You're going to think this is so silly and unlike me, but I finally read the New Yorker article with the Obamas cartoonized on the cover...I know, two weeks late!, I've been kinda busy.
The reason why I say you're going to think this is silly is because reading the article inspired me to write about The Dark Knight, the only movie that has out-raised Obama's campaign this year. The reason why you're going to think this is unlike me is because I have literally been blown away by the article, titled "Making It: How Chicago shaped Obama" by Ryan Lizza, to the point that I am SERIOUSLY re-considering my candidate of choice. No lie.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm still in McCain's camp. I'm sure there are a lot of Black readers pissed at me, but they're probably not nearly as pissed as the college-educated, middle-to-upper class white readers I have. Real talk.
The only difference between now and before is that the odds for me voting for McCain in November are now 51-49 instead of the 55-45 they were sitting at for the last 14 months or so when I initially insisted to friends that McCain - at the time facing a tough Republican field - and Obama ("no way he's gonna beat Hillary") would in fact go head-to-head.
Anyway, the reason why the article made me think about The Dark Knight, which I saw for the second time last Friday, was because I have long felt that this country needs a Batman. A guy that looks presidential like Bruce Wayne yet kicks ass in a dark alley like Batman. A guy that takes the risks and makes the decisions no other man is willing to make when faced with a tough one.
Oddly enough, this election has given us two candidates who - regardless of age or physical fitness - share many experiences and qualities with the Cape Crusader. Bruce Wayne's family was affluent and established much like McCain's was in the Navy's leadership, but Wayne lost his father as a child (shot by a mugger) much like Obama when he was abandoned by his Kenyan dad.
While Batman Begins, the predecessor to The Dark Knight, showed us Wayne's transition from rich kid to self-righteous crime fighter, Faith of My Fathers shares McCain's transition from Naval Academy black sheep to Republican Party maverick and Dreams From My Father shares Obama's journey from a kid searching for identity to a Chicagoan looking to give his city (he was running for a State Senate seat) a better future.
For awhile though, I looked into McCain's life experiences - growing up the son and grandson of admirals, the Naval Academy, POW in Hanoi, his Congressional record, his bi-partisan efforts on major issues such as campaign finance reform and immigration - and felt he best embodied the true qualities of Batman. I mean the family legacy (Navy/Wayne Enterprises), the battle to find his true character (Vietnam/Gotham) and his willingness to work with others (Democrats/Commissioner Gordon) all matched up.
On the other hand, while Obama shares many qualities with Bruce Wayne's alter ego, he seemed to have a little too much Clark Kent in him as well. The odd entry into American society (Indonesia/Krypton), the naivete, the woman he's so dependent on (Michelle/Lois Lane), the glaring weakness (experience/Kryponite). It came as no surprise to me that many of my friends have Superman-like hopes for what an Obama presidency can do for this country. They wear his O on their t-shirts and bumpers like a Superman S.
As indestructible as a diamond and as consistent as a circle.
But then I saw The Dark Knight for a second time and read Lizza's article and it's like I had an awakening and I somehow understood both Batman and Obama for the first time. And that's a lot considering how much I've read up on both the character and the candidate over the years.
I know you're going to be upset with me, but I'm not going to recap movie or the article for a very specific reason: the movie is too incredible to not see it (I'm talking top three action movies in the last 20 years with the first Matrix and Bourne Ultimatum) and the article is too informative to not read it (easily the best article in the New Yorker's election coverage).
And, honestly, this election is too important for you to take my word for it.
Instead, I'll just end with a few more words about how I may have been wrong about Obama all along. There's a part toward the end of the article where Lizza writes the following:
"Another transition from primary to general election is now under way for Obama, and it is causing him a similar set of problems, all of which stem from a realization among his supporters that superheroes don't become President; politicians do."
"Judging by the reaction to Obama's most recent decisions - his willingness to support legislation to modify the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, his rightward shift on interpreting the Second Amendment, his decision to "refine" his Iraq policies - some voters will be crushed by this realization and others will be relieved."
