Sunday, February 17, 2008

Election 08: Black Is Best--UPDATE

Will the 2008 election boil down to one thing? According to Frank Rich, this election won't be about ideas or policy or platforms, it will be about brown, young and new versus white, old and used up. He says:

Even by the low standards of his party, Mr. McCain has underperformed at reaching millennials in the thriving culture where they live. His campaign’s effort to create a MySpace-like Web site flopped. His most-viewed appearances on YouTube are not viral videos extolling him or replaying his best speeches but are instead sendups of his most reckless foreign-policy improvisations — his threat to stay in Iraq for 100 years and his jokey warning (sung to the tune of the Beach Boys’ version of “Barbara Ann”) that he will bomb Iran. In the vast arena of the Internet he has been shrunk to Grumpy Old White Guy, the G.O.P. brand incarnate.
It's interesting to me that the Left embraces Obama for all the reasons they've lamented American society: they judge him worthy based on not the content of his character or experience but that he is young and black. And they judge the Right unworthy because of whiteness and age.

Cross-posted at Righ Wing News.


Here is what Frank Rich could have addressed in his column over the weekend. They are called policies.

And if the press wasn't so intent on kissing his rear, Obama would be investigated more closely about a few of these things. Plagarism being one thing, but really who cares about stealing stupid ideas?


Huck said...

Pardon me, Dr. Clouthier, but where, specifically, do you get the idea that the "Left embraces Obama for all the reasons they've lamented American society ..."?

I don't see any argument of the sort in the bit you cited from Frank Rich's column. Nor have I seen anybody of note from the left say that he is worthy because he is "young and black" as opposed to strong in character content. That is a right-wing meme, not a meme of the left.

Forgive me, but it seems that you yourself are playing the age/race card here, not the left. I suggest that, if you want to be taken seriously, you actually point to some real evidence outside the imaginations of your own mind, and a misrepresentation of a Frank Rich column discussing the ever-growing post-racial and post-Vietnam generaltional nature of modern American society, to back up your charges.

It seems to me that people are drawn to Obama not because he is "young and black" but precisely because the content of his character is strong and his message of hope and change resonates. It has nothing to do with age and race. It is you who suggest it is so. In fact, there is a bit of a struggle among the left over whether or not he is a viable candidate because his age precludes him from having been able to acquire significant experience relative to folks like Hillary Clinton or John McCain.

I find your suggestion shallow and inflammatory. It certainly doesn't advance a position regarding politics that seeks to transcend race and age as variables and seeks to take them off the table.

Anonymous said...

"It's interesting to me that the Left embraces Obama for all the reasons they've lamented American society: they judge him worthy based on not the content of his character or experience but that he is young and black"

Are you serious? Obama is embraced for some based on just his liberal policy positions, for some because he and his wife maintain a strong relationship (compare Obama's marriage with McCain's marriage(s)), and for some, because he is active in his Christian church. He is also embraced by some because he was a law professor at the conservative University of Chicago and is well-versed in constitutional law amongst other areas. For most, he is embraced because he intends to reach across the aisle to work together, something that hasn't been a part of politics in a long time.

Are you trying to push the idea that people support Obama because he is black and young? There is a lot more to people than the color of their skin. Although some may like him for those reasons, I can assure you that most people like him because of policy positions and don't take into consideration color, and not because of something immediately external such as ethnic background or age.

The Woodlands is a bubble, it is not representative of the United States. The Woodlands is representative of wealthy conservative Texans who don't want to live in Houston. In addition to the Woodlands, I've lived outside of Texas and in several red and blue states, and none are like the Woodlands. Observe the people running red lights or people thinking they have a sense of entitlement cutting you off as they drive next time you drive down the parkway.

Anonymous said...

Anon 7:39

I did not get the idea at all that Melissa is pushing Obama on anyone here.

