Just Desserts for Chocolate Carter
by Jack Landsman, Wed Sep 22, 2010 at 12:53:09 PM EDT
(Announcement: The original FP entry was somehow deleted. I'm hoping it was due to yours truly in an incompetent attempt to edit the post (although I don't remember moving that fast; besides before you can delete a post, a confirmation prompt will automatically pop up) or some issue with the MyDD server. At any rate, my deepest apologies, dear readers. I know a lot of thought went into the 30+ comments that appeared under the original "Just Desserts for Chocolate Carter.")
The past week produced a string of events that, added up, have grave implications for the trajectory of the Obama administration.
To begin, there was the Christine O’Donnell triumph over a lame liberal Republican called Mike Castle of Delaware. Unable to grasp the enormity of the failure of this current Democratic Party, the media establishment was characteristically late to the realization that O’Donnell was serious. Without skipping nary a step, the same folk rushed to their keyboards to inform us—the impressionable, unsophisticated preponderance—that the advent of Christine O’Donnell torched the GOP’s tenuous aims at a Senate majority. A funny thing happened on the way to this presumption: In the ensuing days, a number of alarming polls put numerous other Democratic seats in increasing jeopardy. Given the extraordinary trend that will only intensify as voters see more of the unemployment figures and a hapless president, my feeling is that Republicans will capture both houses. Always ahead of the curve, I’ve already purchased my Election Night spirits to help me through the pain of seeing Sharron Angle’s, et al., arm raised in victory.
There’s also the Gray Revolution that erupted in Barack Obama’s neighborhood. Adrian Fenty, D.C.’s mayor—smart, energetic, cute, coddled by wine track liberals—will be eligible for unemployment benefits after the inauguration of the man who ousted him, Council Chairman Vincent Gray. (Mayor Fenty, however, is unlikely to become a 99er.) As will his school chancellor Michelle Rhee. It’s been said before, and it bears repeating here, that Mr. Fenty is remarkably similar to President Obama. These two capable black men rode to power on ridiculous postracial pretentions and governed with even more ridiculous technocratic ones. Some of us have long predicted this story of a president named Obama wouldn’t end well. Now we’ve been given a suitable precursor to point to. It helps the credibility.
We’ve also got Velma R. Hart who had the rare temerity to ask a modern president an actual question. This was huge because it was another reminder of how plastic our media environment otherwise is. I like how many progressives stopped kvetching about the White House’s media manipulation, image-making, and insulting faux-events once George W. Bush packed up all of his things and left the keys to the Executive Mansion to Barack Obama. Watching Obama, who is simply dreadful extemporaneously, made me yearn for Bill Clinton—though Bubba’s not any better than Barry on substance.
The brightest takes on the latter two events came from Bob Herbert in the pages of The New York Times and Courtland Milloy, writing for The Washington Post. Mr. Milloy, bursting with schadenfreude, hilariously danced on the grave of the outgoing Fenty administration. (I noticed the boys at Reason didn’t care for it as much as I.)
Folks, the money shot:
The Fenty troika eerily mirrored the old antebellum system of control, which featured a chairman for public works, which is what Fenty was, in essence; a chairman with expertise in legal maneuverings, Nickles; and a chairman for education and welfare issues, Rhee.
It all makes for a kind of friendly fascism in which D.C. government serves the interest of business leaders and landed gentry. Remarkably, his approach became much ballyhooed: Fenty, his supporters raved, was making the trains run on time. That people were falling off the caboose and being railroaded out of town was just the price of progress.
Mr. Herbert’s focus was broader; his approach more diplomatic:
Mr. Obama, who usually goes out of his way to avoid overtly racial comments and appeals, made an impassioned plea during a fiery speech Saturday night at a black-tie event sponsored by the Congressional Black Caucus. “I need everybody here,” he said, “to go back to your neighborhoods, to go back your workplaces, to go to the churches and go to the barbershops and go to the beauty shops. And tell them we’ve got more work to do.”
It’s no secret that the president is in trouble politically, and that Democrats in Congress are fighting desperately to hold on to their majorities. But much less attention has been given to the level of disenchantment among black voters, who have been hammered disproportionately by the recession and largely taken for granted by the Democratic Party. That disenchantment is likely to translate into lower turnout among blacks this fall.
The idea that we had moved into some kind of postracial era was always a ridiculous notion. Attitudes have undoubtedly changed for the better over the past half-century, and young people as a whole are less hung up on race than their elders. But race is still a very big deal in the United States, which is precisely why black leaders like Mr. Fenty and Mr. Obama try so hard to behave as though they are governing in some sort of pristine civic environment in which the very idea of race has been erased.
These allegedly postracial politicians can end up being so worried about losing the support of whites that they distance themselves from their own African-American base. This is a no-win situation — for the politicians and for the blacks who put their hopes and faith in them.
Christ, I love Bob Herbert. Give the man a cigar.
He’s absolutely right about the condescending notion of “postracial” politics. Postracialism has always struck me as one of those meta-political notions designed to capture the imagination of a bored political class while skirting the tired rabble’s stubborn and unsexy need for drastic change. The hard cynic in me resents the implied meaning of “postracialism”: Transcending a narrow conception of blackness that even white liberals are uneasy with.
Postracialism joined with an iron-clad intellectual discipline imposed on black people (black-on-black, to be sure) is what wrought the ascendance of Barack Obama.
America’s Scylla and Charybdis political system has been mostly unkind to its denizens of African descent (who built the damned country), and so it’s understandable why black people may be so far behind the curve in our collective assessment of the 44th president. We’re not at the breaking point just yet. (Indeed even Ms. Hart reaffirmed her overall support for the president in her obligatory cable news appearance Tuesday morning.) But like everything else, we can try to project forward. However strong our warm and fuzzy feelings for the first black president may be, economic facts will eventually assert themselves. Consider: the regular—not real—unemployment rate for black Americans is 16.3%.
There’s a popular refrain that goes, “If America has a cold, black America has pneumonia.” That speaks to me whenever I hear mainstream black critics of President Obama. It makes me think of someone like Tavis Smiley who has repeatedly lamented the absence of a “black” agenda. This is not a persuadable critique. To be certain, the president of the United States has to be seen representing all of his people. I’m a laid back kind of brotha: I would be more than satisfied with an American agenda in general rather than any specific black one. Instead we have a technocratic Democratic administration that operates for an ungrateful, capricious, and insatiable Wall Street class.
I don’t care what color he is. He’s not my president. He probably won’t be anybody’s for much longer.