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Obama and his cathartic candidacy

A must read piece by Gary Kamiya in Salon, on Obama and his appeal as our next president:

Barack Obama's stunning victory in Iowa was a moment of national alchemy. It represented an outpouring of righteous Democratic anger, and its simultaneous transformation into hope. That double process -- the cathartic expression of rage, and its purification -- is exactly what Democrats have needed after seven nightmarish years of Bush. It is politics both as payback, and as spiritual transcendence. [...]

Those Obama critics who argue that his bipartisan rhetoric means he is the second coming of Joe Lieberman have seriously misread him. Obama is a classic liberal Democrat, whose message of inclusion and unity is at once sincere and tactically shrewd: He knows that a confrontational, partisan black man, even one who refuses to play the racial guilt card, has no chance of being elected president. At the same time, he clearly believes that conciliation is better than enmity. In this regard, ironically, he resembles the husband of his most formidable adversary, who also ran successfully on a "new Democrat" platform of hope and inclusion.



I read Kamiya regularly and will forgive his shout out to Hitchens (kids, this is what binge drinking does to you, if only I had known this back in college)

Christopher Hitchens has correctly pointed out that there is something sentimental in this act of white racial self-absolution. He also makes another valid point: that Obama is of mixed-race descent, and that automatically calling him "black" reinforces the pernicious one-drop rule. But paradoxically, the fact that Obama is seen as black is precisely what will help America to get beyond rigid racial categories like the racist one-drop rule. As for white sentimentality, Hitchens is too hard on it: The fact is that sentimentality not only can accompany real change but can help facilitate it. Anyone who can contemplate the idea that America could elect a black president without feeling a sense of national pride is cynical indeed.

I just don't think that unity and reconciliation are going to amount to a hill of beans to Grover Norquist and his ilk. In fact, it falls right into the long-time republican strategy of using social issues to achieve economic policy goals. Who cares if Obama is the first African-American president (well, me for one)? Long time coming and way overdue because the divisions in American society today concern economic class, not race.

We need to return to the old guard politics of FDR, who, let me repeat again, is our most widely revered president. FDR's "tired" class warfare programs produced, in the words of Paul Krugman, "The Great Compression," the hallowed golden age of bipartisanship and economic prosperity after WWII. As income inequality levels have reached the same levels as in the 1920s and before, clearly what we need is "tired" class warfare to set things straight. If not, what is Obama going to do? Preach unity while his EPA adds the American Middle Class to the endangered species list? I've seen those dipshit hipsters looking like Bananarama roadies circa 1982 so maybe, like Tony Bennett, class warfare has been out of style for so long, it's poised for a comeback.

Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.-- Frederick Douglass

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