In the aftermath of the glow over President Elect Obama’s win, the great national back pat and international acclaim for our nation, continues. WE ELECTED A DARK SKINNED MAN! Tears were pouring out, because our racist country could now point to that one example who surmounted the odds and would now take the oath of office in January 2009.
But as Shelby Steele points out in the Los Angeles Times, Obama has been masterful at putting forth an idealism that implies that a vote against him would be an act of cynicism. “His talent was to project an idealized vision of a post-racial America — and then to have that vision define political decency. Thus, a failure to support Obama politically implied a failure of decency.”
Steele argues that some white Americans would like to vote for a black person because it absolves them of the sin of racism. He writes that Obama’s racial identity, not his political views, form the strength of his new compact with the American people. “In fact, this was his only true political originality. On the level of public policy, he was quite unremarkable. His economics were the redistributive axioms of old-fashioned Keynesianism; his social thought was recycled Great Society. But all this policy boilerplate was freshened up — given an air of “change” — by the dreamy post-racial and post-ideological kitsch he dressed it in, “ Steele says.
But the larger issue, goes to the heart of how America sees itself in the world. We are convinced that our power is unlimited. That if we only put our minds and money to work, we can end terrorism, control global warming, make the Israelis and Palestinians love each other, and insure health care for everyone. True conservatives are wary of such great ambitions, but we have just come out of eight years of neo-conservatism with its doctrine of pre-emptive war and American exceptionalism.
When Obama takes office, the expectations will again be completely ridiculous. The world expects America to be different. Obama’s supporters think he will withdraw our troops from Iraq and begin to enact national health insurance. But by February 1, 2009 I expect the honeymoon will be over.
I voted for Obama. I like Obama. In fact, he made me cry several times during his election campaign. I’m glad he won.
But I am nauseated, tired and sick of hearing about how his melanin, and Kenyan father, somehow ushers in a new era of change.
Skin color as change is no change at all. It’s the same old racism.