Wednesday, November 26, 2008

All Obama Needs to Do Is Remain Black

Many people have said Obama will inevitably disappoint people because he’s raised expectations for “change” so high. I don’t think that’s true. Despite everyone’s (healthy) pretense that the election had nothing to do with race, as soon as he won, professional broadcasters were openly weeping on-air over the fact that simply by electing a black man, America had achieved change. Obama pretty much said it himself in his victory speech.

So if — even with his campaign agenda rapidly removed from his website and former Clinton administration officials, not to mention actual Clintons, filling his administration — Obama just remains black throughout his administration, I think he can plausibly argue that he fulfilled at least the eleventh-hour expectations for his presidency.

Once the election was decided, it sure sounded from people’s reactions as if the election had been about race after all. Jeez, if we’d known poor old McCain was not merely up against “a different timetable for Iraq withdrawal” but up against “all our hopes and dreams for the fulfillment of the Civil Rights revolution,” we all could have written off McCain months ago – but we kept being told that Obama was “post-racial” and transcending old political divides and so forth and that the election was about other matters.

Was this really a chance for just over half of American voters to pretend they were completing the work of MLK? Maybe next time the Republicans should run someone Jewish and subtly imply you’d be re-defeating the Nazis by electing him.

And lest I sound too flippant about all this, I should from time to time concede that just before I was born, America’s racial situation, now fairly tolerable, was often very scary — witness 1960s characters like Gen. Edwin Walker, with his anti-communist, anti-UN but also anti-integration views (and near-assassination by pro-Cuban communist Lee Harvey Oswald).

This does not make everyone who voted against Obama — such as me, for example — retroactively some sort of Klan-supporter, though. In fact, after it was revealed that Obama collects Spider-Man and Conan comics (which I applaud, of course — but since he’s an accomplished Ivy League type, it’s no surprise), two people who came out as non-Obama-supporters were in fact…comic book creators Roy Thomas and John Romita, Sr., who’ve worked on those very comics (thank you to manga-selling Ali Kokmen for pointing out that video clip to me — and I wonder how comics fans Jonah Goldberg and Robert George feel about this revelation).


One of the most postmodern developments since the election has to be al Qaeda invoking Malcolm X. I mean, who would have imagined three years ago that we’d be asking ourselves “How will Sec. of State Clinton react if al Qaeda continues to say the President is betraying the legacy of Malcolm X?” The world’s much less predictable than pundits pretend it is. You have no idea what we’ll be worrying about in 2011.

I don’t pretend to know what to expect from Obama’s administration and think its behavior will largely be dictated by external events no one’s even thinking about right now. I looked forward to an unambitious Bush presidency until 9/11 happened, and perhaps Obama, partly for the reasons sketched above, will prove significantly less audacious than, say, FDR.

I’m pleased Obama said in one interview that reading Hayek and Milton Friedman in the early 80s contributed to his belief that government must be humble, at least when attempting things like the Iraq war — though it remains to be seen if he’ll show similar humility when imposing Change on the domestic front.

One of the most encouraging things I’ve seen written about Obama was actually written by Gary Hart in his review a couple years ago of The Audacity of Hope, and I’ll be as delighted as anyone if Obama’s presidency reflects the general spirit of these words:

He is particularly evocative on the issue of ideological inconsistency, blaming liberals for demanding civil liberties but not deregulation and conservatives for wanting deregulation of markets but encouraging wiretapping.

P.S. Headlines like this one make me think he’s getting more Clintonian all the time (but then, I’ve long said I thought he’s arguably even more like triangulating-Bill than Hillary is, which is not the worst thing in the world): “Obama promotes fiscal restraint, big spending.”


Gerard said...

Annie Lennox Agrees

He is particularly evocative on the issue of ideological inconsistency, blaming liberals for demanding civil liberties but not deregulation and conservatives for wanting deregulation of markets but encouraging wiretapping.

Does this mean Obama is really a hypocritical conservative?

Gerard said...

BTW, the Malcolm X reference in al-Zawahiri’s latest Webisode isn’t all that inexplicable when you realize that it was probably ghostwritten by Adam Gadahn.

