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Friday, March 21, 2008

Prediction: Bad News for Obama, the End of Post-Racial Politics

Jack Lynch

William Faulkner would likely still vote for Obama, just on principle, but after the race issue speech on Tuesday, he'd probably caution, back as he did in Mississippi's segregationist days, to "go slow now." The potential backlash and prejudice against him may be reignited by the very words that in a less cautionary time would have transcended.

Harvard lawyers will support his contentions on American society, but will unemployed white steelworkers in Pittsburgh? Not likely. For the one certainty in economic hard times is the irrationality of the fear and loathing, and the opposition to the success of the minority worker and immigrants. Even the financial markets are the product of the struggle between ego and id, no less than six-pack Joe.

Having transcended race so eloquently for so long, and in trying to address it in a national conversation, he likely stirred old contradictions and the memory of old wounds and uncertainties, he fell back to racial identification and claims of a long historical discrimination – if the key lower class workers heard about it at all, it fell on not quite deaf ears, but closed minds and engendered their antipathy towards his cause, for their cause is now survival and looking back towards a common cultural identity in the face of a doubly dangerous world of globalization and terrorism.

As Obama himself knows, this is not even close to their cultural identity, nor is it the time for their complacency in their own possible demise as self sufficient citizens, as jobs fall away and homes deflate and bills go unpaid – they look to blame, at home and abroad.

Obama served, even beyond the dubious defense of Reverend Wright's hateful and nearly treacherous public speech, to stake out the old ground of the wronged by race and to kill off his transitional symbolic self, losing his bridge between races for some, to end up camped in the eviscerated politics of a birthright long deferred by race – he is now seen by those key elements as more committed to racial issues and realignment, rather than an acceptable placeholder towards that lofty place of character and acceptance, and one post racial human family, he expounds.

David he is not, nor has he smote the Goliath of race in America.

This may be where the goodness of the liberal nature ends wrecked against the shoals of a harder experience and reality. Hillary may overcome his eloquence with a promise of a chicken in every pot.

If so, it will not be a tragedy, but an opportunity to come back and do the work to bring that vision to fruition and set the stage for the next run or the next candidate that matches the opportunity with a better grounding in the still dark side of American racial life and that ultimate prize, not of the Presidency, but the valuation of all by character and work and intellectual capacity, rather than mere skin.

I detected a note of resignation in Obama that his recent upward arc was in danger and the end result might not be the Democratic nomination. It was confirmed by post speech interviews, he said that it had "…shaken me up a little bit and gotten me back into remembering that the odds of me getting elected have always been lower than some of the other conventional candidates."

Hopefully, that will not be the lesson he ultimately takes from his efforts, whatever their ultimate outcome; he offers too much hope to lose enthusiasm for his cause. At present, he may offer too little testing and seasoning to forge his imagined steel to that will. It is now still early morning in Democratic American politics, and a truly post racial society.

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