When Obama started doing well in the Presidential primaries, I was actually embarassed.
That feeling came because I remembered two middle-aged white guy friends of mine who had told me months ago they supported Obama, drawn by the promise of a young, smart leader with good ideas who seemed poised to implement them without resorting to the same old nonsense of our political past.
I liked his approach and ideas, but I had a much more cynical view of race politics. I never thought he'd have a chance because I assumed America would never really let him compete.
So to hear so-called progressive politicians such as Geraldine Ferraro complain that Obama is only ahead in the Democratic primary race because of his race, sounds to these ears like hearing news that cats have been found on the moon.
You mean, somebody thinks being a black man with the name Barack Hussein Obama is a bigger advantage than being the wife of the most successful Democratic president since John F. Kennedy?
Then Politico.com blogger Ben Smith on Tuesday highlighted a compelling nugget: Ferraro said the same thing back in 1988 about Jesse Jackson. And back then, her views were echoed by that great paragon of racial equality, Ronald Reagan.
Smith quotes Washington Post writer Howard Kurtz's 1988 story: "former representative Geraldine A. Ferraro (D-N.Y.) said Wednesday that because of his "radical" views, "if Jesse Jackson were not black, he wouldn't be in the race."
Asked about this at a campaign stop in Buffalo, Jackson at first seemed ready to pounce fiercely on his critics. But then he stopped, took a breath, and said quietly, "Millions of Americans have a point of view different from" Ferraro's.
Discussing the same point in Washington, Jackson said, "We campaigned across the South . . . without a single catcall or boo. It was not until we got North to New York that we began to hear this from Koch, President Reagan and then Mrs. Ferraro . . . . Some people are making hysteria while I'm making history."- Howard Kurtz (WaPo, April 15, 1988)"
Ferraro still seems amazed by the concept that there is a problem with attributing Obama's 13-million votes in this year's primary elections solely to his race. She says, instead, that people who criticize her are being racist and that she was complimenting the way black people have supported Obama.
This is the way Democrats will snatch defeat from the jaws of victory in this election; allowing dunderheads like Ferraro -- whose biggest political claim to fame is being part of the team which got annihilated by the Republicans in 1984 -- to drive wedges between a coalition which was poised to unseat the Republicans in November.
Ferraro's words also raise another complaint I've heard recently; that Obama is winning because America is more sexist than racist. Leave aside the notion that comparing disadvantages in this way is absurd -- women and black folks suffer from different kinds of oppresion in different ways -- the thesis also ignores some powerful facts.
There are more females than black males serving as governors, Congresspeople, and cabinet members. I wonder how any of them would feel about people who said they got their jobs because they were female? (And does Ferraro agree that she got her spot on Mondale's ticket because she's female?)
If Clinton wins this way -- basically encouraging working class white people and women to turn on Obama through race-based attacks -- the young people and black folks who were so excited about this election will stay home in November and John McCain will be president. Because nobody plays wedge issues and the fear game like the Republicans.
This is why I wound up voting for Obama when the primary rolled around in Florida. I'm tired of fear mongering, wedge politics and Democratic ineptitude. And, though I'm sure Obama cannot pull off everything he thinks he can as president, I'm desperate enough for a change that I'm willing to give him a shot.
Frankly, Ferraro's assumption that people like me voted for Obama because he self-identifies as a black man is less insulting to Obama and more insulting to me.
She better hope we get over our anger before November, or the Democratic party is going to pay the price.