in a black crowd i’m voteing Obama.
    Most Blacks are just plain voting Obama and the funny part is most Blacks are about as good at giving thier reasons for voting as Obama is at giving answers for questions about the Issues.
    No your right racism Not in America…
    If he wins were in trouble if he loses were in trouble.
    Honestly he should run as an independent then all could vote for him that really wanted him and no one can blame anything if he loses.
    but then how would anyone prove that it was his skin that made him loose.
    Just like win a black American loses thier job the first thing they scream is Racism if the super delegates vote against him he will scream injustice then he will go give revered White something else to preach hate of our country about.
    I say Barrack run as an Independent the you as well as Mccain can run against the only canidate who really has the guts to run this country
    truth is We the people dont know how to be un-bias personally I try to fight racism I grew up in a Mixed family but I find it hard to support someone who did drugs and attended whites church and has advisors that took part in Bombings, and I find it disturbing when black America overlooks these facts just to get someone into office that is black?
    look I want to be fair and honnestly I think I will not vote this election just to wash my hands of this and I urge all americans if you feel that you must vote for someone because of skin color just dont vote.
    i’m sure you will be disapointed