|This website is always under construction please
email me relevant links
related to any of the candidates or to race and racism and the election.
The Washington Times
|You can almost almost sympathize with Bill Clinton. But only
almost. It's not easy to run against the man with a halo. The
Clintons bought the grief that threatens to derail their train and
paid for it with arrogance and self-importance.
Only the Clintons would imagine they could play the race card in
modern America, and their only defense is that the sin is not
contempt for their presumed inferiors. They're contemptuous of
Promising to rise above race is an important part of the
considerable charm of the campaign of Barack Obama, one of the most
attractive candidates, black or white, we've seen. But enchanting
charm and hypnotic bonhomie may not be quite enough to survive the
potholes in the path to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
Shelby Steele, the author of widely acclaimed books on race in
America, most prominently "The Content of Our Character," was in
Washington yesterday to talk about his latest, "A Bound Man." The
subtitle is equally provocative: "Why We Are Excited About Obama and
Why He Can't Win." He offers a rue smile over lunch: "I'm not quite
as sure about the subtitle as I was." He wrote that last summer when
he turned in the manuscript.
Fresh national polls, out just yesterday, encourage second thoughts.
Gallup puts Hillary ahead by 43 percent to 39 percent, the narrowest
margin since January of last year. Rasmussen puts the margin at 42
percent to 35 percent. Mr. Obama is up 11 points over the last week.
Something, as well as somebody, is clearly gaining on the lady who
only yesterday was the inevitable president.
Mr. Steele still thinks the odds, though shorter, are against the
young senator from Illinois, and the threat is not from Bill or
Hillary but from the man Barack Obama himself might yet turn out to
be. He thinks the senator wants to be a unifier but he's essentially
a racial phenomenon. "We still don't know what his voice is, a
candidate stunning for a lack of specifics, convictions, principles
and ideas. The question is whether he can survive becoming visible."
What he has going for him is white guilt, the desperation of white
America to avoid the stigma of racism and redeem itself for the
centuries of racial abuse. Merely to be accused of racism, even
falsely, is proof enough in a nation become puritanical on race.
Mr. Steele divides blacks into two categories, the "challengers" and
the "bargainers." These are the "two great masks" blacks wear in
seeking success and power in mainstream America. Bargainers are
willing to let whites "off the hook" for abuses, perceived or real,
of past or present. Challengers are not. Challengers presume whites
are racists, but offer absolution if they get something in return,
such as, for example, racial preferences. Sometimes bargainers
challenge, and challengers bargain, but "people seem naturally
inclined to one or the other." The Revs. Jesse Jackson and Al
Sharpton are challengers; Bill Cosby, Tiger Woods and Oprah Winfrey
are examples of bargainers attractive to white America.
If this seems complicated, it gets more so for Barack Obama. The
whites drawn to the senator see him as neither angry nor resentful.
Because his natural base is among whites, blacks are suspicious and
often ambivalent but willing to go along if Mr. Obama gets enough in
the bargain. It's a risky bargain: If he says or does something to
lose the white vote, the blacks will desert him as an incompetent
Speech this plain are words that only a black man, and particularly
a black man of Shelby Steele's stature, could say in the public
square. The act of running against Mr. Obama is a sprint through a
minefield; a white opponent must be exceedingly wary with what he
says and how he says it. Running against "the man with a halo,"
particularly a halo bestowed by whites, is more difficult than
running against a woman in an era of still potent feminism.
No one should understand this better, or even as well, as Bill
Clinton, who has the shrewdest political instincts in town. His
frustration is understandable, but indulging in a temper tantrum
when the stakes are so high is inexplicable. The penalties are
Wesley Pruden is editor emeritus of The Times.
This Page Last Updated:
Thursday, July 03, 2008
You are visitor number
Since January 9, 2008