By Alan Caruba
I sat down for dinner in front of the television and turned on C-SPAN. Shelby Steele, the author of “Bound Man: Why We are Excited About Obama and Why He Can’t Win” was speaking to a group gathered in a Berkeley, California bookstore.
First things first—Steele is the Robert J. and Marion E. Oster Senior Fellow at the Hoover Institution. He specializes in the study of race relations, multiculturalism, and affirmative action. He is Black, so he speaks, academically and authoritatively, of the ways both Blacks and Whites perceive Barack Obama.
I am a White man of some seven decades who, if I have learned anything in my life, it is to not trust politicians from either party.
Since I have to vote, I do what I assume other people do. I vote against the person I do not want to win. I will, for example, vote for John McCain, not because I don’t think he is a disaster, but because he is, hopefully, not as great a disaster as whomever the Democrats select as their candidate.
I say “whomever” even though, at this point, Obama appears to have enough delegate votes no matter how many more primaries Hillary Clinton wins. So, let’s assume he will be. Why does Steele think he won’t win?
Steele points out that, like all politicians, Obama must be a “bargainer” to obtain our vote. He must provide just enough information for us to posit our hopes in him, but not so much that we may have reservations about him. Steele speaks of the necessity that Obama keep his real opinions and plans “invisible” to the voters.
This is where Obama, to date, has been most skillful. He offers “change” and “hope”, but he does not define what kind of change or what he specifically hopes. He offers Whites, who live with some guilt about America’s racially divided past, an opportunity to feel good at last and to confirm their good will by voting for him. In this regard, he has been astonishingly successful in states with predominately White populations.
The obvious fact, however, is that Obama is far from alone. Whites have abetted Black voters by electing any number of Black candidates to high office. The other obvious fact is that the Civil Rights movement was successful and is now something for historians to write about and as fodder for documentaries. That was then. This is now.
If a significant portion of Black Americans have not moved up in society since the enactment of the Civil Rights Bill and the dropping of barriers to their achievement, that is something they must address and so far progress has been slow.
Steele thinks that Blacks are going to take a longer, more critical view of Obama and, when the campaign moves into a one-on-one stage prior to the national elections in November, Obama—the bargainer—is going to have an increasingly difficult time retaining support. Indeed, it can be argued that Hillary’s Clinton’s recent wins in Ohio and Texas speak to that eventuality.
I have thought for a while now that there are too many “unknowns” about Obama. Let’s get passed the cosmetics. He is a good-looking, articulate, intelligent young man with a wife who, until her recent gaff about being proud of being an American “for the first time”, can deliver a good stump speech too.
His speeches, though, are remarkably devoid of substance and, being a politician, have their predictable promises. The problem with his health care plan is that it is warmed-over socialism that the nation, already beset with entitlement plans it cannot afford, would only add to our problems while destroying the health care system.
There’s a problem, too, with his twenty year’s of attendance at an Afro-centric church whose minister holds some views that some people might call racist. Even putting that aside (which voters will not do) Obama’s voting record is manifestly liberal. He has not “crossed over the aisle” to seek or demonstrate a non-partisan resolution to political issues. He opposed, for example, the confirmation of Supreme Court Judges Roberts and Alito, two distinguished jurists.
Given his meteoric rise in the party, the odds are that Obama is not ready for prime time, let alone any time in the Oval Office. The cynic in me wonders who has been pulling the strings and opening the doors for him?
So, I think Shelby Steele is right. I think everyone got excited about Obama and, come Election Day, they are going to have some very big second thoughts. I think this will apply as well to Hillary Clinton if, by some machination short of Obama’s assassination, she is the candidate.
So far, with the exception of Bill Clinton, the Democrats have given us McGovern, Dukakis, Gore and Kerry. If ever a political party had a death wish, it’s them.