Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Let's get something out of the way quickly: Sen. Barack Obama is not the most credentialed presidential candidate the Democratic Party has ever sent to the general election. He has made many judgement missteps along the way, and he has only himself to blame for it. The candidate at times can also appear weak, arrogant, aloof, lacking in substance and yes, elitist. But let's not confuse all this, as NY Times columnist David Brooks wrote on Tuesday, with Obama being "not in it;" of his being psycho-socially detached from virtually everything professionally noteworthy in his life.
What Brooks fails to understand in his oversimplified Freudian assessment of Obama's psyche is something truly monumental, heretofore not seen in American politics: the very likelihood that Sen. Barack Obama will make history as the first black president of The United States of America. Given that black men were still being lynched and beaten just 45 or so years ago simply for being black, this accomplishment not only is historic and electric, but it carries with it an unfathomable amount of pressure and stress. Yes, Barack Obama is an agent of change. He is a light, a force, a movement. He is not merely a candidate, and anyone who views him that way is terribly myopic. An Obama victory can and will forever change not just America's political landscape, but it's socio-economic one as well. There is great purpose to Obama's candidacy, much more beyond simple politics. His victory would end America's first 233 year phase and usher in a new one. When Brooks writes that Obama "lives apart," he is grossly minimizing the significance of Obama the man, the candidate, the movement.
Brooks downplays the race factor and writes that Americans more so "are wary and uncertain" of Obama. He's right about that in one sense, but not in his intended meaning. Yes, Americans are wary and uncertain...the same way they are wary and uncertain when they see a black man walking towards them on a dark street, or when they are alone in an elevator with a young black man, or when LA cops see them driving in a white neighborhood late at night. I'm not sure what bugs the shit out of me more, white people's racism towards blacks or elite whites like Brooks minimizing it. The fact is, the black man walking down the street, getting in the elevator, or driving in Beverly Hills could very well be, like Obama, a Harvard educated lawyer. But to the "wary and uncertain" whites, it doesn't matter. And this is precisely where Brooks gets it all wrong.
Brooks summarily tears apart Obama's entire career as if it's truly meaningless. That Obama's a self-made success with infinitely more impressive credentials than, say, George Bush, gets lost on Brooks. His job as a conservative pundit is not to speak the truth about Republicans, but to distort the truth about Democrats. But the truth is, Obama is the American Dream personified. Of mixed-race heritage and from a poor, broken home, he made his way into the finest academic institutions in the country, and became the first ever black editor of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. He spent years as a community organizer, 12 years as a law professor, 6 years as a State Senator, 3 as a U.S. Senator, and stands the best chance of anyone in history of becoming the first black president. Yet Brooks' column conjures up the image of some emotionless, spiritless, disconnected automaton who somehow managed to accomplish this greatness without ever having any real, intimate relationships or intellectual curiosity. That he somehow robotically drifted his way to being some sort of comatose-like wonder, having fooled everyone and touched no one. Give us a break, Brooks. Your shameless partisanship precedes you. You're a Rove in sheep's clothing.
What Sen. Barack Obama stands for, what his candidacy means, transcends politics and in many ways is a larger than life phenomenon. It signals the beginning of a new dawn in American life. It's unfortunate that David Brooks cannot, or will not, see that.
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