Monday, January 21, 2008

Why Obamamania? Because He Runs as The Great White Hope.

I normally wouldn't share such a wrong-headed article, but it appeared in the Washington Post (8 days ago) and echos Bill Clinton's "fairy tale" accusation, so it's worth rebutting.  In it, David Greenberg, in trying to explain Obama's support among white voters, does a superficial analysis and comes to erroneous, even silly, conclusions:

Ultimately, it is a fantasy of easy redemption. America's racial history -- mixed into our culture at its foundation -- will be with us always, even as personal prejudice recedes and inequality is chipped away. For all we know, a President Obama might make the so-called underclass his top priority. But Obamamania -- the phenomenon, not the man -- leads us to believe that if only we vote for an African American, an avatar of "change" and healing, we can slough off the burdens of our past -- the burdens of finding answers to problems such as the rising number of out-of-wedlock births, the obscene size of the black male population behind bars, the rotten state of city schools, the simmering white resentment about affirmative action, the black-white gap in life expectancy and the cascade of government failures that turned Hurricane Katrina from a breakdown of emergency relief into a disgraceful racial scandal.

Obama's boosters are not fired up about finally confronting those intricate and intractable problems, for which the answers lie not in identity but in politics and policy. Inspiring and exhilarating as it is, Obamamania allows us to sidestep the hardest challenges, at least for now.

Where is his evidence that Obama's white supporters are so foolish as to believe that merely having a black President will magically solve all of our nation's "intricate and intractable problems" of racism, poverty, inequality, etc.?  He presents none because there isn't any.
This is a topic I've done some thinking about, which I wrote about last February (see below):
A friend recently asked me, "Honestly, what percentage of your support for Obama has to do with him being black?"  I had to think about that for a moment.  Would I be enthusiastically supporting an inexperienced WHITE Senator with an interesting personal history and a gift for oratory?  The obvious answer is not nearly to the same degree, but that's not because I want to feel good about myself by "proving" I'm not a racist or because I support affirmative action or something like that.  There are a number of reasons:
Why Obamamania? Because He Runs as The Great White Hope.

By David Greenberg
Sunday, January 13, 2008; B04

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's upset victory in the New Hampshire primary last week was every bit as impressive as Sen. Barack Obama's Iowa caucus breakout five days before -- if anything, more impressive, since his win was predicted and hers unforeseen. But the reactions to the two events couldn't have been more different. Obama's Jan. 3 triumph let loose a giddiness bordering on exhilaration among voters and, especially, media commentators, who hailed his triumph as "historic," even though he was not in fact the first African American to win a major presidential nominating contest. (Jesse Jackson won 13 primaries and caucuses in 1988.) By contrast, when Clinton overcame long odds to become the first woman in U.S. history to win a major-party primary, no leading news outlet trumpeted this landmark feat. Many failed to mention it at all.

This startling difference underscores one of Obama's advantages heading into the do-or-die Feb. 5th contests. "Obamamania" sputtered in the Granite State, but it is far from dead. Many of the voters and pundits who were thrilled by Obama's compelling Iowa speech 10 days ago remain intoxicated, heady with the hope that he can deliver not just "change" -- any candidate running would do that -- but a categorically different kind of change from Clinton or the Republican candidates. So what explains the magic?


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