Posted on Wednesday, March 26, 2008
As recently as 2000, Democrats were outraged that, due to the Supreme
Court’s ruling in Bush vs. Gore, not all of Florida’s presidential votes
counted. In 2008, advanced thinkers supporting Sen. Barack Obama have
persuaded themselves that fairness dictates that none of them should
count. Nor Michigan’s, either. Better that the voters of two critical
swing states comprising close to 10 percent of the electorate be
disenfranchised than that Obama’s inevitable nomination be delayed.
Nobody’s expected to notice the main reason that Team Obama faulted
every suggested re-vote plan: He wouldn’t stand the proverbial
snowball’s chance of winning either state’s primary. Rather than face
that unpleasant truth, his supporters proposed various compromises with
one common denominator: that Obama be awarded delegates he hasn’t won.
That this strikes them as reasonable reflects the deep unreality into
which roughly half the Democratic party has fallen. Once again, with
feeling: The votes belong to the voter, not the candidates. Oddly, it’s
Sen. Hillary Clinton, who grasps that elementary democratic principle,
who critics say feels entitled to the presidency. Meanwhile, TV pundits
like CNN’s Jack Cafferty warn us that should Obama’s supporters be
disappointed in their hopes, “you wouldn’t want to live in this
country.” A more concise way of turning the November contest into a
racial referendum can’t be imagined. Who will win that one? Then what?
In Time, Mark Halperin provides a list of “Painful Things Hillary
Clinton Knows—Or Should Know.” No. 7: “The Rev. Wright story
notwithstanding, the media still wants Obama to be the nominee—and that
has an impact every day.” We’ve come full circle. So confident have the
Beltway media courtiers grown in their social and political status that
what once was furiously denied is now boasted about. Politicians may
come and go, but Chris Matthews, Howard Fineman, Tim Russert and Maureen
Dowd preside over a permanent House of Lords.
Media coverage of Obama’s speech on race was characteristic. That it
would be a brilliant piece of oratory was foreordained. After all, it
was on Obama’s favorite theme, the subject of his two books and now his
presidential campaign: himself as a living symbol of racial
As such, parts of his speech struck a deep chord with anybody concerned
about America’s Original Sin of slavery and Jim Crow. Few Democrats
could fail to be moved by his rebuttal of his pastor’s bitterly
divisive, racially tinged rhetoric, with its “God damn America!” and
“U.S. of KKK A.”
“The profound mistake of Reverend [Jeremiah] Wright’s sermons,” Obama
said, “is not that he spoke about racism in our society. It’s that he
spoke as if our society was static, as if no progress has been made, as
if this country—a country that has made it possible for one of his own
members to run for the highest office in the land and build a coalition
of white and black, Latino, Asian, rich, poor, young and old—is still
irrevocably bound to a tragic past.
“ What we know—what we have seen—is that America can change. America can
change. That is the true genius of this nation. What we have already
achieved gives us hope—the audacity to hope—for what we can and must
Except here’s my problem; several problems actually: The dream of a
multiracial coalition to heal America’s wounds isn’t new. It’s Martin
Luther King Jr.’s dream, murdered 40 years ago next month.
Granted, more malignant nonsense such as Rev. Wright’s crackpot rants is
vended in the name of God than all other topics combined. Are his views
more objectionable than Pat Robertson’s or John Hagee’s? I’d say less.
At least he doesn’t predict the future or blame events like Hurricane
Katrina or the 9/11 attacks on people’s sex lives. Wright peddles DVDs
of his inflammatory sermons on the church Web site. Could Obama possibly
imagine they’d help build that coalition that King dreamed of? Second,
what do the Obamas, Harvard Law graduates, tell their two little girls
about Wright’s downright delusional contention that the United States
government created the AIDS virus to exterminate African Americans?
Anybody named Clinton or Gore who sat still for something like that
would be derided as an inauthentic phony patronizing black folks for
political gain—a faker, a con man. Cosseted and protected all his life,
Obama’s speech shows that he understands that the Rev. Wrights of this
world do as much to keep blacks down as white racism does. All this
self-pitying obsessing over the sorrows of history leads nowhere. So how
come he’s been sitting there for 20 years pretending he doesn’t ?
—–––––•–––––—Free-lance columnist Gene Lyons is a Little Rock author and
recipient of the National Magazine Award.