You are right about The Woodlands... in that it is not like any other place. However, I do think people exaggerate a little when they talk about the "entitlement" attitude and cutting you off as they drive. There are many wonderful, educated, hardworking, sincere, people that live in The Woodlands. Some of it is "sour grapes." You find what you are looking for.

Melissa Clouthier said...

Huck and Anon,

I find your willful misreading of Frank Rich's column (did you read it?) amusing. The title of his piece was The Grand Old White party. Who is emphasizing race? The whole column was about the white guys backing McCain and the incredibleness of Obama because of what policy position did Rich mention? That's right, he didn't mention one.

As for The Woodlands not representing America. I'll grant you that. But neither does Manhattan--politically, anyway. Oh right, you were making another slam based on race and entitled white people.

It is this sort of class and race warfare that is the stock in trade for the Left. It is not about unifying. It's about dividing. And that was my point about noting Rich's point.

Anonymous said...

To try to characterize my demographic example in the last paragraph as class warfare is mistaken. How many people that live in the Woodlands want to instead move to Houston? Not many I'm sure. I also never stated that Manhattan was representative of the voting public. Who actually believes that? And to attribute my intent as willfull is presumptuous, can you read people's minds?

As for a number of people having a sense of entitlement in the Woodlands, its sad but true. I grew up in the Woodlands, and I've seen it grow and change into what it is now. I drive down the Woodlands parkway and see people excessively speeding, cutting people off, running red lights, and in general being rude drivers. After living in several other parts of Texas, other states, and in several other countries, it is only in the Woodlands where I have encountered drivers that believe their needs to use the public roads are more important than everyone elses.

My point was that many people like Obama for his policy positions amongst other things and that your point that people like him because he is young and black is erroneous. You failed to answer that point in your response, and instead mischaracterized my comment as perpetuating race warfare. You may have made an assumption about race based on my statement about drivers in the Woodlands, but that in no way is class or race warfare related; rather socio-economic demographics. That would be your inference however, not mine.

Huck said...

I did, indeed, read the entire column written by Frank Rich. As I said in my previous comment, he was speaking about the fact that McCain harkens back to a generation and a time when our society was much more divided along racial categories. Obama, on the contrary, represents a post-Vietnam, post-Civil Rights era generational appeals to people irrespective of race and age. What I am saying, and what I think Anonymous is also saying, is that you interpret support for Obama on the left as being exclusively because he is young and black. That is simply not true. And you have provided no evidence to back up that assertion. Frank Rich wasn't saying people like Obama because he is young and black. He was saying that Obama appeals to those who do not relate to or understand McCain's generation, especially when it comes to the dynamics of racialized politics.

You are the one making this claim. And your claim perpetuates a racialized narrative that is so completely far off the mark about Obama's appeal to people. For someone supposedly coming out of a conservative mindset where race shouldn't matter, you really do see race mattering every where you look. Can you at least be honest enough and open enough to the possibility that people might like Obama for reasons other than his skin color or his age? Like that he is inspirational. Like that he himself doesn't play the race card. Like that he thinks the Iraq war is a mistake and has a plan to withdraw troops from that country. Like for his commitment to ending the "don't ask, don't tell" policy regarding gays in the military. Like for his proposals for healthcare reform. Like for his opposition to torture. Like for his approach to diplomacy and his plans to restore America's credibility worldwide. Like for his humane approach to immigration reform. Like for his ability to transcend ideology and bring people together in ways that we haven't seen in a generation. It's these things that drive the vast majority of his supporters into his camp. And if you can't see that people might and do support Obama for things other than his age or his skin color, then it is you who are succumbing to and promoting a kind of racialized and discriminatory politics. You want to lump people like me into a category of discrimination-based politics that just doesn't apply. And I'd figure if anyone would understand the inherent unfairness of that, it would be a conservative who chafes at being unfairly thought of similarly by closed-minded liberals.

