aTypical Joe: a gay New Yorker living in the rural South
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Did you see it?
I fell asleep. Doug says I missed something spectacular.
The Obama Delusion
By Obama’s own moral standards, Obama fails. Americans “are tired of hearing promises made and 10-point plans proposed in the heat of a campaign only to have nothing change,” he recently said. Shortly thereafter he outlined an economic plan of at least 12 points that, among other things, would:
â€¢ Provide a $1,000 tax cut for most two-earner families ($500 for singles).
â€¢ Create a $4,000 refundable tuition tax credit for every year of college.
â€¢ Expand the child-care tax credit for people earning less than $50,000 and “double spending on quality after-school programs.”
â€¢ Enact an “energy plan” that would invest $150 billion in 10 years to create a “green energy sector.”
Whatever one thinks of these ideas, they’re standard goody-bag politics: something for everyone. They’re so similar to many Clinton proposals that her campaign put out a news release accusing Obama of plagiarizing. With existing budget deficits and the costs of Obama’s “universal health plan,” the odds of enacting his full package are slim.
A favorite Obama line is that he will tell “the American people not just what they want to hear but what we need to know.” Well, he hasn’t so far. Consider the retiring baby boomers. A truth-telling Obama might say: “Spending for retirees—mainly Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid—is already nearly half the federal budget. Unless we curb these rising costs, we will crush our children with higher taxes. Reflecting longer life expectancies, we should gradually raise the eligibility ages for these programs and trim benefits for wealthier retirees. Both Democrats and Republicans are to blame for inaction. Waiting longer will only worsen the problem.”
Instead, Obama pledges not to raise the retirement age and to “protect Social Security benefits for current and future beneficiaries.” This isn’t “change”; it’s sanctification of the status quo.
Obama: If not him, who? If not now, when?
None of the presidential candidates has proposed a policy response to the real racial problems facing our society: Many of our nation’s cities are as racially segregated as they were in the era of Jim Crow, many minority neighborhoods are crime-plagued and bereft of opportunities for gainful employment, and one in three black men between 20 and 29 is in prison, on parole or on probation.
Thompson Ford has an important book out, The Race Card: How Bluffing About Bias Makes Race Relations Worse, that argues that race relations, in our post-civil rights era, are more complex and contradictory than those of the unambiguously white supremacist past.
I said on the occasion of his OpEd and I ask again:
Looking for coded racism is tricky business; kind of like Bush’s war on terrorism—once we start looking we can find it anywhere. We ought to be careful.
I need to read the book to learn the nuance of the argument. I’ve seen the interview, read the first chapter and reviews and easily agree with what I understand of its central thesis. But it occurs to me that the Race Card can be flipped. We might reasonably ask why is Obama not addressing these very same racial issues that [Thompson Ford] describes in [his] piece.
Yes, I agree, no candidate “has proposed a policy response to the real racial problems facing our society.” By by that very same logic, shouldn’t it be Obama? Not solely because he is the black candidate—though he is—but because he has that absolutely terrific record in Illinois.
Even better, we know from his writings where he stands on so much of this. If he won’t tackle these issues in the relative safety of a primary fight, can we expect him to do it in the general election? And after he is elected, will he do it when hope turns to gritty Washington reality?
Why, in this vitally important presidential primary race, are we talking about the race card and not about issues of racial justice?
Now, I’m just not as swept up in hope as the rest of this nation. Call me cynical or call me whatever you want, but look at my blog in the last week and you’ll begin to understand why…
I’m mad as hell that not only did a Mississippi man, Kennedy Brewer, spend 15 years in prison for a crime he didn’t do, he was held in jail for several years after the DNA revealed his innocence as prosecutors decided whether to retry him. As if this wasn’t bad enough, the whole damned story was not news!
Does anyone want to hazard a guess as to the race of Mr. Kennedy Brewer?
Look at my post from last, evidence of malice. A 17 year-old Atlanta boy—again, want to guess his race???—in a case where the prosecutor did not believe the evidence justified a murder prosecution, is being tried as an adult. For murder. Why? His DA boss ordered it!
Now, I have been convinced by the evidence that there are indeed malicious unlawful convictions and that this is something that must be addressed in our criminal justice system. But I do not believe that is the sole cause for the gross disparity in the number of African Americans in our prisons.
I sit here writing from this rural Georgia community that is far more integrated than the Manhattan neighborhood I lived in for 25 years, in the South that has a rural black population unheard of in the North. I note that my black neighbors here voted for Obama in overwhelming numbers, and I ask, if he won’t raise these issues, if he won’t do something about it, who will? And if not now, is he just waiting until after he is elected?
Every person I admire supports him: Larry Lessig, Melissa Harris-Lacewell, Cory Booker, and pretty much every New York friend (some of whom have been uncharacteristically nasty towards me for my support of Hillary) to name just a very few.
But they can’t tell me how precisely this change is going to work. Obama’s going to get to Washington and face a corporate, bureaucratic, media and government establishment all enamored with change—but I’m guessing it’s change for someone else they all want and I will be interested to see what change for themselves they are willing to make.
I promise you my vote will be for Obama; he has my wholehearted support and all my hope. It looks to me like he’ll need it. Because the change I want, the change I need—good old equality and social justice—looks to me like it’s going to be just as hard to achieve tomorrow as it was to achieve yesterday.