Friday, May 23, 2008

"The sheriff is a ...." 

Chet alerts us to this New Republic article by John Judis which basically says Obama is winning the Democratic nomination because he is black and therefore "historic":
. . . having realized that Obama was going to be a genuine rival for the nomination, she and her campaign decided to go negative on him. They did the usual thing politicians do to each other: They ran attack ads taking his words somewhat out of context . . . But there a was difference between her doing this to Obama and McCain's doing it to Romney--a difference that eluded Clinton, her husband, and her campaign staff. . . . Obama, too, was, and is, history--the first viable African-American presidential candidate. Yes, Hillary Clinton was the first viable female candidate, but it is still different.

Chet and Bob Somerby and lambert and others are criticising this article for its explicit sexism.
But I want to note something I find even more disturbing about this article.
Implicit in it is the idea that Obama's candidacy is enough -- that making Obama the Democratic nominee would give America an egalitarian stamp of approval, demonstrable proof that America isn't racist anymore, no siree, but of course actually electing him is unnecessary, in fact unthinkable, oh no, that would go too far.
Judis writes about Obama as though he is an historical artifact:

Race is the deepest and oldest and most bitter conflict in American history--the cause of our great Civil War and of the upheavals of the 1950s and '60s. And if some voters didn't appreciate the potential breakthrough that Obama's candidacy represented, many in the Democratic primaries and caucuses did--and so did the members of the media and Obama's fellow politicians. And as Clinton began treating Obama as just another politician, they recoiled and threw their support to him.
It is a subtle message, but clear -- that Americans can all feel like they're struck some kind of blow for equaity just by supporting Obama's candidacy, with no need to actually elect him as President
In fact, Judis explicity lets everyone off the hook with the blithe statement that to win in November Obama would have to "capture enough of these white working class voters" -- and of course those no-account "working class" types wouldn't be worrying about proving themselves not to be racist so they can just go ahead and discriminate, that's OK and its all Obama's fault if he can't get their votes ....
In fact, the implicit attitude toward Obama in this article reminds me of Samuel Johnson's attitude about women preachers:

"Sir, a woman's preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well; but you are surprised to find it done at all."
Just as the sexism displayed by many in the media and by many pundits and bloggers has sickened me over the last couple of months, so also will the racism we are already seeing, particularly from people like Judis who don't think they are racists at all.

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