Unelectable ’08: Obama in focus

11 years ago by in Uncategorized Tagged:


Part of a series on why each of the major candidates for president in ’08 is unelectable in his or her own special way. The column will alternate between Republicans and Democrats.

“Is Obama black enough?” The question is like a Zen riddle crafted by Karl Rove himself. There are too many strange assumptions operating within this question to unpack in a single column. To address the most obvious: black enough for what?

Black enough to be worthy of the black vote? Another strange proposition: To say that blackness is the most important criterion to win the black vote seems pretty racist. Perhaps this is naïve, but party affiliation and demographic interests must have a greater role to play. Obama has the black vote not from being black, but by being a Democrat. The black vote goes overwhelmingly for Democrats, even before Kanye West declared that George Bush doesn’t care about black people. Worrying that not being “black enough” might hurt Obama among black voters is like worrying that Republicans will finally help impeach president Bush if a YouTube video of him doing the cripwalk suddenly appears. Is George Bush white enough? That’s a question I can sink my teeth into.

photo provided by Reuters/Carlos Barria
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Obama, D-Ill., speaks to supporters during a campaign rally .

What is black enough? Since this necessarily involves broad generalizations based on race, we’re going to need to nominate some stereotypes. I think the persona of rapper Ghostface Killah might be black enough. But the ghostfaces who hold majorities in the media and among large donors may not be ready for that candidacy.

Obama is not unelectable because he’s black; he’s unelectable because he’s inexperienced. Consider the campaign message: hope. Could they put that in a sentence? Like, “I hope one Congressional term is enough experience to help him navigate one of the most urgent and intractable foreign policy dilemmas in recent history.” Looked at this way, the fact that Obama didn’t vote in favor of the Iraq war resolution is not so comforting — the reason is he hadn’t even reached Congress yet.

The next president will need to fix Iraq, the U.S. military, and foreign relations. If that president chooses to send more troops to Iraq, then thousands will die. If the president chooses to pull troops out of Iraq, then thousands will die. If the president chooses to do nothing about the situation, then thousands will die. And all of these choices can also lead in one way or another to a future terrorist attack on the United States. Our troops in Iraq is like a dagger in the heart: the Democrats argue we must remove the dagger and the Republicans say, no, that will make us bleed to death. And they’re both right. “But I did stay in a Holiday Inn Express last night,” Obama’s campaign seems to respond.

Actually, Obama’s campaign is even more confounding on the question of experience. Asked if he has the experience to be president, Obama has countered by saying that few were as experienced coming into office as Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. So, as it turns out, experience is incompetence. As if making a choice in this election weren’t confusing enough.

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