Barack Obama moves closer to presidency

In my last column, I predicted that Barack Obama would become America’s first African-American president. Since then, he’s taken a commanding lead in theObama1
race to become the Democratic Party’s nominee, making Hillary Clinton cry and Joe Biden say "bye."

It’s still early in the race, but Obama is making people believe that he can win in November, that the White House need not be a White Only House.

Polls have indicated the vast majority of Americans say they would
support a black candidate seeking the White House. A Gallup survey
conducted in early 2007 found only 6 percent of men and 5 percent of
women said they would not vote for a black presidential candidate — a
seismic political shift from 50 years ago when more than half those
surveyed felt that way. [Link]

That’s an amazing change, something that should make Americans proud. Well, everyone except the 6 percent of men and 5 percent of women who are boobs.

Though Obama’s win captured headlines and gave his campaign fresh
credibility, he is not the first black candidate to triumph in a
Democratic presidential contest.

In 1988, civil rights leader Jesse Jackson, making his second bid
for the White House, piled up Democratic primary wins in Alabama,
Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, Virginia and the District of Columbia
along with caucus victories in South Carolina and Michigan.

But Obama’s roots and resume — as well as his campaign — are unlike
other black candidates who’ve run for president. The son of a father
from Kenya and a mother from Kansas, Obama was just a child during the
dawn of the civil rights movement, grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia and
has not made race the centerpiece of his candidacy.  [Link]

His mother is a white Kansan, his father was a black Kenyan, and he’s biracial, with strong ties to both communities. He’s like a rainbow candidate, but without a Mexican grandfather and Chinese grandmother.

"Obama is running in a way that a lot of white voters feel very
sympathetic," said Merle Black, an Emory University political
scientist. "He doesn’t make them feel guilty. He’s not running a Jesse
Jackson campaign or an Al Sharpton campaign. He’s positioned himself to
be a candidate who happens to be black, rather than a black candidate."  [Link]

That’s an important distinction. Most Americans don’t really care if the CEO of their company happens to be black, as long as he knows how to perform magic in the boardroom; they don’t really care if their surgeon happens to be black, as long as he know how to perform magic in the operating room; and they don’t really care if their plumber happens to be black, as long as he knows how to perform magic in the bathroom.

For some voters watching Obama, his campaign — and his Iowa success — are simply reflections of changing times.

"America’s becoming more open-minded," said Mark Jambretz, a
36-year-old sales director at an Internet company in San Francisco. "I
as a Republican can say that, and we need to open our eyes to people
representing all ethnicities."

Still, he said he could envision some "radical groups" taking violent steps against a black candidate or president.

That also worries Ballentine, the 53-year-old North Carolina electric utility field technician.

"I think he will certainly need to beef up his security, because I
think there’s these wackos that will go to any extent to make sure he
doesn’t win," he said. "It’s sad to say that, but I think it’s a
possibility. Some people just don’t want to see that happen."  [Link]

The importance of beefing up Obama’s security can’t be overstated. The last thing America needs is to revisit the 1960s, not when so many people have left it so far behind. Heck, even my former college professor has stopped wearing polyester suits.

Photo by Peter Howe

If you enjoyed this piece, you'll love Melvin's novel Bala Takes the Plunge, available in North America through Amazon.com and McNallyRobinson.com You can also find it at major bookstores in India and Sri Lanka or online at FlipKart, IndiaPlaza, FriendsofBooks or other sites. A number of readers have written reviews of the novel. An excerpt of the novel can be read here.

Comments

  1. Hi Melvin,
    I missed the earlier column on your prediction, but I sure hope you are right. Obama certainly seems to be a candidate with high moral values with a clear vision of having a change for better. It’s been too long since America has had such a selfless candidate (at least seemingly).
    Arif
    Bangalore, India

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