Obama: Post-Racial, Post-Partisan, or Post-Sanity?
Confession time: Back in April of 2008, during the presidential primary campaign, I wrote that the racial healing which Senator Obama seemed to promise and might portend would be good. At about the same time, I suggested that Senator Obama was saying some things other politicians weren't saying but should. Some of the things he said seemed problematical, but like many others I thought I understood what he meant; I wanted to understand him and hoped that he might be a better president than Senator Clinton. It seemed as though his election might stunt the weeds of racism and partisan governance. However, soon those weeds were in full bloom. They are now producing their own fruit; the flavors have merely become more pungent.
There is no less racism now than pre-Obama, and there is no less partisanship; there may well be more of both.
I was wrong in thinking that these things might diminish, and while having voted against him provides a bit of comfort, it provides very little. That there is now even less sanity provides no solace whatever.
When it appeared very likely that Senator Obama would get the Democratic Party presidential nomination, 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.
On November 5, 2008, Shelby Steele wrote in the Los Angeles Times:
Obama's special charisma -- since his famous 2004 convention speech -- always came much more from the racial idealism he embodied than from his political ideas. In fact, this was his only true political originality. ...
Obama is what I have called a "bargainer" -- a black who says to whites, "I will never presume that you are racist if you will not hold my race against me." Whites become enthralled with bargainers out of gratitude for the presumption of innocence they offer. Bargainers relieve their anxiety about being white and, for this gift of trust, bargainers are often rewarded with a kind of halo.
Very soon, however, we saw a president who presumed racism on the part of whites and jumped to race-based conclusions without first getting the facts -- remember his beer diplomacy? We now have an administration which views injustices against blacks as quite different from comparable injustices against whites and intends to file no future actions for voting rights violations against blacks. It attempts to cultivate actual and potential Hispanic voters by minimizing enforcement of federal immigration laws, while suing Arizona for trying to fill the void. It is presumed that enforcement (which has not yet begun) will be racially motivated and that it is proper to attack as racists those who view the situation differently. These claims began before President Obama or his attorney general had bothered to read the new Arizona immigration statutes. There has been a backlash, and there's probably more to come.
Now, even the Taliban is racist. According to President Obama:
What you've seen in some of the statements that have been made by these terrorist organizations is that they do not regard African life as valuable in and of itself. ... They see it as a potential place where you can carry out ideological battles that kill innocents without regard to long-term consequences for their short-term tactical gains.
An administration official explained that these terror groups have shown their racism through different actions, including the 1998 embassy bombings in which hundreds of Africans were killed and thousands more were wounded in an effort to attack American embassies, and the attack that came on the same day Africa was celebrating its achievement of hosting a successful World Cup. So much for a post-racial presidency.
There may even be a tenuous relationship between terrorism and the religion of peace, an outreach to which may now have become a basic NASA mission. There hasn't been much media coverage of NASA's General Bolden lately. Perhaps the mission will include enlightening the Taliban and their friends on the beneficence of racial slaughter quotas or something.
What about bipartisanship? It soon became clear that the good ship Bipartisan was no more seaworthy than a bathtub adrift mid-ocean during a storm. William McGurn wrote in the Wall Street Journal almost a year ago that:
Only last summer we were told that Barack Obama’s political appeal rested on his vision for a "post-partisan future." The post-partisan future was one of the press corps' favorite phrases. It served as shorthand for the candidate’s repeated references to "unity of purpose," looking beyond a red or blue America, and so on.
Six months into the president’s term, you don't read much about this post-partisan future anymore. It may be because on almost every big-ticket legislative item (the stimulus, climate change, and now health care), Mr. Obama has been pushing a highly ideological agenda with little (and in some cases zero) support from across the aisle. Yet far from stating the obvious -- that sitting in the Oval Office is a very partisan president -- the press corps is allowing Mr. Obama to evade the issue by coming up with novel redefinitions.