The Al Qaeda Reader

Most of the treatises and fatwas contained in that book were devised by Zawahiri, but occasionally you’ll find a screed denouncing our failure to ratify the Kyoto Protocol, or expatiating upon the Trail of Tears, which is a clue that it was penned by Goatboy.

I’m betting that the brain trust of AQ is thinking up martyrdom missions he can undertake right now.

Todd Seavey said...

Well, with a half-Kenyan president, a Jewish al Qaeda leader, and Annie Lennox’s homeland giving the UK two Scottish prime ministers in a row, I’d say we can at least declare some sort of victory for diversity. Contra the paleos, I think if we just keep people too confused to form tribal loyalties, we’ll probably reduce tensions in the long run.

Marc S. said...

Your comment “I think if we just keep people too confused to form tribal loyalties, we’ll probably reduce tensions in the long run” gets at why I think this election could both be “post racial” and “about race”.

The election was >notwas

Todd Seavey said...

Though there’s still a difference between multiculturalism in fact (largely healthy) and multiculturalism as a rallying cry/philosophy (largely divisive and corrosive despite pretenses to the contrary). When it’s merely _a fact_ that the average citizen is part Portuguese and part Japanese, I think we’ll be fine, but while the citizen is still claiming this fact as a cause for celebration, we’ll inevitably have tribal rivalry, simply in strange new forms.

I think Camille Paglia made an important related point years ago when she said she’d _love_ courses on multiculturalism at colleges if that meant teaching the real histories of, say, Hinduism, Greek philosophy, and Australian Aboriginal mythology. Instead, it’s often an excuse to learn the Marxism of All Nations, a concocted moral pose to use against the purported evil hegemony of choice.

Likewise, mixed heritage as fact: swell. Mixed heritage (or heritage in general) as moral trump card: dangerous. If the latter fades with time, it can be viewed as a short-term, understandable corrective for past wrongs. If instead it grows, I think the future will be tenser than people expect, though still preferable in most ways to the past.

Gerard said...

Not Jewish, Moslem.

The worst kind of Moslem, IMO.

Richard Dawkins Gets An Education

Think of it this way. Transforming a fat, socially awkward nerd raised by anti-American red diaper babies from Marin County into a virulently anti-Semitic, would-be jihadist is a lot easier than convincing a Kurdish jihadist to become a free-love, Scandinavian socialist. A lesson that all of the social democracies in Western Europe need to learn.

BTW, uneducated, rural, Meso-American immigrants have less of a national identity, and are therefore theoretically more susceptible to assimilation-assuming our government or culture had any interest in assimilation-than post-tribal immigrants who have already undergone, and lived through, modernization. So in that respect, some paleocons are incorrect in their assumptions.

However, to me that is not an argument in favor of mass migration of uneducated, unskilled immigrants-which would still tax our social welfare state and culture beyond recognition-but an argument against the trendy, open borders philosophy espoused by open border anarchists like Larry Kudlow, Jason L. Riley, and the usual suspects, i.e. if only we recalibrated our immigration policy to a skills-based system-while still accepting millions of unskilled aliens-everything would be hunky-dory.

Gerard said...

BTW, the immigrant pool today isn’t much different from that of a century ago-with the possible exception that I don’t think we were giving green cards to Hezbollah operatives in the early 20th century-the problem is, as Mark Krikorian has suggested, that we’ve changed…drastically.

You can have a multi-ethnic and multi-religious society, and the fact that the United States has been such a society in the past is one of its strengths, however you can’t have a multicultural, modern society, which both preserves the most vital aspects of this country, e.g. a relatively free market, political and religious pluralism, equality of opportunity, etc., and allows new immigrants to retain the parts of their culture that don’t directly conflict with those values,

Once you accept the notion that all cultural practices, or all cultures, are equally deserving of respect, or even more insidiously, should be enshrined in our the legal code, this is what it inevitably leads to:

FGM: A-Okay

Gerard said...

There should have been a dependent clause after that comma.

What I mean is that you can’t maintain that type of society while preserving all of the impediments to assimilation that currently exist, and extolling the virtues of multiculturalism.

Multiculturalism is a substitute for national identity, and by diluting or replacing our shared national identity you are ensuring our country’s fragmentation.