As I look down upon American society…literally and figuratively… from my perch up here in Canada, I must admit that it’s politics and political figures fascinates me to some extent. The higher up the political ladder one goes, its becomes more and more like following a t.v. reality show, where as we know, “style over substance” is the premise of all the various plots. The continuing drama surrounding U.S. presidential politics is the highest stage where this phenomenon plays itself out. Where “American Idol” meets “America’s Top Model”, to create figuratively, “A perfect storm”.
What I had found most fascinating about the 2008 U.S. presidential election but for whatever reason didn’t feel moved to comment on at the time, was the treatment that Sarah Palin received from the so-called “mainstream media”, made up primarily of the so-called “liberal” participants. For me, it was an intriguing contrast when compared with the A-list starlike adulation, Manchurian candidate Obama received. Maybe because the difference was so blatant I didn’t feel the need to state the obvious… and not surprisingly a year later, it still continues.
Obama has always been the media’s “guy”. They created, nurtured, directed, marketed and protected, “The Obama Brand”. When he first popped up on the national scene during the 2004 Democratic convention, I remember saying to myself, after listening to the t.v. commentators heaping praise on his speech, that this dude is a media creation. However, let me be clear: Barack Obama was and is no mindless stooge. As a political strategist, the man is brilliant. He used them also for his political advantage. I saw during the 2008 campaign how, depending on the audience he was catering to, he would mesmerize them with conflicting speeches… and the mainstream media would fall all over themselves saying how inspiring he was, while never calling him out on his inconsistencies. Sure, the right-wing zealots over at Fox News like Sean Hannity and radio talkshow personalities, like Rush Limbaugh would rail against him, but outside of their diehard supporters, their rantings fell on deaf ears. No-one took them seriously… especially the majority of those within the Republican Party itself, much less the majority of Americans as was proven at the end of the election.
Obama’s greatest political feat was not winning the Presidential election against John McCain. That was a given. Whoever won the Democratic nomination was going to be the next President of the United States of America. Obama’s greatest political triumph was defeating the Clinton machine, (in February 2008 I wrote this post predicting that he would beat her). So after he won and Hillary got onboard “The Obama Train”, it was pretty much smooth sailing for the Obama campaign. Not only did he have the overwhelming majority of Democratic base in his corner, but more importantly, the Independents, primarily moderate conservatives, were supporting him.
All was well until… “uh-oh!”… John McCain picked a nationally unknown female Alaskan Governor, a Sarah Palin, as his running mate. Although everyone was lambasting McCain on this choice, I saw it as a clever political move on his part. I still didn’t think he would win, but it was a choice he needed to make to put some life… to give his sinking campaign a boost… which it did! For a time at least. He desperately needed someone to galvanize the Republican base, especially the social conservatives. McCain is a moderate. He therefore appealed primarily to moderate Republicans and Independent conservatives, so having Joe Lieberman as a running mate would not benefit him much, plus it would alienate him even further from the more right-wing segment of the Republican base. There was no way he was going to get the Black vote, so asking Colin Powell would be a waste, plus there were already indications that Powell was going to support Obama. Mitt Romney’s religious beliefs would further alienate the more right-wing segment of the Republican base, so who was really left?
Well as the saying goes: “desperate times call for desperate measures”. By choosing Sarah Palin, the McCain campaign hoped to solidify the support of the more right-wing elements of the Party, such as the social conservatives; gain the support of White middle and upper class women who felt betrayed by the Hillary loss; and win over the “Walmart” constituents, who were primarily conservatives, if not necessarily Republicans, but weren’t being inspired enough by the campaign to vote for John McCain. Most importantly however… and I don’t know if during the vetting process of Sarah Palin they took this into consideration… she was very photogenic! This added greatly to her appeal. Ever since the Kennedy-Nixon television debate in 1960, it is a given that within Presidential campaigns, being “camera friendly” is more important to getting elected, than any policy position a candidate may have!
So it was very interesting observing how, as the “Palin phenomenon” took hold and gained momentum, the mainstream media, although rattled in the beginning, got it’s “shit together” to make sure that this upstart wouldn’t derail their guy. Did they really believe that Palin could seriously spark enough excitement into the McCain campaign to pull off the upset? I doubt it… but they weren’t going to take the chance! In the beginning no one gave the relatively unknown junior Black Senator from Illinois a chance against the Clinton machine… and look what happened! The lesson was learnt:
“Never underestimate your opponent!”
