Thursday, January 29, 2009

Wrong Again Mark!

Mark Davis is wrong. He very often is.

Mark Davis is a columnist with the Dallas Morning News and a local conservative radio talk show host. His views are not just conservative in that they present an alternative oppositional view. And I don't believe that he is wrong, simply because he doesn't think like me. Its that his viewpoints are often so - well - illogical. And often insulting. There seems to be this idea that there is a 'mainstream' point of view that is often Republican (not necessarily conservative), and Anglo-Saxon in its orientation and which disregards the validity and the reality of life experiences that are not his own. So that often leads to generalizations that are indefensible on their face.

Take, for instance, a current offering, in which he suggests that the Inauguration of Barack Obama was at least as political as it was historical (duh!). No problem there.

Then he makes a few assertions that undermine what could have been a fairly benign, but plausible perspective on how this presidency is more about the ascendency of an anti-Bush fervor, so much so that the country was willing to elect a black man to sweep Republicans out of the White House. I don't believe that, but I could see how one could think it.

But Davis goes off on the deep end: "I met a man from the same part of rural North Carolina as my father. When I was born, they would not have been able to drink from the same water fountain. While I always expected to see a black president, he never did."

Are you kidding me?!

I white man from roots in North Carolina, 'always expected to see a black president'? Davis had much more faith in this country than the most staunch patriot, black or white. No one I know 'always' expected to see this! No matter how liberal! It became cliche' throughout the period between November 4 of last year, to this January 20 to say, '...not in my lifetime!' What about America's treatment of African-Americans, their place in society and electoral politics (Democratic, Republican or Independent, for that matter), made him think that he would live to see. Obama is the first black president, not the first qualified to run.

The incredulity of his argument doesn't end there.

"While the obliteration of a racial barrier is always good, the inauguration love-fest was first about politics. If you doubt this, imagine how the crowd, and the coverage, would have differed starkly if our first black president had been a Republican.

"A President Michael Steele or President J.C. Watts would have been pilloried in black America and viewed as some kind of space alien by the media.

"There would have been no tidal wave of joyous blacks pouring onto the Mall to celebrate the milestone. There would have been no breathless CNN analysis suggesting that the new president makes us 'look like America again.'

"Barack Obama's blackness makes his ascendancy historic. But it is his politics that ignite the celebrations. Gather a mixture of jubilant inauguration attendees and worshipful TV talking heads; ask them about the most historic black achievements before Jan. 20, 2009, namely the service of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Instructive silence will follow.

"Their remarkable accomplishments are muted because they are guilty of the sin of rejecting liberalism. Colin Powell, the first African-American secretary of state, has shed his scarlet letter by shedding conservatism. Now that he is a Bush critic, and an Obama voter, he is black again.

There is something for all Americans to celebrate on this occasion. But truth requires the acknowledgment that much of the celebration was very conditional."

The idea that Black people wouldn't have been able to celebrate just any black president is absolutely correct. But that is true of a Democrat or a Republican. People act as if Obama was the first African-American to ever run for president. Doesn't anyone remember Shirley Chisholm? Carol Mosely Braun? Jesse Jackson? Al Sharpton? Alan Keyes?

Davis posits an argument which suggests that it was politics that excited the African-American population, and on that score he is entirely right! Inclusive politics. In other words Obama, as others before him, was allowed to run as a serious candidate. If former Massachussets, Leiutenant Governor Michael Steele was a plausible candidate for the Republican nomination, then why didn't Republicans put up the money for him to run? The Republican Convention was the perfect time to showcase the diversity of African-American participation in the party platform - three, count 'em, THREE speakers of ebony hue, graced the state at their convention! Perhaps looking like America again, means a politics not predominated by older white males (although, the again part is bit of a reach).

Generally speaking Republicans are galled that African-Americans stick with Democrats after having been 'duped' so many years when it comes to their interests. Kinda like the way right-to-life supporters, and fiscal conservatives have found themselves 'played' by their party when it comes to their issues. Maybe African-Americans are sophisticated enough to be able to choose politically how they get used, understanding that in some sense none of us get all we want out of a political process.

Usually when people try to make the argument that Davis is trying to make, they trot out the warmed over examples of Colin Powell and Dr. Condoleeza Rice (whom I really think voted for Obama!). They don't get it! Black people would have voted for Colin Powell. His story, his service are compelling. They would have voted for him over against Barack Obama had he been nominated. If Hillary Clinton had gotten the Democratic nomination and Condoleeza Rice the Republican nomination, I don't know, given the twists in the economy and the war, if she would have won, but among African-Americans, it would have been a contest. Dr. Rice's problem was she was too closely identified with the Bush Administration, not that she was Republican.

And no, in general Black people are not fond of Clarence Thomas! He is viewed, rightly or wrongly, as one who has distanced himself from the experience of his people while benefitting from and denying the significance of the gains made both legislatively and judicially that helped get him where he is. It has almost nothing to do with him being Republican. And no, black people were never impressed with J.C. Watts. Watts articulately presents issues that tend to run counter to the aspirations of the African-American populace. Sorry, African-Americans have the right to have issues that are important to them, just as the gun lobby does.

Yes, there are black people who voted for Obama because he was black (just as, I might add, there have been white people who have voted for candidates simply because they were white).
But many more voted for him because he was qualified and able to reach a diverse constituency with a message that resonated with them all. His story was meaningful and spoke to the dreams and aspirations of a majority of the country, especially against the backdrop of perceived national failure and near economic collapse.

He was deemed qualified because of his background as a community organizer, Columbia Universty graduate, constitutional law professor, Harvard Law School graduate and president of the Harvard Law Review. He was elected to his state's legislature and senate bodies. And he won the election to the Senate of the United States from that same state.

He ran the gauntlet of the Democratic Primary and raised more money (and yes spent more), than virtually any other presidential candidate in history and defeated probably one of the most effective political machines in the history of American politics (the Clintons). And he showed himself a viable alternative when viewed against the duly nominated Republican Party candidate. Asking that he prove himself more qualified is asking a little much, don't you think?

He is not president because he is black. And the country is not just excited because he is a Democrat. All arguments to the contrary are insulting and wrong.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"The results are in.....2.5 million in attendance for the inauguration and
only 14 missed work"!!!