Obama as racial healer

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As the nation digests the news that Mr. Obama will be our next President, the common sense of things is that if nothing else his victory represents a milestone in racial relations. The article quoted below is only one of many examples:
Whatever you think of policy, the mere fact of electing a black man president, sending him to live in the nation's most iconic, so far whites only house, would puncture holes through the myth of black inferiority, violating America's racial narrative so fundamentally as to forever change the way this country thinks of blacks, and the way blacks think of this country—and themselves.

In some ways I suppose this is true, in that he is now First Citizen by popular acclamation and will wield all the power commensurate with the office of President. The fact that he is black was a very attractive element to his candidacy, but I fear the commentators, relaxing in the afterglow of the election, have overlooked that Mr. Obama's ascendancy may actually worsen race relations rather than improve them.

From what I've seen of him so far, Mr. Obama seems intelligent, fairly cool under fire and somewhat cautious -- all promising traits for a president who is going to be responsible for dealing with so many problems. But he's also remarkably inexperienced, insular, and espouses a political dogma that is religion-like in its magical thinking. All of these character traits are likely to come into play during his term in office and will probably be magnified by the sweeping events he is likely to face -- recession, war, insolvency.

What concerns me is simply this: what if he sucks? I don't mean doing things I disagree with, but rather what if he turns out to be generally incompetent to handle the rigors of the office? He has no executive experience, so it's not too far fetched to imagine. For another thing, what if he gets mired in corruption or some other political scandal? He did, after all, rise from the Chicago machine so that possibility can't be dismissed.

I'd think that he's impeachment-proof almost regardless of what he does because of his race. Even with lesser scandals, Mr. Obama will likely enjoy solid racial solidarity beyond what the white urban liberals would tolerate (which is a lot; they are masters of doublethink). I can easily imagine a scenario where the President's political difficulties would be seen by black folks as Jim Crow's ugly shadow. By 2012 (or 2016) the alienation of african-americans from other -americans could be far worse as they felt a renewed sense of oppression and racial separateness.

I'm not saying it's likely, or even commenting on the odds at all beyond the fact that the possibility exists. I'm just pointing out that the post-election euphoria could have a mirror image on the dark side.

6 comments:

Wendy said...

"the alienation of african-americans from other -americans could be far worse as they felt a renewed sense of oppression and racial separateness." Who does the "they" refer to in this sentence? The African-Americans or the other -Americans? Either way, I'm not clear on why "they" would feel this way.

And if he does suck, I'm not sure it's going to matter in terms of racial relations. I think the Jim Crow shadow and the fairly awful set of problems he's walking into will be enough for people to justify most actions he takes. They'll say things like: "Well, ANY president would have sucked given the situation." And if he remains relatively composed under pressure - a trait he's generally exhibited thus far, he'll at least get credit for handling things calmly.

I think you're right that he's going to be impeachment-proof. He's going to have to REALLY suck before anyone starts bringing up racial issues. It's hard for me to imagine that his presidency will damage racial relations. If he sucks, racial relations may not improve, but it would take a hell of a lot to make them worse because people want to believe that we're a more tolerant, civilized society than we were even 50 years ago - despite so much evidence to the contrary...

CounterClckWise said...

Perhaps you're right and I'm seeing shadows that aren't there...people do have an amazing capability to rationalize. But I still think it's possible that it becomes generally agreed that he's a bad president, and that this agreement is a source of racial divisiveness.

As far as your first paragraph's pedantry, "they" is the subject of the sentence, african-americans. Sorry if that wasn't clear, your librarianship.

Wendy said...

Even if everyone eventually agrees that he's a bad president, I still don't think that this agreement will be a source of racial divisiveness.

And I still think that sentence is awkward...but whatever...maybe I just read it too quickly.

Wendy said...

Before I answer, tell me more about how/why you think it would divisive. I know it's a blog, but I want more.

Let's leave the impeachment question for later...

CounterClckWise said...

why don't you think this agreement would be a source of divisiveness? What if congress actually did try to impeach him? Win or lose, I think it would be a step back for race relations in the USA.

CounterClckWise said...

OK, imagine that Obama pulls a Jimmy Carter on something -- anything. The people suddenly realize that he's a complete idiot (now imagine Bush). I think a lot of blackfolks would continue to see criticism of him as de facto racism regardless of the reasons why -- especially as those doing it would probably be white Republicans (at least at first). Those black folks might end up seeing it as a conspiracy to bring him down.