Race, Ego and the Victory of Barack Obama: Now what?

Tuesday, November 5, 2008

Barack Obama has won and deserves our heartfelt congratulations for many reasons, not the least of which is a masterfully executed campaign. Nothing about his victory allays my concerns about an Obama Presidency, but I wish him, and us, well. No matter what, it’s hard to believe that he won’t be a substantial improvement over the current occupant of The White House.

The black community, in particular, has every right to be proud. It is a victory which has been a long time coming. Too long by any standard. Senator Obama’s election is a milestone of extraordinary personal and historic proportions. Unfortunately, other than feeling good – the impact of which is not to be underestimated – having an African American man behind the desk in The Oval Office will not likely have any short-term impact on the welfare of his ethnic group. It is, for now, more of a symbolic than substantive accomplishment.

If anything, Senator Obama’s victory poses a problem unique to minorities. All minorities, to an extent, tend to define themselves by the disadvantages of their history and current situations. As President Elect, Barack Obama has now become proof positive that Americans clearly no longer consider our black citizens to have less potential or capability than those of us who may be white or of some other minority. Now what? Now that the ultimate job has been awarded by a majority of their countrymen, is discrimination based on color now off the table as an excuse for the relative lack of economic progress their community has made?

The fact is, while there are no doubt some out there who thought it “cool” to elect a black man President, that’s not why he won. Not even close, nor will his victory have much to do with the disadvantages many black Americans still find in the market place – except to question the extent to which it is a result of other societal factors and not the color of their skin. Where many black Americans go from here has got to have a lot to do with introspection and how they rethink their relationship to the economy.

Self-evaluation is also going to be essential to President Elect Obama himself. Did he win because he’s God’s gift to politics? …because of his extensive experience or proven track record? …because his exceptionally liberal points of view are representative of the majority of Americans who voted for him? Hardly, but the temptation to succumb to that conclusion may be irresistible – and that’s a problem for all of us. No, he won because the sitting President is… is politically repulsive. George Bush has given Republicans and even conservatives in general a bad name, the stink of which may take the next 4 to 8 years to wear off. The Bush Administration has been a disaster for our country domestically, and an embarrassment to us internationally. As if the Bush Presidency weren’t bad enough, the climatic economic events of the past few months would have put almost any Democrat candidate over the top. And the best the Republicans had to offer was an aged politician, a good man whose time has passed and whose campaign clearly wasn’t up to the task.

Senator, now President Elect Obama is special all right, highly intelligent and an obviously very effective speaker – but not that special. More than anything, notwithstanding the huge crowds at his rallies and last night in Chicago, he was a negative choice. If I could give him one piece of advice, it is that he needs to keep that reality in mind. Rhetoric, no matter how eloquent and stirring, cannot solve our problems. There’s real work to be done. Making elective history doesn’t pay the bills, personal or national, or keep us safe. I enjoy a good party as much as the next guy, but idolatry gets old quickly in the cold light of the problems we’ve hired him to fix.


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4 responses to “Race, Ego and the Victory of Barack Obama: Now what?

  1. For some, electing Obama might have been a “negative choice.” But for many, including those waiting in line for hours and those who never voted before, their ballots were cast with unfathomable optimism. It’s his ability to energize these folks that you marginalize as fancy rhetoric and over confidence. But the political involvement of certain voters, if only temporary, is something he brought about and something he deserves commendation for. It’s also the reason that I think he performed better than other Democrats would have. He united the party, won essentially all of the Hilary supporters (with one wordfeeding exception), and attracted previously apathetic citizens.

  2. Hi, blue jay. Thanks for stopping by.

    I think you attach too much importance to the excitement and emotion of what turns out to be a relatively small portion of the electorate.

    I’ve never questioned his abilities as a candidate. My concerns have to do with the fact that being an effective President requires a very different skill set than running for President. Just because you excel at one, doesn’t mean you’ll be equally good at the other.

    Always a pleasure. Can I look forward to voting for you some day? Let me know — and be sure to choose the next place you move accordingly.

    -wf

  3. I can’t believe that you would go so far as to denounce a race that I am sure that you have had good business relationships with. Does this article actually mean that the black race in particular is going to be the downfall of our country just because Barack Obama is going to be our next president? If that is what you are saying then I can say that a white man, yes a white man has caused this nearly irreputable damage to our country thus far. It is not true that we as minorities tend to define ourselves by the disadvantages of our history and current situations. If it were true then I can say that the majority defines themselves by the advantages of their own history and feels as though they are above all other races no matter what their current situation happens to be. I think that you should be careful and rethink some of the things that you are saying because it can be seen as hateful and racist. I for one am very offended by these remarks you have made. I believe that Obama won because he was obviously the best choice and I think that if Sara Palin had the mind set and knowledge that Hillary Clinton has then the election would have been closer. Nobody wanted to have a female Vice President that answers questions just about as well as President Bush. Obama shouldn’t get torn down because of his race nor should the other minorities in this country.

  4. Hi. Thanks for your comment. Sorry to respond so briefly, but I’m working on something and don’t have much time.

    I’m not denouncing anything. My simple point is that Barack Obama’s election changes things. It advances the way our society views black Americans, in a good way of course, reaffirming what clearly most Americans already believed, but it will also change the way black Americans think of themselves — which should work to their and everyone’s benefit.

    For President-Elect Obama, himself, now, quite possibly for the first time in his professional life, he’s got to make the transition from candidate to manager. He’s got to put aside the celebrity of his campaign and focus on the unforgiving reality of our domestic and international situations with a clear-headed focus without which his Presidency will never accomplish its promise or our objectives in electing him.

    -wf

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