Count me in the camp of those relieved.
For months now, I have listened as friend after friend have lauded Obama's charisma and oratory skills and "look and feel" as if he were auditioning for a role in a Hollywood flick where everything must go perfectly. Initially, I hadn't been able to look outside of these interpretations of Obama as a person because, quite frankly, that flick has become an Oscar-worthy, blockbuster hit in the last 6 months...until recently when I started seeing the kinds of calculated decisions that only a man ready for the presidency are capable of making. Some people call it flip-flopping, I call it politicking.
Meanwhile, McCain has been running a campaign a lot like a typical movie studio looking to parlay on interest in a certain mix of conservatism and compassion. He's using the Spielberg/Carville approach in many regards. It's like trying to do another Mission Impossible movie...we've seen it all before and, like Tom Cruise, we're ready for something new. But, here I am, a fan of Tom Cruise. I liked Mission Impossible III. I don't think the couch incident ruined him anymore than McCain's siding with Bush on Iraq over the years. Only marginally.
What really hit me though, while watching The Dark Knight and reading "Making It", was that Obama may not be as inexperienced and unprepared and clean as I once considered him. Underneath those white gloves are some hard knuckles, it seems.
True, McCain has shown a level of vigor and grit needed to succeed in our Gotham that is Washington, but - as The Dark Knight proves - there's something to be gained from having two sides of a coin as Obama does: the change agent and the Chicago bull.
So maybe Obama is capable of being our dark knight and not just our knight in shining armor. I'm not talking Two Face, I'm talking two ways to get to the same odds.
That's about where I'm headed.
I just hope McCain doesn't go the way of Heath Ledger's Joker...a great adversary in a movie where everyone showed up for the other guy.
Trying to increase the rolls of black Republicans is an uphill battle when Barack Obama is the opposing party's standard-bearer.y Black Republicans are already considered a
contradiction in terms in the African-American community. With the
arrival of Barack Obama as the presumptive Democratic presidential
nominee, selling black voters on the GOP has become exponentially more
That isn't keeping a small group of vociferous conservative blacks from trying. They argue that, historically, the GOP is the true home of African-Americans. They posit an unbroken line of civil-rights victories from Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation to George W. Bush's Leave No Child Behind initiative, and they object to the Democratic Party's claim to the mantle.
"The Democrat Party has hijacked the civil-rights record of the Republican Party," said Frances Rice, chairwoman of the National Black Republican Association, which boasts 1,000 members in 48 states. "The Democratic Party is the party of slavery, secession, segregation, and now--socialism."
The nimble historical hopscotch behind that claim irks Democratic activists and historians alike, but there's enough truth in it to keep a parlor argument going late into the night. So far, the African-American community has not bought into the story line. President Bush captured only 11 percent of the black vote in the 2004 election, and no Republican African-American lawmakers are serving in Congress.
"My job is difficult whether Barack Obama is standing there or not," said Michael Steele, chairman of GOPAC, the political action committee charged with electing Republicans to state and local offices. Steele was the first African-American lieutenant governor of Maryland and lost a 2006 U.S. Senate bid to Democrat Ben Cardin. He knows well the challenges facing black Republicans, both as candidates and citizens.
"The reality becomes very difficult when the biases toward all things black-Republican are so stark, so personal," Steele said. "People just don't even give you credit for anything."
Shamed Dogan knows these biases firsthand. He is a black Republican campaigning for state representative in Missouri's 88th district. "I tell people I'm running as a Republican and they give me 'The Look'--like they are seeing a unicorn," Dogan said. "If they talked to me for five minutes, they would realize I'm for the betterment of all people, including African-Americans."
To a man--and woman--these black Republicans wouldn't dream of voting for Obama for reasons of racial solidarity. "We should follow the admonition of Martin Luther King," Rice said. "We should judge people on the content of their character and not the color of their skin.... We do not need a socialist running our country."
