2008 Presidential Election, Race and Racism
Professor Vernellia Randall
Speaking Truth to Power!

Why We Write About Obama


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Margaret Kimberley
The Black Agenda Report
Wednesday, 23 January 2008


FRgaGaforGipperCaught up and rendered silly by Obamamania, Black progressives who should know better have unilaterally disarmed themselves in surrender to a media-amplified euphoria that most resembles a group drug fest. The faculties of memory and common sense shut down, as longtime activists effectively repudiate their former lives to join the mindless bacchanal swirling around Barack Obama's thoroughly corporate candidacy. We at BAR, who have consistently held Black politicians to the standards of the historical Black Political Consensus, find ourselves reviled by Black erstwhile progressives "based on annoyance that we brought a skunk to the party." But the stink does not emanate from us - it comes from Obama's own mouth, when he praises racist Ronald Reagan and the 1990s "ideas" of Newt Gingrich, in a blatant bid to make common cause with those who wish to destroy the last vestiges of a Black Movement, root and branch.

Freedom Rider: Why We Write About Obama

by Margaret Kimberley

"Obama used racist, conservative code words from the GOP play book."




Black Agenda Report is "a journal of African American political thought and action." Those words mean nothing unless we are willing to think and act in ways that the corporate media are not. Even black Americans are susceptible to the influences of a system whose existence depends on telling lies and having them accepted as truth. If that were not the case, BAR wouldn't need to exist.

When anyone is praised on these pages it is because their actions warrant praise. If members of the Congressional Black Caucus stand up for the Constitution and demand impeachment hearings they are praised. If they sell out to corporate interests and allow Fox News to control the CBC Institute, they are condemned.

This site is not called Be Nice to Prominent Black People Report. Obama supporters in particular should keep this fact in mind. Recently many of them have taken BAR to task for critical coverage of his campaign.

"The dangers presented by an Obama presidency are becoming clearer every day."

In the week before the Nevada caucuses Barack Obama responded to our critics for us. If the stakes were not so high, we might exult in saying, "We told you so." The dangers presented by an Obama presidency are becoming clearer every day, and that is no reason for celebration.  

In an editorial board meeting with the Reno Gazette-Journal, Obama said the following about Ronald Reagan:

"I do think that for example the 1980 election was different.  I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not.  He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it.  I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn't much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating.  I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing." 

Not only did Obama praise Reagan, but he used racist, conservative code words from the GOP play book to do it. Obama's supporters should be the first to ask him what he believes to be the "excesses of the 60s and 70s." Does he think the Voting Rights Act was an excess? What about the Civil Rights Act? Were the protests against the Vietnam War excessive? What about Fair Housing legislation, was it all too much for the Republic to handle? Was abortion legalization an excess? 

 "What does Obama believe to be the 'excesses of the 60s and 70s?'"


Obama's very vocal fans should speak up. Their candidate is praising the right wing rollback of civil rights. Do they think the 60s and 70s were full of excess? If so, what were those excesses? If they don't agree with Obama, will they say so? What does this statement portend for the policies of an Obama administration? It is past time for the love fest to end, and hard questioning to begin. 

If Hillary Clinton or John Edwards uttered those same words they would be quite rightly taken to task. At his worst, in the nadir of his Sister Souljah moment, Bill Clinton did not dare to make such statements. Even Slick Willie was not slick enough to think he could praise Ronald Reagan and still get votes from black people.

High praise for Reagan was not the end of Obama's slide into right wing demagoguery. "I think it's fair to say that the Republicans were the party of ideas for a pretty long chunk of time there over the last 10-15 years in the sense that they were challenging conventional wisdom."  One day Obama channels Ronald Reagan, the next he channels Newt Gingrich. It is too frightening to ask how much lower he will fall.

Obama calculates that he can get away with anything and still be supported by most black people. Unfortunately, at this moment he is correct. Race pride based on symbolism has become the order of the day though it is clearly no substitute for a principled political fight.

What does Obama have to say or do before his supporters call him out? If they believe that the warm and fuzzy feeling brought on by a black president is reason enough to support Obama, they should say so. They won't have to defend him and BAR can stick to the business of political analysis. Currently the criticisms directed at BAR are based on annoyance that we brought a skunk to the party, and not on any reasoned arguments.

"One day Obama channels Ronald Reagan, the next he channels Newt Gingrich."

Black Agenda Report will continue to live up to its standards we have set for ourselves. Hillary Clinton and Obama are political twins, candidates bought off by corporate interests, ready to defend the American empire by killing people in far away places or tossing black people and the rest of the Democratic base under a bus if they think it is expedient to do so. BAR will closely scrutinize both of them during this primary season.

A presidential election year is always difficult. The Democratic party is run by people who don't want it to be a political party at all. They actively search for ways to squelch activism and deny victory to Democrats who are unafraid to be Democrats. The game is rigged against true democracy, forcing us to make difficult choices and compromises instead of working for what we really want. These contradictions will not be easier to deal with if Barack Obama supporters continue to give him a free political ride.

We at BAR enjoy debating views that are passionately held. We won't take pleasure in seeing black America end up with a bad case of buyer's remorse. Passive support for Barack Obama can only lead in that direction, but rest assured of one thing. Our next president, whoever that turns out to be, will always be under the Black Agenda Report microscope.

Margaret Kimberley's Freedom Rider column appears weekly in BAR. Ms. Kimberley lives in New York City, and can be reached via e-Mail at Margaret.Kimberley(at)BlackAgandaReport.Com. Ms. Kimberley' maintains an edifying and frequently updated blog at freedomrider.blogspot.com.  More of her work is also available at her Black Agenda Report archive page.


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