Saturday, November 08, 2008

Minimum Standards

I keep hearing how ‘historic’ this election is. After consideration, I do not agree. Oh, I understand the contention. Barack Obama is the first black man to be elected President of the United States. And the media seems to be bragging about how this has advanced the United States, morally, in doing so. But that really does not seem to me to be the case.

First, let’s start with the notion that a black man winning election makes that election ‘historic’. Really now, by that logic we have had a lot of ‘historic’ elections. George Washington was the first president, John Adams the first president not named Washington, various presidents were the first to be elected of their party, Thomas Jefferson was the first president to be elected in a contest decided by the House of Representatives, Martin Van Buren was the first natural-born American to be elected president, John Quincy Adams was the first president elected in an election where citizens voted for their states’ electors, James Buchanan was the first and so far only bachelor to be elected president, John Kennedy was the first Catholic president, and so on and so on. Party, region, constitutional quirk, all kinds of ‘firsts’ have come to pass over the years. Skin tone hardly seems to jump out as a significant reason to call an election ‘historic’.

I do realize that those who are cheering this election as ‘historic’ see this as more than a cosmetic change. But there again, I cannot agree. Barack Obama was hardly the first black man to run for president, even as a candidate for a major political party. Jesse Jackson and Alan Keyes preceded him as notable democrat and republican candidates, but even they were not the first. Barack Obama did not win because he had overcome a prejudice against black candidates; he won because of a combination of slick advertising, a popular message, and an economic crisis with the sitting president belonging to the opposing party.

What is strange about Obama’s focus on being the first black president, is that he started his campaign claiming to be beyond that. Beyond playing the race card, beyond attack politics. Of course, we know that was just a lie; Obama’s campaign regularly attacked any criticism as “racism”. Obama’s campaign saw nothing wrong with sexism or age bias, either. McCain was cast as ‘too old’ and Team Obama started countless rumors about his health. Palin was the target of a relentless smear campaign, from lawyers sent to paw through her trash to talk show hosts trashing her success as a governor, this of course coming only after similar smear campaigns against Hillary Clinton. That’s not to say too much against Obama; Bill Clinton and Richard Nixon used smear tactics with similar success, so in that regard Obama was merely following a proven method to winning. But anyone claiming that Barack Obama represented a higher standard of ethics and personal integrity is well off the mark. Barack Obama is a man of minimum qualifications and standards, and so is hard-pressed to find an accomplishment he can point to as genuinely historic. Certainly this election does not promise such lofty hopes.


David Musgrove said...

What an idiot!

Anonymous said...


So much for you and your "secret poll" numbers!

Please take a step back into reality, and rejoin the human race.

I don't expect you to respond to this comment.

Anonymous said...

"Skin tone hardly seems to jump out as a significant reason to call an election ‘historic’."

This is silly. Race has been one of the great dividing points in this nation ever since its founding; we fought a civil war over it; we have seen race riots, Jim Crow laws, armed troops escorting black kids into schoolhouses, lynchings, civil rights marches, etc. Our nation's history has been defined, in no small part, by tension between the white majority and the black minority. Now we have a black First Family, something that would have been unthinkable even a generation ago. Of course it's a historic development.

Last night I went to a local country club for dinner. I'm not a member and don't know the rules, but I'm sure that until recently blacks weren't allowed to join, and judging by the total absence of nonwhites I'd guess they are still strongly discouraged. Barack Obama, as a private citizen, probably couldn't get in. He's not allowed to join a private club, but soon he'll be the president of the United States! That's huge progress, no matter what we think of Obama's politics. His election may be only one small step for a man, but it's one giant leap for mankind.

- Sauropod

DJ Drummond said...

anonymous 2, the point is we passed that barrier a long time ago. TRUE pioneers, like Frederick Douglass, Dr. Carver and Dr. King, did the heavy lifting. All we are seeing in this election is the inevitable event, the barriers having long ago been removed.

The myth of the "Bradley Effect" has been clearly shown for the lie it is. The fact is, those private clubs you mention would be happy to take anyone with the "right" money and social connections, but they would hardly accept a white man without that money and pedigree. It's arrogance, not racism.

The US has been a post-racist country for most of my life, with the exception of those who insist on playing the race card when they think they can get something out of it.

I've seen lottery drawings more "historic" than this election.