African-American Republicans fond-ly recall the origins of the Grand Old Party, which held its first official meeting in 1854 in Jackson, Mich. Its creators were fierce abolitionists who favored government giveaways of land to settlers in the West. Their first presidential candidate was John C. Fremont, whose 1856 campaign motto read: "Free soil, free labor, free speech, free men, Fremont."
Fremont lost as a third-party candidate in a system dominated at the time by the Democrats and the Whigs, but he helped establish a party that successfully delivered Abraham Lincoln to the White House in 1860. When Southern states seceded in 1860 and 1861, their Democratic representatives in Congress went with them.
After the Civil War, those Southern Democrats returned to Congress and voted against efforts by the then-majority Republicans to pass the 14th and 15th amendments to the Constitution to grant freed slaves U.S. citizenship and full voting rights, respectively. Historians agree: This was largely a group of sullen Southern sympathizers disdainful of Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation and the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery. They did all they could to subjugate blacks during Reconstruction and supported local Jim Crow laws that disenfranchised blacks in the former Confederate states for the next century.
"The Democrats [who were] revived in the wake of the Civil War [belonged to] a largely Southern, white-supremacist party," said Yale history professor David Blight.
Not all of the bigotry came from below the Mason-Dixon line. "The Almighty has made the black man inferior, sir," said Rep. Fernando Wood, D-N.Y., in 1865. "By no legislation, by no military power, can you wipe out this distinction."
The so-called radical Republicans battled Democratic President Andrew Johnson and handed him 15 veto overrides, including the Civil Rights Act of 1866 and the Reconstruction Act of 1867.
Republicans remained staunchly pro-civil rights into the 1870s with the help of GOP President Ulysses S. Grant. Together they saw the adoption of the Force Act of 1871 to provide federal oversight of congressional elections, the Ku Klux Klan Act of 1871 to protect blacks from the racial vigilantes, and the Civil Rights Act of 1875. The latter, never fully enforced and ultimately declared unconstitutional in 1883, called for open access to inns, public transportation, and theaters for all races.
Here the litany of pro-black GOP policies stops until passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 with the instrumental support of Sen. Everett Dirksen, R-Ill. Not to be overlooked in the effort was the lobbying of Democratic President Lyndon Johnson and Senate Democrats, who wooed Dirksen relentlessly.
"Dirksen did help make the 1964 act possible," said Senate Associate Historian Donald Ritchie. "LBJ made sure Dirksen was on board, front and center," and he was willing to let the senior Republican senator take a large share of the credit in order to close the deal. It worked. The bill passed, and Dirksen appeared on the cover of Time magazine in June 1964.
Last on the checklist for black Republicans is the creation of affirmative action by Assistant Labor Secretary Art Fletcher in 1970 during the Nixon administration. The program, derived from an earlier Johnson administration plan, helped guarantee equal access for women and minorities to public- and private-sector jobs. "We created it," Steele said, "Democrats bastardized it" by letting it become a quota system.
Critics of the rosy recitation of GOP civil-rights accomplishments say the historical take is selective at best and misleading at worst. "Any use of the 'party of Lincoln' rhetoric by the current Republican Party is, frankly, an egregious twisting of history," Blight said. He explains that the original GOP underwent drastic changes from the 1870s into the early 20th century. "They became the party of Big Business interests, imperial expansionism, and ultimately turned their backs decisively on their more egalitarian origins in the Civil War era," Blight said.
The first turning point came during the Great Depression. Until the economic collapse in 1929, most African-Americans voted Republican--if they could vote at all. But blacks began to shift allegiance as President Roosevelt's progressive New Deal created jobs. FDR won 23 percent of the black vote in 1932, a figure that grew to 71 percent in 1936 and stayed high during World War II. President Truman, who ordered the desegregation of the military and aggressively investigated several high-profile lynchings, won 65 percent of the black vote in 1948.
