During the 2008 political campaign, then-Senator Barack Obama called for a national discussion on race. Later, Attorney General Eric Holder called us a nation of cowards for not having such discussions:
He said that Americans are afraid to talk about race, adding that “certain subjects are off-limits and that to explore them risks at best embarrassment and at worst the questioning of one’s character.”
So let’s try to honor these doubtless well-intended requests.
It’s entirely possible that President Obama has poisoned the well for at least a generation. It has nothing to do with the fact that he is black; it is because he is grossly ill-fitted for the job and may well be the worst U.S. president thus far. To enumerate even his most egregious blunders would make for a very long article and I won’t bother. There are not enough good things to fill a short paragraph, aside from the possibility that he has united enough conservatives and frustrated enough leftists to make possible some changes we can believe in.
Some probably disagree, but I think President Obama’s race was the deciding factor in his election. Had he been Caucasian, Asian, or Hispanic, he probably would not have got the Democratic Party nomination, much less been elected president. President Hillary Clinton would likely be sitting behind the desk in the Oval Office.
Should race count? No, but it does, more now than before President Obama came on the scene. Race, gender, ethnicity, and religion have, of course, long been significant. John Morton Blum, whose introductory American history course I took in college fifty years ago, told a story about Theodore Roosevelt, “the Republican Roosevelt,” and repeated it in his book of that title:
The dinner, the story goes, celebrated Roosevelt’s appointment in 1906 of Oscar Straus as Secretary of Commerce and Labor. The President explained his choice. He had selected Straus without regard to race, color, creed or party. His concern had been only to find the best qualified man in the United States. This Jacob Schiff would confirm. Schiff, presiding at the celebration, good-naturedly senescent, wealthy, respectable, and, regrettably for Roosevelt, now quite deaf nodded, “Dot’s right, Mr. President,” he acknowledged. “You came to me and said, ‘Chake, who is der best Jew I an appoint Segretary of Commerce?’ William Loeb, Roosevelt’s secretary, persuaded the newspapermen to suppress the exchange.
Blum goes on to say, “Doubtless apocryphal, this story nevertheless contains the stuff of authenticity”; TR was acutely aware of the “importance of self-conscious groups in American society.” There have been many changes in American society since 1906.
I wonder whether a black conservative — LTC Allen West (U.S. Army, retired) for example — would have a chance as a presidential contender. He may be too black for some and too “Oreo” for others; if so, the poisoning of the well will be largely to blame and some of that blame must fall on President Obama. Colonel West is probably in the running and we may find out if he succeeds this year in his quest to enter the House of Representatives. He appears to have a good shot at that and might eventually be a pretty good president.
President Obama need not shoulder all of the blame. His acolytes in the media and in politics disparage — increasingly, it seems — just about everyone who expresses disagreement with President Obama and his policies, such as they are or seem to be, as “racist.” Some may be but it seems incredible that most or even many are. The Obama acolytes have cast no similar aspersions upon those who agree with President Obama and his policies. When it seemed likely that Senator Obama would win the Democratic Party presidential nomination back in 2008, Daniel Schorr said on NPR:
The nation may have a way to go yet to reach colorblindness. Exit poll data in South Carolina indicates that Senator Obama won 78 percent of the black vote, but only 24 percent of the white vote. But perhaps equally significant, Obama won 67 percent of voters in the 18-29 age group. The post-Selma generation, you might say.
The suggestion seems to have been that the whites who did not vote for President Obama were racist, while the blacks who voted for him were not. Not to give cows a bad name, but that’s bovine excrement. Since the “post Selma generation” is less enthusiastic about voting this year, they may have become “racist.” Perhaps the blacks who voted against Senator Obama are racist Oreos; I don’t know. Such usage of the word “racist” may all be Humpty Dumpty’s fault:
“When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean — neither more nor less.”
“The question is,” said Alice, “whether you can make words mean so many different things.”
“The question is,” said Humpty Dumpty, “which is to be master — that’s all.”
Old Humpty got the question right; what’s the answer?
President Obama may be (or at least seems to view himself as) the master not only of words but of all he surveys. That hardly makes him an even acceptable president and we can do far better. At this point, even a RINO would be an improvement. Lamentable though they may be, at least they seem to be more attuned to political realities. Praise the construction of a thirteen-story mosque at Ground Zero? Apologize to the world for all of the perceived flaws of the United States? I don’t think so. Waffle? Of course. Tax and spend? Sure. Forget or ignore campaign promises? Yep. Nevertheless, if that’s the best we can do (and I very much hope it isn’t), it would be better than another four years of President Obama and it would be far better than another four years of President Obama joined in unholy union with Vice President Clinton (and maybe Secretary of State Biden or even Van Jones). That may be far-fetched, but at this point it’s best to contemplate the worst scenarios and try real hard to avoid them. If this mean unifying Republicans of all stripes — the religious right, agnostics, gays, those who support Arizona’s immigration laws and those who would prefer a different method of curtailing illegal immigration, those who want to repeal ObamaCare outright and those who would prefer to make it less intrusive and less costly, those who think Governor Palin walks on water and those who would like to see her sink, whites, blacks, Hispanics, Asiatics — the list goes on and on — so be it.
Conservative momentum is building and long may it live, prosper, and grow. The country needs change we can believe in, but to demand it all at once — WHOOSH! –may simply preserve the status quo. Incremental change is more readily achievable than revolution. Icarus flew too high and too close to the sun. His wings melted and he crashed. He is not a good role model.
Black, white, brown, yellow shouldn’t matter. When I was in the U.S. Army JAG corps (1966 – 1970), it was said that we had no black, yellow, red or brown people. Everybody was the same color — green. It was not completely true then, of course, but even now we must surely have enough in common to permit the country’s survival. That should be the focus. It’s too important to demand another.