The Home of Steven Barnes
Author, Teacher, Screenwriter

Monday, January 14, 2008

The New Year Begins...

The Clinton-Obama mess over the MLK-Johnson connection isn’t going away. It’s unfortunate…but what’s really going on is that the gloves are coming off. I think that on all conscious levels, the Clinton’s merely meant to say that oratory is great, but you need a person in the White House who can deliver. Inspiration isn’t enough. Obama’s people are both GENUINELY disturbed, and simply looking for a place to put the knife.

Better to watch are the black leadership getting all offended. There’s a dirty little secret that no one on this blog could possibly know: people tend to side with “their own” in whatever way they define “theirs.” Now, for 350 years, black people have had to look to nice white people and ask them to be fair. For the very first time, we see a black candidate who can actually have a chance to take the best power position in the world. The Clintons have spent long decades building up their bona fides with black folks. I think that Hillary tolerated Bill’s infidelities on the promise that he would help her get back to the White House, and he’s doing his best. The timing was right: Bush left the Republicans weak. The mood is right for change. Hillary must have been feeling her oats, and seeing the history books even as we speak. And look! How cute! A junior senator from Illinois is running too! Too bad a Woman-Black Guy ticket would probably be too much for voters, eh, Bill..? I can just see the chortling conversations. And then…his candidacy gets real, and the Clintons are faced with a political nightmare. And black leaders like Jesse Jackson are torn. Go against the Clintons and seem ungrateful and racist? Or fail to support Obama, who is the literal Hope and Dream of the slave? Hell, slaves didn’t dare DREAM of a Barack Obama. Get real.

And if said leaders jump ship, and Obama loses…can they mend the fences later? They are DYING to get behind Barack, but if they play the “race card” (as Hillary has played the “gender card”) they will lose: by giving whites implicit permission to do the same thing. It’s almost funny.

Their answer is to find a flaw in the Clintons’ behavior or words. In effect, they’re looking for an excuse to bail. And trust me: a lot of ‘em are gonna find it. Black commentators, writers, spokespeople, etc, are going to back Obama fairly healthily, but NONE of them will say “it’s about race.” They can’t. But trust me: it’s not just that Barack is a black candidate. He is walking history, and everybody wants to get onboard the history train. Unless they have a damned good reason not to, they’re gonna sign up. And in private, they’ll talk about their real motivations.
If two candidates were approximately equal, I’d go for the one that looks like me. If I were white, I’d be less likely to do that, because there’s less novelty there: I’ve seen white presidents my whole life. Might be interesting to see what happens with a different color. As long as they seem about even with the other candidates. But…how much discrepancy between the candidates would there have to be for me to vote for a lesser candidate on the basis of race? Well…I’d like to think no more than an overall percentage point or two. I might be lying to myself, but I’d certainly like to think that.
Today is the real first day of 2008. My first “normal” work day. I’m meditating, exercising, getting back into the real groove after the holidays, and a devastating 2007. What a year. I’ll be formulating goals and stuff very soon. We’ll talk about that.
Intermittent Fasting is a pain in the butt over Holidays. So much food! So much emotional association with it that it seems Grinchly not to gorge every day. Damn! I did all right, and any excess poundage will drop off pretty quick. Still, I have to shake my head.


Anonymous said...

Oh man! All that holiday food! I love it, and yet, every year it seems like it takes longer to get through all the leftovers and before we get to the end of it all I'm actually tired of eating.

Pagan Topologist said...

I know several black people who say that Obama cannot win because he is black, so they are not voting for him. If he wins the nomination without their support, I hope they will support him in November. For myself, I still prefer Edwards, but if he drops out, Obama gets my primary vote.

Steven Barnes said...

That sentiment:
1) he can't get elected because Whites won't vote for him and
2) He'll get assassinated

is all over the black blogosphere,and in conversations across America. Let's say that it's NOT true: this reflects 400 years of really bad history. We can get over it, but expecting black folks to extend more faith than white folks ain't reasonable. Obama existence says that the game has changed. How much? Remains to be seen. But so far, so good. Even a good, solid second place is phenomenal.

Anonymous said...

In my view a politician is a politician. Whether they are wrapped in a half-black or east coast lilly white skin is of little consequence. Most of them lie like rugs to get into office and then only do things for those groups and people who donate the most money to them.

That said, if I was pulling down at least six figures, I'd vote for either Obama or Hillary as both of them are safe, nonthreatening, establishment candidates that won't rock the boat.

So for me I wouldn't cast a vote for either. Neither has any interest in helping out the working class. Hillary is ass deep in more corporate contributions than McCain and has never stood up for anything unless it has been focus grouped. Obama has no record to speak of in the senate for supporting working class folk.

Both are just more of the same IMO.


Marco said...

Though the above might interest you, Steve.

Steve Perry said...

"If two candidates were approximately equal, I’d go for the one that looks like me."

Now there's a thought to inspire, well, okay ... if not terror, then at least ... wonder ...

Daniel Keys Moran said...