Presidential candidate John F. Kennedy re-established a strong Democratic relationship with the black community through a phone call to Coretta Scott King in 1960, expressing his concern about the incarceration of her husband in the Birmingham, Ala., jail, and subsequent calls for his release. The overture was enough to prompt Martin Luther King Sr., "Daddy King," to publicly renounce the Republican Party and support Kennedy. JFK won the election with the help of 71 percent of black voters.
"What you saw in 1958 to 1964 was more Democratic engagement in the civil-rights movement," said Julianne Malveaux, president of Bennett College for Women in Greensboro, N.C. Although key Republicans ultimately supported the landmark legislation, it was a Democratic Congress and president that made the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act law, Blight said.
President Johnson garnered an estimated 100 percent of the black vote in 1964 but famously remarked at the time that he feared that Democratic support for civil-rights legislation would cause the party to "lose the South for a generation." It was a historic understatement. Sen. Strom Thurmond of South Carolina began the exodus in 1964 by joining the GOP in protest. In 1968, Republican presidential candidate Richard Nixon seized the opportunity to peel off many more disaffected white Democrats with the "Southern strategy" that equated the GOP with "law and order" and "states' rights"--widely regarded as code words for a conservative backlash against civil-rights protections.
The tactic helped both Nixon and Ronald Reagan win the White House, and it became a staple of modern GOP presidential politics. "Republicans have been more likely to use race as a proxy to signal to [white] people--we've got your backs," Malveaux said.
Steele bitterly regrets the move by his party. "It was a dumb strategy," he said. "It alienated a partner. African-Americans and the GOP had been historically linked since day one."
Black Republicans say that a lot in the conservative Goldwater/Reagan doctrine strikes chords within the larger African-American community--particularly the admonition to self-sufficiency and frustrations with the welfare system that evolved from the Johnson administration's War on Poverty.
"Conservatism made sense to me," said Walter Boyd, a bank teller who works in Northern Virginia and moonlights as manager at a popular nightclub in Maryland. "When you see the [government] policies for poor people, I think these programs made them more dependent than independent," he says. "I found it deplorable, year after year."
Dogan agrees. "We need to be guardians of the poorest among us. We need to help those who can't help themselves--the disabled and children. I don't want that safety net to become a trap."
California businessman and anti-affirmative-action lightning rod Ward Connerly also grew up steeped in the self-sufficiency mantra. "I was raised by my grandmother," he says. "[She] beat into me the notion that nobody is going to give you anything in life--you have to earn it."
Black Republicans laud welfare reform, which congressional conservatives pushed in 1994 and President Clinton ultimately signed into law in 1996. The new system dispensed with open-ended entitlements in favor of capped block grants to states. It also required welfare recipients to enter job-training programs, mandated that states boost child-support enforcement, and limited individual benefits to five years, total. Within three years of enactment, 4.7 million Americans moved off the welfare rolls, and by 2006, caseloads declined 59 percent, according to the Health and Human Services Department.
"We're not against government programs," Steele said. "They need to be suited to the task, not wasteful; and when they've served their purpose, get rid of them."
While shrinking the government is a staple of conservative thought, the starve-the-beast rallying cry of the GOP may also quietly alienate the black community, Blight says. The federal government ended slavery, gave African-Americans the vote, and promoted civil rights in the 1860s and 1960s. "If you don't believe in government, you're not going to get many black people to vote for you," he said.
In 2005, the Republican National Committee made a concerted effort to woo back at least a small percentage of the black vote. Then-RNC Chairman Ken Mehlman appeared before the NAACP convention in Milwaukee and offered a striking apology for the Southern strategy. "Some Republicans gave up on winning the African-American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit from racial polarization," Mehlman said. "I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong."
The contrition strategy failed. Blacks voted 89 percent Democratic in the 2006 elections that cost the GOP control of Congress. Distrust of the modern GOP still dominates in the African-American community, and few in it appear willing to countenance black- (or white-) Republican efforts to paint the party in a softer racial light.
"They never marched with Dr. King," said the Rev. Timothy McDonald, senior pastor of the First Iconium Baptist Church of Atlanta. "They weren't there. They couldn't spell 'civil rights.' '"
Meanwhile, black approval ratings for Obama have soared to 89 percent. "It's the most exciting campaign that's ever existed in the African-American community," McDonald said.