I have been nominally paying attention to all the various reactions of the passage of Proposition 8 in California regarding the issue of gay marriage. This controversy has recently become even more heated when it was announced that President-Elect Obama has invited Rev. Rick Warren, a staunch anti-gay marriage proponent of the Proposition, to give the inaugural invocation. From all that I have heard and read, I have a few thoughts I would like to share:
- I am under the impression that in a democracy (or a so-called democracy), one is allowed to have, express and advocate for ones opinion. .. within certain boundaries of-course. One of the ways that one can express their opinion is at the ballot box and if a democratic society creates a process by which the majority opinion will be the premise of a law, then so be it. However, if you hold strongly that it is an unjust law, then you have the opportunity and I would also add the moral obligation, to work to overturn that law through various strategies, with the assistance of those who hold the same view. The efforts of William Wilberforce, Gandhi, Martin Luther King and even the Quebec separatists here in Canada come to mind.
- I have never, never understood why in a democratic society, if I don’t hold the same opinion as you, why… at best I should be ridiculed or at worst demonized for expressing my beliefs!? Wasn’t it for the right to express my opinion that my ancestors… in North America, in the Caribbean and in the motherland of Africa… struggled and sacrificed so much, including their lives!? What therefore makes you feel entitled or gives you permission to devalue me as a human being because I don’t think as you do!?
- Then I’m hearing this notion that because the majority of Black people in California voted for Proposition 8, they are collectively to blame for the ban on gay marriage… and are therefore hate-mongers. I urge you to read these articles in The Black Agenda Report and The Black Sentinel on this allegation. They address it much better than I ever could.
Maybe it’s because I live in Canada, where the issue of gay marriage is no longer a controversial issue, that I don’t understand all the name-calling and demonizing from both sides of this issue south of the border. Canadians as a whole, rightly or wrongly, for better or worse, don’t get twisted and go way over the top on issues anyway. The Supreme Court of Canada found that it was unconstitutional for governments not to recognize gay marriages, so laws were changed and that was that. I remember at the time that some Christian leaders asked their members to write letters and submit petitions to their Members of Parliament to voice their disagreement, but I don’t remember any bitterness and/or nastiness from either sides of this issue. Don’t get me wrong, Canada is far from perfect and we have our own issues around racism, sexism and homophobia… but you would find more passion around the issue of which hockey team you support than around gay rights.
I also read that Rev. Joseph Lowery, an outspoken advocate for gay rights and marriage, has been invited by the President-Elect to do the inaugural benediction. So it appears that Obama is indeed a “uniter”.
From all that I have read, the most enlightening comment came from Marc responding to this post at The Kitchen Table:
Brotherpeacemaker dropped an interesting post on President-elect Obama’s overtures to his former political foes entitled: “Forgiveness In The New Age Of Political Bipartisanship”.
His thought-provoking article inspired this comment from me:
There is no surprise on my part on the current policy positions and appointments of President-elect Obama. “There is none so blind as he who will not see”… and during Obama’s 2 year presidential campaign, most people… especially African-Americans… turned a “blind eye” and a “deaf ear” to whom President-elect Obama was truly courting and speaking to in his bid to become President. He spoke loudly and clearly to the political and economic establishment to reassure them that they had nothing to fear from him, regardless of all his beating the empty rhetorical drum about being a “candidate of change”. He made certain that they understood that he would be their “man friday” if elected to the White House and would do everything in his power to protect their interests (as we saw in his support for the bailout of the financial institutions and his current support of a bailout for the auto industry). I give him a lot of credit as a politicain… the “old school” political establishment, especially the Clintons… under-estimated his political savy, skills and strategy during the campaign. Once he won the demoncratic nomination though, there was no doubt that it was all over for the McCain and the republicans.
From his first appointment of Rahm Emanuel as his chief of staff, which wasn’t really a surprise if you ever listened/read his policy positions, it confirmed that he was going to rule from “right” of the political centre. So it is really no surprise that he has appointed former Clintonistas… centrists and right of centre policy honks to his cabinet and inner circle of advisers. There is no doubt about their qualifications (and more importantly, their commitment) to substantively maintain the current status quo.
So Obamas overtures to Clinton, whom he had refered to as “Bush-light” during the democratic campaign; to McCain, whom he had warned if elected would represent a third term of Bush policies; and to Joe Lieberman, the most right wing Democratic in the party, can be understood as not all that surprising if seen in the same vein. They all play and compete in the same sandbox like school children… so at the end of the day, regardless of what is done and/or said among them… all is forgiven and forgotten…. everyone shakes hands and are friends again the next day.
Except in the case of Rev. Wright. He refused to play “nice” in the sandbox with the others. He refused to jump on the train and get swept away on the “magical mystery tour”. He refused to sell his soul for the proverbial 30 pieces of silver and betray the truth. He refused to play by the rules of the sandbox… like Clinton, McCain, Lieberman, Obama and even Bush… so for Rev Wright there is no forgiveness in Obama’s new age of political enlightenment. In Obama’s world, Rev Wright is the “greatest political devil”.
There are excellent and insightful articles over at Black Agenda Report about the inner workings Obama and the political establishment for those interested in devlving a little deeper… or just being exposed to another point of view.
November 6th, 2008.
