Obama Takes Easy Road on Race

Posted by on Aug 14th, 2010 and filed under Congress, Politics, Presidency. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry from your site

Obama ascended to the presidency an almost messiah-like figure transcending racial confinements.  He embodied our optimism for a post-racial presidency, for an advance in race relations.  He united most of us and his approval ratings soared across racial lines.  Almost two years into his administration the charade has been lifted.

As midterm elections loom, polls show a decidedly lackluster improvement in race relations, some even show deterioration.  A majority of voters once had the audacity to hope Obama would choose a non- racial road, but he has crisscrossed racial lines for political expediency.  With apologies to Robert Frost:

Two racial roads diverged as Americans stood
And darn if Obama didn’t travel both
And be one cunning politician with hood
He surveyed the lay down both as he could
To where each bent in the political undergrowth. 

We’ll rejoin Obama’s dubious wanderings after surveying the political undergrowth.

To stoke his base before the midterm elections, Obama appears happy to divide us along racial lines on issues such as our broken illegal immigration system.  That’s a thorny issue, but he could improve race relations by acknowledging honest ideological disagreements.  Instead, he seems reluctant to disabuse the notion that criticisms of his policies are racially tinged.   If he transcends race he’d chastise his supporters for attributing racial motivations to conscientious dissenters on health care, energy, taxes, economic stimulus and immigration reform.

Obama’s support has fallen precipitously among independents.  Presumably, they weren’t racist when they voted for him two years ago.  Obama promised change we can believe in, to take the noble road less traveled, but in the cauldron of racial politics he’s opted for the road most easily traveled.  If a hopeful bend ahead obscures political gains, then he’s back to the well-worn road to gin up his base.

Then flip-flopped ‘twixt both as equally fair
One bend had more race cards the better claim
Then switched to other that wanted wear
Though as for having passed here and there
His polls are now dreadful, it’s such a shame.

It’s also a shame that his leadership vacuum on race relations encourages some ignoble politicians to lead us on a detour down a road laden with toxic waste.

Maxine Waters, a member of the Congressional black caucus, is charged with ethics violations.  Disregarding the fact that plenty of white congressmen have been charged over the years, she appears poised to invoke racism as her main defense.  Powerful James Clyburn, another member of the Congressional Black Caucus, actually blames the Tea Party for the charges against Waters and fellow Representative Charles Rangel.  I wonder if they are trying to distract voters form the paramount issue of unemployment.

If Obama wants racial harmony you’d think he’d use his pulpit to tell them to stop it.  A post-racial President would remind everybody that it was a bi-partisan House panel that brought charges against Waters and Rangel.   But maybe he doesn’t want change, rather a cynical distraction just before the November congressional elections, being afraid of the referendum on his first two years.

And one path that morning cynically lay
In leaves many steps had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for a political day!
Yet knowing how way leads out of my way,
I’d be back if my polls take a whack.

One reason Obama’s polls have been whacked on race relations is a lack of confidence in the Attorney General’s impartiality in enforcing the law.

Eric Holder, a key Obama surrogate, said that the United States was “a nation of cowards” in racial matters.  That’s bewildering considering that his Department of Justice shirked from prosecuting Blank Panthers who were caught on video intimidating would-be voters at a Philadelphia polling station.  Holder also ignominiously conceded he hadn’t read Arizona’s 10- page immigration bill before repudiating it for encouraging racial profiling and violating civil rights.  Even the Judge who subsequently enjoined elements of the law — favored by a majority of Americans — avoided that rationale.

Mr. President: Please get off the fence, let’s see some racial healing — Holder is dividing us along racial lines and it’s time you diverted him to the high road.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence;
Two roads diverged as America stood, and why–
Obama took both, as were easily traveled by,
Oh, if hope and change would recommence.

I want President Obama to do well because I want America to do well.  When it’s not, when it lags Canada, Australia, Asia and even parts of Europe in economic growth, legitimate concerns over his neo-socialist policies aren’t imbued with racial undertones.  Businesses are sitting on hordes of cash but are reluctant to invest in this regulatory environment.  Perhaps it’s time to try another road that bypasses Keynesian economics.  First, we need our President to smooth the racial potholes in the road he promised to lead us on, the road to broad, sunlit uplands.  This road less traveled will encourage open and earnest ideological discussions about our future; it will make all the difference.

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