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Barack Obama
Monday, 2007 December 17 - 8:05 pm
Continuing my series on presidential candidates, here's my look at Barack Obama.

Four years ago, pretty much no one outside of Illinois had heard of Barack Obama. He was thrust into the national spotlight during the 2004 Democratic convention, where his electrifying speech immediately made people think "Obama in 2008".

He's charismatic and he's handsome, but not in a John Edwards pretty-boy way. He seems to connect with people immediately, giving them a sense that he genuinely cares. He seems cut from the same mold as Bill Clinton, perhaps minus a few Big Macs.

Oh, and by the way, he's black. Well, half-black, really. But it seems for most people, half-black means all-black. And though it shouldn't mean a thing, it makes for an interesting campaign dynamic.

First, I think it's safe to say that there's a small but non-trivial percentage of Americans who simply won't vote for him because of his race. They might chalk it up to other nebulous factors like "he doesn't seem trustworthy", but at the root, there's almost certainly racism at work.

But then, there's a percentage of Americans who are more likely to vote for him because he's black. And it's not necessarily because they want an African-American president... no, my theory is that there's a little bit of "white guilt" going on, and that some people don't want to oppose Obama because they don't want to appear to be racist.

Don't believe me? Consider this. Obama has made no secret that as a youth, he experimented with illegal drugs. But no one is touching this. When a Clinton campaign staffer mentioned that it might be a liability for him, Hillary was forced to disavow the statement, and the staffer had to apologize. Why? Wouldn't, say, Mitt Romney have been mercilessly skewered if he owned up to being a former coke-sniffer? I have to wonder if Obama is getting a free pass here, and if that suggests that there's a more insidious kind of racism at work... I wonder if people expect that Obama would have been a drug user, because he's black.

Hmm.

But I've spent too much time talking about race already. What about his qualifications?

Obama has a Harvard law degree, and he taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago. (Imagine that, a president who understands constitutional law.) He served in the Illinois State Senate from 1997 to 2004, and was then elected to the United States Senate.

And that's the extent of his political experience. He's a n00b, much like Edwards during his 2004 run. But for some reason, while Edwards was tagged as being overly ambitious, Obama has avoided that criticism. Perhaps it's because he was almost drafted into his candidacy by a groundswell of Democratic voters, eager for a fresh face and an alternative to Hillary Clinton.

Predictably, he's being attacked for his inexperience... and I think it's fair to say that he may not understand all that's involved in building cross-party consensus in Washington. He's stumbled at times during debates, and that demonstrates either simple inexperience or naïvete.

But he's shown that he can be diplomatic, and that skill will carry him a long way. He's intelligent and compassionate, and he certainly seems like he has the demeanor to be an excellent President. Maybe we don't need another skilled politician; maybe we do need someone who's an outsider and an agent of change.

If nothing else, it'd be fun to watch Republicans try to attack Obama while gingerly stepping around his race. There'd be no Willie Horton ads in this election if Obama were the Democratic nominee.

Permalink  6 Comment   Bookmark and Share
Posted by Ken in: politics

Comments

Comment #1 from Noelle (Guest)
2007 Dec 18 - 9:20 am : #
What's a n00b Ken?
Comment #2 from Ken (realkato)
2007 Dec 18 - 10:35 am : #
Sorry, a bit of leet-speak there. It's short-hand for "newbie", i.e. a newcomer.
Comment #3 from Brett (Guest)
2007 Dec 18 - 11:08 am : #
The movie "The Animal" touches on reverse-racism...we can talk about why I'd seen the movie later.

The character repeatedly tries to do things so white people will treat him "normal," but the whites continue to go out of their way to make sure the treat him better and he gets pissed about it.

Examples:

At a restaurant,
"You see that? She immediately served me first because I'm black."

At a store,
Woman: "Sir, because you damaged that you're going to have to pay for it"
Black guy: "Actually, I was the one that damaged it, not him."
Woman: "Oh, sorry, didn't realize. Don't worry about it then."

Scene at the end when a mob gets together to lynch the main character for being labeled a monster,
Mob: "Let's get him! Let's string him up and lynch him!"
Black guy: "Wait! It was me! I'm the monster, I'm the one that did all those things!"
Mob guy 1: "...well...it was an honest mistake."
Mob guy 2: "Yeah, I'm sure you didn't mean to."
Black guy: "What?! No! I'm the monster! Take me!"
Mob guy 3: "Hey, I'm not going to be any part of a mob that lynches a black guy, I'm out of here."

Comment #4 from Alan H (alanisko)
2007 Dec 18 - 11:20 pm : #
Let's not forget that we (kinda) elected a former cocaine *addict* and alcoholic. (Kinda) Twice! So I'm not sure that the drug issue would be a big deal for anyone if handled forthrightly. It was only a problem for Bill Clinton because he came off like he was trying to skirt around it.
Comment #5 from baketown (Guest)
2007 Dec 19 - 1:15 pm : #
I agree with Alan. I don't think the drug issue is an issue because it was handled properly. I like Obama because he is very articulate and bright. A noob may be just what we need.
Comment #6 from bunnykitty (bunnykitty)
2008 Jan 11 - 8:45 am : #
Itís ALLEGEDLY, we allegedly elected an alleged cocaine addict and an alleged alcoholic.

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