“In the name of God, the Compassionate, the Merciful
Mr. Barack Obama
President-elect of the United States of America
I congratulate you on having gained the majority of the votes of those who took part in the election. As you know, the chances that God gives to his subjects pass swiftly. They can be used for the perfection of humanity and to the benefit of nations or, God forbid, to the detriment of nations.
I hope you will choose to honor the real interests of people and justice and equity over the insatiable appetites of the selfish minority. Use this chance to serve to the extent you can. And leave a good name behind for yourself.
People expect an immediate and clear response to the pressure for fundamental change in the American government’s policies, both foreign and domestic. This is the desire of all the world’s nations and of the American nation as well, and it should be the objective and basis of all your future government’s programs and actions.
On the one hand, the American nation, which has spiritual inclinations, expects your government to focus its energy and will on serving the people; dealing with the current economic crisis; restoring the country’s standing, morale and hope; eradicating poverty and discrimination; and renewing respect for individuals, their safety and their rights. It also expects policies that will strengthen the foundations of the family — part of the teachings of the holy prophets, who are also revered in America.
On the other hand, the nations of the world expect an end to policies based on warmongering, invasion, bullying, trickery, the humiliation of other countries by the imposition of biased and unfair requirements, and a diplomatic approach that has bred hatred for America’s leaders and undermined respect for its people. They want to see actions based on justice, respect for the rights of human beings and nations, friendship and non-intervention in the affairs of others. They want the American government to keep its interventions within its own country’s borders.
In the sensitive Middle East region, in particular, the expectation is that the unjust actions of the past 60 years will give way to a policy encouraging full rights for all nations, especially the oppressed nations of Palestine, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The great civilization-building and justice-seeking nation of Iran would welcome major, fair and real changes, in policies and actions, especially in this region.
If steps are taken in the path of righteousness, toward the goal of carrying out the teachings of the holy prophets, it is hoped that almighty God will help and that the enormous damage done in the past will be somewhat diminished.
I ask the high God to grant all of humanity and all nations health and happiness, honor and prosperity, and to grant rulers and officials the ability to learn from the past and to use every chance to serve, to spread love and kindness, to eradicate oppression, to do justice and to follow the holy guidelines.”
Mahmoud Ahmadinejad President of the Islamic Republic of Iran.
Jürgen Gansel, a party leader and an elected lawmaker in the German state of Saxony, blamed Obama’s victory on “the American alliance of Jews and Negroes.”
In Poland Artur Górski, a legislator from the Law and Justice party, called Obama “the black messiah of the new Left” and a “crypto-communist” who would undoubtedly prove a “disaster.” He added: “Al-Qaeda is rubbing their hands with glee that the new president wants peace, not war.”
“This marks the end of the white man’s civilization,” he said. “America will soon pay a high price for this quirk of democracy.”
Yesterday was indeed a historic day. The first man of African descent to become the president of today’s most powerful nation on earth! Although I don’t live in America, even I was walking around the office today with my chest a little further out than normal, jeering my white collegues that it’s a “new day” and “go get me a coffee whitey!” lol! I noticed this morning as I watched the news, that my 14 month old son would stop and become mesmorised by clips of Obama during his victory speech. I can only hope that in years to come when he becomes politically and socially aware, the significance of this moment will be truly historical in that Obama was the first… and not the first and only Black president of the United States of America!
I spent time surfing the Afrosphere and read a number of commentaries on what others felt/thought of Obama’s victory. Let me share these articles from different perspectives which I found of interest:
- Two articles from the African Executive: Obama Presidency: What Africa Should Do and Why America Needs Barack Obama
- From Booker Rising: My Conservative Aunt: “Obama Has Bastardized Dr. King’s Dream”
- A letter from my sister Sonskystar: A Letter to Black Barack Obama Supporters
- Regular Brotha throws down with: Random thoughts on a Historic Moment!
- Serious satire and thought-provoking reality from Black Agenda Report with: Morning in Obamerica: Change, Chane Change? and The Obama ’08 Phenomenon: What Have We Learned?
There were two major events in Stockholm last where Americans and Swedes came together to watch the US Presidential Election results come in. Combined there were well over 1,000 people in attendance.
Other than Barack Obama’s historic and decisive victory, here are the highlights from the Democrats Abroad Sweden Election Watch Party at the Scandic Anglais Hotel in Stockholm (9pm-6am) organized by Zebra STHLM Communication and moderated by Emalee Mandl and Annika Jankell ; and the American Chamber of Commerce/US Embassy Election Breakfast at the Hilton Slussen (4.30am-8am).
Sara Dawn Finer @ sound check.
Manuel Knight, psychologist and former Special Forces soldier in Desert Storm fires up the crowd.
Sara on why this US Election was important for her.
Jessica Folcker performs.
The legendary Cyndee Peters did not fail to please.
Swedish Idol contestant Lou Lou LaMotte performed.