On a completely unrelated front, I would like to say that, if I understand correctly how you approach your career as a health professional, I am very much on your side when it comes to being open to holistic treatments for physical maladies as one effective alternative, or supplement, to traditional medical practices or traditional conventional medical orthodoxies.

Melissa Clouthier said...


I'm aware of Obama's policy positions. There is nothing new there. He is a classic Leftist.

He is a charismatic personality, he's smart, and he currently has the shameless adoration of the press. And Frank Rich is noting Obama's newness and it IS based on race. He says:

Given that the American story has been so inextricable from the struggle over race, the Obama triumph has been the bigger surprise to many. Perhaps because I came of age in the racially divided Washington public schools of the 1960s and had one of my first newspaper jobs in Richmond in the early 1970s, I almost had to pinch myself when Mr. Obama took 52 percent of Virginia’s white vote last week. The Old Dominion continues to astonish those who remember it when.

So Rich is saying that he himself is shocked, SHOCKED, that Americans would actually vote for the black man. And I'm saying, that I'm shocked that he's shocked.

I'm well aware of the fact that race has played a huge part of American society, but I do not consider Americans generally to be racist. And I do not consider the Republican party to be racist, but Rich does. Rich says:

But he has it even worse than Mrs. Clinton. What distinguished his posse from Mr. Obama’s throng was not just its age but its demographic monotony: all white and nearly all male.

How is this not about race? No, Rich isn't coming out and saying Republicans or white guys are racist. He doesn't have to. He says things like this:
Trapped in an archaic black-and-white newsreel, the G.O.P. looks more like a nostalgic relic than a national political party in contemporary America. A cultural sea change has passed it by.

Republicans are "trapped in a black-and-white newsreel". Really?

My point is, who is making this election about race? Why, Mr. Rich is. He isn't arguing policy or experience. He's arguing that Obama is better because he represents newness--newness being racially mixed and a younger generation.

Who gives a flip? It's the faulty assumption of rampant American racism that leads to this pernicious place.

Obama is a phenomenon. And he is symbolic. By voting for Obama, guilty, liberal, white guys like Frank Rich can salve their own racist consciousness.

Huck said...

Maybe that's personally true for Frank Rich, but it's just not true for the vast majority of Obama supporters. You refuse to even acknowledge that. All those citations you put in from Rich demonstrate precisely my point: Rich is surprised that Obama's "posse" doesn't give a hoot about race or age. And that this "posse" is large. And for him to acknowledge a generational divide on this subject, a divide in which he sees the McCain campaign as being emblematic of older times and older thinking, is not the same as saying that the GOP is racist or that only hip, young, multi-racial liberals aren't. It's simply an observation of a change. Now, you can read all you want into Rich's observations, but where you are clearly wrong is your racialized interpretation of this, where you translate Rich's observation into a broad and sweeping generalization that the wholesale "Left" (and not just one old, cranky leftist of McCain's generation) "embraces Obama for all the reasons they've lamented American society: they judge him worthy based on not the content of his character or experience but that he is young and black. And they judge the Right unworthy because of whiteness and age." Your comment, a reaction to a reaction to a reaction, whatever, doesn't do anything to end the fading culture of racialized politics, it only serves to help it linger on longer than it needs to.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting to me that the Left embraces Obama for all the reasons they've lamented American society: they judge him worthy based on not the content of his character or experience but that he is young and black.

Obamamania might also be more generic; "young and black" can also mean Different, and he does present himself as Fresh and Different.

We're at a point in our political cycle where "Messiah Politics" is common, where a lot of the electorate gets fed up with "business as usual" and is willing to take a chance on someone completely different. Usually projecting a Messianic perfection on this outsider "Man on Horseback" to the point of religious ecstacy -- a political "Personal LORD And Savior". So it was with Ross Perot in 1992, and so it is with Obama, Huck, and RonPaul today.

Anonymous said...

Yes, so much so that women are fainting when Obama gives his speeches.

sandy said...

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