Wednesday, April 09, 2008


My Obama Envy

Posted by David Bernstein

Let me start off by saying that I don't agree with Barack Obama on pretty much any issue of substance. Not only do I find him far to the Left on almost everything; even on those issues where we are in general agreement (say, immigration) I think he veers into near extremism.

And yet ... I, like many folks, find him strangely compelling. And it's not just because we're fellow "mixed-race Americans", although that is certainly part of it -- I mean, I never expected to see a presidential candidate who shared both my skin tone and my haircut -- but the touch of Obamamania I feel at times goes beyond mere ethnic association.

So what is it? I think it comes from the dreams I have had that, sometime in my lifetime, we would actually live in a post-racial society -- that skin color would matter no more (and hopefully less) than other attributes when measuring the status and character of individuals. I used to write about this regularly in the early 90s; I even published a magazine called Diversity & Division based on the premise of post-racialism way back then.

And here's the kicker. I always assumed that the first successful post-racial politician would be a conservative. Liberals, and partisan Democrats in particular, are so caught up in race that it just didn't seem possible for them to get behind a candidate of color who wasn't a Sharpton-esque loudmouth or some slick machine pol deftly practiced at playing on white guilt.

Obama, whatever else you say about him, doesn't ask for white guilt. I love him for that, and so do many other conservatives of a certain age. And I, like all the cute young college girls at an Obama rally, got caught up in the possibilities, in symbolism that his candidacy represents -- of a new America where a mulatto guy named Barack could get elected president based on his ideas and personality, not on some fouled up racial dynamic.

It's no accident that what support Obama was getting from Republicans in the polls disappeared immediately when the Jeremiah Wright stuff hit the airwaves. Here was our post-racial champion, exposed as just another lefty America-hater; the nerdy brother who sits in African-American studies class taking copious notes, then quoting from "The Mis-Education of the Negro" in the dining hall for the benefit of his less erudite friends. What a letdown.

Of course, nothing else we know about Obama seems to fit this profile (his wife, on the other hand ... oy!) so deep down I will continue to maintain my hope that he is, indeed, the great brown hope that many of us have been pining for. He's not getting my vote, but I sure do envy those folks who can vote for him.

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