By: Randy Barrett
Recently returned to DC from a roadtrip down South with Althea. Here are the highlights:
B&B in Charleston, SC.
Rainbow Row, the most famous street in Charleston, where all the multi-million dollar homes are colored in wonderful pastel blues, pinks and yellows.
Awesome double rainbow I caught walking along the Battery before heading over to Jestine's for dinner.
Cooper River Bridge, one of the coolest bridges in the entire country if you ask me.
Middleton Place, one of the historic plantations in Charleston.
Stone Mountain outside of Atlanta, Ga.
The Waterfall in Pisgah National Forest outside of Asheville, NC.
Sliding Rock, also outside of Asheville, NC.
Furman Univ. Clock Tower, Greenville, SC.
Falls Park in Downtown Greenville.
The Gaffney (SC) Peach.
Some of you may have already read this a week or so ago, but I wanted to make sure you all saw it because I think it's a very good contribution to the discourse about Obama and Rev. Jackson.
NAJEE ALI: An open letter to Rev. Jesse Jackson, Sr.
*Rev Jackson, your vulgar tirade caught on tape by Fox News where you said you wanted to cut Barack Obama's nuts off and accusing him of talking down to Black folks by giving moral lectures at churches is the last straw for me and a growing number of African Americans who are outraged at your comments.
There are many Blacks across the nation, myself included, who are appreciative for the work and contributions you have made in your civil rights career. But at this point, you're hurting Black America and Obama.
In September 2007 it was clear that you were frustrated by Obama, when you stated in an interview in South Carolina that Obama needs to stop acting white, because you felt he was not engaged in the Jena 6 movement enough to your liking.
Rev Jackson your continued verbal attacks on Obama are unwarranted it's as if you're jealous that Obama has eclipsed you and both your campaigns for the Democratic nomination by actually preparing to win it as the 2008 presumptive nominee.
For years you have been criticized as an ambulance chaser and opportunist. Many of Dr. King's insiders and aides say that King did not trust you. 40 years ago in Memphis as King lay dying from an assassin's bullet your first thought and action was to smear your shirt with Dr. King's blood.
You then proceeded to appear in Chicago the next day on several news programs wearing the same shirt you deliberately smeared with his blood as if you were the heir of King's movement. Obama's recent comments about Black fathers not abandoning their children and accepting moral responsibility in our lives is a lesson you apparently needed to learn when you were younger. If you had, it may not have caused you to cheat on your wife and father a child out of wedlock with a former staffer.
Maybe that's what really bothered you about Obama's message to the church that Black fathers should be responsible for their children; you certainly haven't been.
Living in Los Angeles I have watched your ten year old daughter Ashley Laverne Jackson grow up. Over the years I have had the pleasure to spend several holidays with your daughter including Christmas, her birthday parties and other milestones in her life. I will never turn my back on Ashley her mom and their family. It's about providing friendship, support and love to them while you have been missing in action.
Your daughter has never traveled or taken a trip with you, you have an annual birthday party in Beverly Hills every year where your entire family is welcome but your youngest child has only attended it once. She has had very little contact with her siblings and has never even met her big brother Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr, who apparently doesn't want anything to do with her. And allegedly (I believe it to be true ), he was the one to leak the scandal to the media concerning your affair. Now don't get me wrong, Obama is not above reproach. He is a politician and is fair game to be fairly criticized by you or anyone else. But to personally attack Obama is crossing the line. Obama is not talking down to Black people; he wants you and other dead beat dads to spend time and care for your children properly. The destruction of the Black family and absentee fathers is a major problem in our community.
It's a problem that King spoke out and fought against. 40 years after King's murder I can see why King didn't trust you. If you can't and won't sincerely help Obama in this historic run then at least stop attacking him. Listen to Obama's message of being a responsible father and start taking care of your daughter Ashley.