There aren't enough one-eyed piratical handsome bald white men out there for that principle to work for me ... and then we get into the issue of tattoos. If the guy doesn't have the same tattoos I do, I don't believe I could vote for him ...

Anonymous said...

Here's the actual link for the Snipes article:

I've been talking about the possibility of Obama getting assassinated, and the white people I've mentioned it to have all reacted with surprise that I could worry about something so odd. However, all I have to do is tell them that Obama was given Secret Service protection much earlier than any other pre-candidate and then assert that violent white supremisists haven't completely gone away, and my friends take my concern as reasonable.

In a way, this is good news-- violent racism has been moved far away from most white people's lives.

For what it's worth, I think there will be at least one very serious attempt at killing Obama, but I have no strong opinion about whether it will succeed.

I'm planning on voting for him if he runs--he seems like the most harmless of the major candidates, and all I want is a no-disaster presidency.

By the by, does anyone actually believe in the secret ballot any more, or is it just that the people who want to keep their votes confidential not talking about it?

As for choosing the candidate who looks like me....the odds of getting two candidates both of whom I like equally with one of them being female and/or short/ and/or fat and/or Jewish is so low that I'm not worrying about it.

Steve Perry said...

I think the IRS doesn't care a whit about Wesley's color, save where it is green. Just like Willie Nelson's.

Steven Barnes said...

Wesley is most likely to have to pay a hefty fee. I hope he doesn't go down for this. He's a good man.

Anonymous said...

I hope you're right about Wesley. That was a whole lot of money he didn't pay taxes on, though -- and Uncle might look to make an example of him.

In my ideal world, someone with the credentials and experience of a Bill Richardson or Joe Biden would've been a more effective debater or campaigner in this presidential race.

Yes, Obama and I share something of an ethnic identity...but I also know that if he were a white candidate, I wouldn't even consider someone who hadn't completed so much as a single Senate term and was fairly undistinguished in that.

I'm still torn.

Anonymous said...

Everyone keeps talking about experience but what would impress me in a candidate would be recent experience of being an ordinary American - experience working for a living, experience worrying about how to pay all the bills, experience wondering how you're supposed to figure out what your health insurance covers and what it doesn't. Lawyers and rich people shouldn't be allowed to run for president.

Anonymous said...

I understand where you are coming from emotionally, but experience really counts. If I need heart surgery I go to a heart surgeon, not another heart attack victim. Lyndon Johnson was not my favorite president, but he got a lot of legislation passed, civil rights and otherwise, because of his long experience in congress and his relationship with its members.

Anonymous said...

On the MLK gaffe, I found this rather funny:

Obama: It Took Men to Give Women the Vote
by Scott Ott for ScrappleFace

(2008-01-14) — Democrat Sen. Barack Obama today seemed to indirectly respond to presidential rival Sen. Hillary Clinton’s suggestion that Martin Luther King’s dream would have gone unfulfilled if not for President Lyndon B. Johnson who signed the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Sen. Clinton’s comment was meant to contrast her vast record of accomplishment and political prowess, with Sen. Obama’s mere rhetorical skills and inspirational persona, but the rookie Senator offered an analogy of his own.

“The 19th Amendment to the Constitution grants women the right to vote,” said Sen. Obama, “and while women, like Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, marched, and spoke and held inspirational rallies, ultimately it took men in 36 state legislatures to fulfill that dream.”

“Now, I would not suggest,” the former Illinois state legislator added, “that it takes a man to really make change in this country, nor even that it takes someone with experience in a state legislature. I’m just sayin’.”

Sen. Clinton refused to respond directly, but the campaign release a statement in which she said: “I have nothing but respect for Barack Obama, especially because he’s currently the only African American in the U.S. Senate. I’ll do whatever it takes to help him retain that distinction.”

Anonymous said...


I've had the same worries for Obama from the beginning. I keep hoping his Secret Service guys are on their toes.

I have no idea how much more of a threat he faces than the other candidates, and I don't even know where I'd start trying to come up with an estimate. I do recall that Powell didn't run for president at least partly because of worries about assassination, and I have to guess he *would* have some idea how to come up with an estimate.

Assuming it doesn't end in disaster of some kind (assassination being the worst, scandal being not as bad), Obama's run for office strikes me as a good thing for the country, black and white. I keep thinking that my kids will have their whole world picture shaped by seeing a race for president in which Hillary and Obama are making a serious run. The next time, it won't seem so unusual, and two or three elections from now, maybe having serious female, black, hispanic, etc. candidates will just seem part of normal life, no more surprising than having a Catholic running.

Steven Barnes said...

Frankly (and this might sound bizarre) but the wrong scandal would be worse (for the country, not for Obama or his family!) than assassination. Can you even imagine the outpouring of grief, self-searching and genuine no-b.s. emotion that would outpour if some racist capped him? Everyone dies. The only question is the impact of our lives.
But on the subject of secret service...I have it on good authority that he has more than the usual security detail. It would not be wise for me to be more specific, but Mr. Obama is as protected as a head of state.