I was going to write a sardonic post about how Barack Obama is the Antichrist and why conservative Christians should vote for him to accelerate the second coming. The sad thing is that there are people out there who really think Mr. Obama is the Antichrist, so much of the punch of the post would be lost.
Instead, I would try to think aloud about why his campaign is having so much traction. First, let me tell you I live in the South. I can imagine that the Northern experience is different, but the schools in the South are segregated de facto, with non-black kids being encouraged to take advanced courses and black kids being discouraged from doing the same (actually, they seem to be encouraged to seek a career in law enforcement or the army).
The data on housing during this mortgage crisis also shows that African-American were largely left behind in the American Dream and now are the fodder of the largest land-grab America has seen since the 19th century. (I’ve been writing about these issues since last August, and I still believe we march towards a renters society, where the African American and Latinos are going to be the hardest hit).
The racial divide in the South is unfortunately alive and well, and there is still a lot to be done to achieve equality for all of US citizens.
In my Southern experience I have no illusions the US is living in a “post racial” era. I do not think Obama is gaining traction because he is black; I don’t think race has anything to do with his campaign. I think he is gaining traction because he tapped into the collective imagination using some of the linguistic structures that made Tony Robbins or “The Secret” popular. These linguistic structures are essentially a remake of Reagan’s bootstrapping, with more kindness.
Obama’s discourse, behind its brilliance, is repeating a few core concepts to which we are accustomed: “change is possible”, “we can change ourselves”, “we can do it” (without saying “we shall overcome”). This is appealing to us because it is the same kind of lullaby our mothers would sing to us when we hurt: “shhh, shhh, everything is gonna be aright”. So far, Obama has shown the same level of substance that our mothers would show in those cases. Had we been more cynical we may have asked: “Is it? Do you know anything about medicine?”
Hold it there! I do not go with the “experience” argument either. Hillary’s campaign (and for that matter every single campaign this year) is as empty of content as Obama’s. I am not looking for a track record; I am just looking for some substantial ideas that go to solve the core of the current American issues. Unfortunately, none of the current candidates seem to be willing to put any substance into their campaigns. This makes me think that none of them have in mind any solutions to our current problems, or, worst case scenario, they have solutions they are not willing to share with us before we vote for them.
The American people are looking for a miracle to get out of the current economic crisis, the current stalled war, the climate of economic fear and insecurity that is creeping into their homes. In this search for a miracle, any empty discourse will do it, so far as it promises some magical change and provides a sense of comfort.
Whoever wins the Democratic nomination, and whoever wins the presidential election, had better stop shushing our pain and talking about Band-Aids, and start talking about real solutions. Otherwise, the next four years will be filled with more pain and the deepening of our underlying disease.
Franklin @ March 29, 2008