The Barack Obama Dilemma

With an advertising flourish that would grandly and profitably project any new industrial product into the public limelight, the media has latched onto the first term Illinois senator, Barack Obama, labeling him a tasty political commodity much like a bottle of Paul Masson wine. It was Paul Masson who had first introduced his wine to the world in the 1980s with the aphorism, “we will sell no wine until its time.” In much the same way, the media is pushing the Obama presidential image as one whose time has come, whose charisma will sell well in the 2008 election.

Perhaps converting a new unfamiliar face in American politics into an icon, through the use of mass electronic media, is too much like pushing an untried and untested product onto center national stage, proclaiming its superiority over existing products. At any given time, you will probably find close to a million capricious people in the United States who are unfailing, undying binge lovers. These people are the type who will try anything at least once, just for the thrill of saying, “I’ve been there and have done that,” regardless of how detrimental the thing has been to them and the other people negatively affected by it. Much like the distribution of second-hand cigarette smoke into the lungs of non-smokers by non-caring people who have experimented with smoking and became addicted, most American binge lovers don’t care about the results of their actions until laws suddenly appear proscribing their behaviors. Even then, a good many of those million people throw fits of rage insisting that they should have the freedom to do what they want.

Who really knows, or will come to know, Barack Obama? The television camera lens and the people behind it are thoroughly capable of turning, anyone, the good, bad, and the ugly, into a celebrity overnight. All that is required in the process are extensive and consistent media exposure to insure name and picture recognition. You might ask, before he was elected as U.S. Senator, what had Obama done to distinguish himself publicly? He has been recently compared to the great Lincoln as a man of the people, honest, upright, imbued with integrity. Yet, if Lincoln had been born in 1961, and had had the technological benefits of the Twentieth Century to assist his rise into public service, most Americans would have undoubtedly heard from him well before his 40th year. In a manner of speaking, Lincoln managed his own rise into American government. He wrote his own speeches, determined his own agenda, and financed his own campaigns. He was not politically indebted to anyone in such a way to compromise his own basic principles. Can we say the say about Obama. In a nutshell, the political Obama has been managed by wealthy power-brokers who determined, at least a year before his election, that the Harvard educated lawyer had the looks and demeanor to be politically popular. Obama probably hadn’t even considered entering the senatorial race before he was contacted and courted by these power-brokers. He had lacked the mother’s milk of American politics, the factor most essential in getting elected, that is, money.

Of course, Harry Truman entered politics the same way, under the auspices of a boss system in Independence, Missouri. He essentially became a senator by undermining the will of a wealthy boss who had wanted him to be in his political puppet, proving, after the election, that he was no man’s dummy. Nonetheless, I’m not assured that Obama will do the same thing when faced with a decision of whether to obey the will of the people of Illinois or that of his political mentors.

The classical art of government and of determining proper local, state, and federal leadership has undergone a substantial change during the last eighty years in the U.S., from that of civics to politics. And, unfortunately, senators, representatives, and presidents are now popularly called politicians instead of statesmen and stateswomen. Before the advent of radio, a candidate for federal office had to meet the public face-to-face in order to be popular with the press and the people. Now, less than 3 out of a thousand eligible American voters get to meet, talk with, and personally listen to a candidate before an election. What most of the U.S. voting age population presently see on a television screen is the image of the candidate the power-brokers want them to see and appreciate. These almost invisible, yet influential, people pay millions of dollars during a single election to advertise this image. Of course, election laws are contained within the U.S. Code, but are hardly enforced. According to former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, the U.S. election process is in such an illicit mess that the Carter Center would not even attempt to monitor a federal election in order to guarantee its fairness and equity. Moreover, a greater percentage of the American voters are ignorant of the current status-quo, and fail to realize the sad fact that the average candidate for federal office is groomed by the powers-that-be and begins planning his re-election campaign, and his political career, almost immediately after being sworn-in.

I tend to believe that Barack Obama presently shows all of the tell-tale signs of potential political manipulation. Someone in this country wants him to be a leading Democratic candidate in the upcoming 2008 Presidential Election, despite the fact that his election could do much more harm than good to the republic. Why?

Presently, within a U.S. population of approximately 300 million, there are still quite a few whites, numbering probably in hundreds of thousands, who have a high disregard, if not hatred, for black people, who would consider Obama’s election a perturbing social and racial affront to their perverse beliefs. Conversely, there are still quite a few black people who intensely dislike whites and only associate with them socially out of a requirement to show a façade of courtesy in employment settings.

In other words, there are probably millions of people in America who are still waging the Civil War with their attitudes and behaviors over race-mixing. For an example, it has been nearly 142 years since Appomattox and 45 years since Brown v. The Board of Education, and many, many people still loath seeing black children and white children attend public schools together. Segregation and integration are still hot social and political topics in most of the nation’s largest cities, and there are still petulant and hotheaded people who are violent enough to resort to bloodshed in order to express their prejudice and discrimination. If this country is not yet ready to accept the simple and profound truth that all people, of every race, are created equal before nature’s God and the law, it is not yet ready to accept a black man as chief executive. Even though television and motion pictures have, over the years, shown prominent black actors in roles placing them in high political office, even as President, there are too many closet and openly declarative bigots who would react violently to the real election of Barack Obama to the nation’s highest office.

History speaks sadly of more than a few black people during the military Reconstruction in the South, some of whom were freed slaves, who were placed by the military government into positions of executive and judicial leadership. Many of these very capable people were clandestinely assassinated, lynched, and beaten by activists of the Klu Klux Klan and other militant organizations built upon hate and revenge. Now, especially, there is a pervading atmosphere of resentment, or perhaps fear, in our country against people of color. People of color, the brown, the black, the deeply tanned, are being racially profiled by law enforcement, employers, and by the average white person through a deeply felt fear of potential terrorism and the unknown. This is tragically Machiavellian, but nonetheless true. If anything, Obama’s run for the Presidency will again divide the nation’s Democratic voters into several different camps, allowing a cohesive Republican base, and its neo-conervative agenda to again prevail in the White House.

I don’t know Barack Obama personally, but he’s probably a good and decent public servant whose heart is in the right place. But for whatever reason he is being courted to run for the Office of the President, I sincerely hope that he realizes that he is being politically packaged and maneuvered, and that it is hardly the right time in our nation’s history for a black man to seek the Presidency. It is going to be difficult enough to persuade a nation that it’s time for a woman to be President. I hope that Obama’s ego is not larger than his capacity to grasp the gravity of the currently steamy social, political, and economic climate in the United States, and the subtle message ominously blowing in the wind that whispers, “Be very careful of your aspirations and where they will take you.”