The already enormous buzz over Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is intensifying now that he essentially announced Sunday on Meet the Press that he's a candidate for president in 2008, setting the stage for what would be a monumentally high-profile showdown between him and Sen. Hillary Clinton. And the powers that be in the Democratic Party seem thrilled with this turn of events, gleefully hopping on the "he's our savior" bandwagon. Am I missing something here? To quote Chuck D from Public Enemy, "Don't believe the Hype...."
Don't get me wrong. I love this guy. He's genuine, sincere, articulate, highly charismatic, telegenic and immensely popular. A rock star. Unfortunately, none of these attributes necessarily qualifies him to be president of the Unites States, the most powerful human being on the planet. He has no significant national political experience, and has never been in an executive level, CEO-type position. To date, he's served just two years in the U.S. Senate; spent eight years in the Illinois State Senate; and was a civil rights lawyer and law professor. Can someone please tell me why he's the best that the Democrats have to offer? Is he truly the most qualified individual to lead the country? He may someday make for a great leader, but it is way too premature to be bestowing such accolades on him.
As a U.S. Senator, the legislation he's sponsored is innocuous at best, including the "Higher Education Opportunity Through Pell Grant Expansion Act" and the "Secure America and Orderly Immigration Act." He's been vague on many key issues including Iraq, the war on terror, abortion, gay marriage and immigration, choosing broad ideological positions in order to stay out of the political fray. Hollywood loves him, as do other fellow rock stars like Bono, with whom he's traveled to Africa to raise awareness of genocide, AIDS and various humanitarian issues.
To be quite honest, when it comes to political experience, there's much more qualified candidates. So what exactly is it about Obama that is drawing such attention? Perhaps it's because Obama, 45, is an African-American? Let's be truthful with each other: would there be this much hype about a White politician with such minimal experience? Former Sen. John Edwards certainly compares in terms of overall attributes, but lacks the hype and never even remotely reached the "darling" status that Obama curiously enjoys. In fact, Edwards was pilloried in '04 over his lack of exsperience. I think it's a kind of racism in America to be so fascinated with a Black man who does not fit the ugly stereotypes. Is Obama grabbing the headlines, currying so much favor and amassing so much political currency, because he's a highly educated, highly articulate and charismatic Black man in a White man's game? Is his popularity propped up by racists who would never actually vote for him, but publicly marvel at his "skills"? These are tough questions, but in light of the man's very average political career, it has to be something other than charisma that's causing such an unprecedented lovefest.
Let's be clear about one thing. I'm not saying Obama does not have the right to run in 2008, nor am I saying he shouldn't. In fact, I'd like to see him run and, unless a highly credentialed alternative like Al Gore decides to jump in the race, Obama could likely get my vote. All I'm suggesting is that, given his political experience and accomplishments or lack thereof, the level of hype and overall appeal should rival that of a Bill Richardson, Evan Bayh or Edwards. I believe there's a very subtle form of racism at work here. And don't think Republicans wouldn't love to see Obama run and win the nomination, at which point America's ugly racism won't be so subtle.