Will Obama's Race Trump His Politics?

Steven M. Warshawsky
One of the questions that is being asked following Barack Obama's election as President of the United States is, What does this mean for the role of race in American society?  Does Obama's election prove that the U.S. no longer is a "racist" nation?  Will the elevation of a black man to the post powerful position in a "white" country -- take note, Western Europeans, it happened here first -- mean that we finally can put race behind us?
 
National Review Online has a symposium 
 on this question.  It is worth reading.  For me, the overall message conveyed by the various commentators, including Ward Connerly and Abigail Thernstrom, is that Obama's election holds enormous symbolic importance.  Positive importance.  There is an undeniably "hopeful" tone to the commentary.  Above all, Obama's election is viewed as a potential catalyst for greater black self-respect and pride in the country.  (Not much different from Michelle Obama's point of view, quite frankly.) 
 
Shelby Steele, in my opinion the most astute observer about race in modern America, also has a piece 
 today on "Obama's post-racial promise."  It is must reading.  Steele puts his finger on the heart of the Obama phenomenon:  "a failure to support Obama politically implied a failure of decency."  He further argues that many white Americans who support Obama don't want "change" so much as they want "documentation of change that already has occurred," i.e., undeniable proof that we are no longer a "racist" nation. 
 
As Steele aptly points out, none of this thinking is "post-racial."  On the contrary, the prism of race is the primary lens through which these momentous events are being viewed.  The cultural aspects of Obama's election are being treated as more important than his politics.
 
I must be a heartless wretch, for I confess that I cannot share in the hope and joy over Obama's election.  And I am dismayed that any conservatives can. 
 
For months, nay years, we have been arguing that Barack Obama is an unreconstructed leftist and an ungrateful beneficiary of this nation's color-blind opportunity.  We have been arguing that, under an Obama administration, there will be a sharp curtailment of political and economic freedom in this country, as the government expands its control over our lives and livelihoods.  We have been arguing that our global military and economic power will be diminished, with potentially dire consequences.  In short, we have been arguing that electing Barack Obama will be a disaster for the country.  (The only real debate was whether John McCain would be much better.  Many Republicans and conservatives thought not, and apparently stayed home on election day.) 
 
And now there are conservatives celebrating, even for a minute, Obama's election?  Frankly, this sickens me.  There is nothing about Obama's victory worth celebrating.  Nothing.  Our country didn't need to elect a leftist with black skin to prove we weren't "racist." 
 
Looking ahead, how many Republicans in Congress will agree that "a failure to support Obama politically [is] a failure of decency"?  This is what the mainstream media is going to be screaming from even before Obama is inaugurated.  Who will have the backbone to stand up to this moral intimidation?  Which Republican senator is prepared to withstand taunts of racism and Jim Crowism to filibuster Obama's legislation? 
 
Will Obama's race trump his politics?  Is the desire not to appear "racist" so deep in this country that we will give up our legacy of freedom -- not to mention our standing as the world's greatest military and economic power -- to rid ourselves of this "stain" by going along with Obama's plan for "change"?
 
Unless Republicans and conservatives are capable of rejecting -- openly and confidently and absolutely -- the notion that Obama's election was good for the country, I fail to see how we will be able to block his socialist agenda.  We cannot concede that his election was a positive event, for any reason, or we will undermine our ability to argue that his politics are pernicious.  After all, from "good" people and "good" events do not come "bad" things.
 
Refusing to acknowledge anything "good" about Barack Obama's election may not be the "decent" thing to do, but the alternative is much worse.
One of the questions that is being asked following Barack Obama's election as President of the United States is, What does this mean for the role of race in American society?  Does Obama's election prove that the U.S. no longer is a "racist" nation?  Will the elevation of a black man to the post powerful position in a "white" country -- take note, Western Europeans, it happened here first -- mean that we finally can put race behind us?
 
National Review Online has a symposium 
 on this question.  It is worth reading.  For me, the overall message conveyed by the various commentators, including Ward Connerly and Abigail Thernstrom, is that Obama's election holds enormous symbolic importance.  Positive importance.  There is an undeniably "hopeful" tone to the commentary.  Above all, Obama's election is viewed as a potential catalyst for greater black self-respect and pride in the country.  (Not much different from Michelle Obama's point of view, quite frankly.) 
 
Shelby Steele, in my opinion the most astute observer about race in modern America, also has a piece 
 today on "Obama's post-racial promise."  It is must reading.  Steele puts his finger on the heart of the Obama phenomenon:  "a failure to support Obama politically implied a failure of decency."  He further argues that many white Americans who support Obama don't want "change" so much as they want "documentation of change that already has occurred," i.e., undeniable proof that we are no longer a "racist" nation. 
 
As Steele aptly points out, none of this thinking is "post-racial."  On the contrary, the prism of race is the primary lens through which these momentous events are being viewed.  The cultural aspects of Obama's election are being treated as more important than his politics.
 
I must be a heartless wretch, for I confess that I cannot share in the hope and joy over Obama's election.  And I am dismayed that any conservatives can. 
 
For months, nay years, we have been arguing that Barack Obama is an unreconstructed leftist and an ungrateful beneficiary of this nation's color-blind opportunity.  We have been arguing that, under an Obama administration, there will be a sharp curtailment of political and economic freedom in this country, as the government expands its control over our lives and livelihoods.  We have been arguing that our global military and economic power will be diminished, with potentially dire consequences.  In short, we have been arguing that electing Barack Obama will be a disaster for the country.  (The only real debate was whether John McCain would be much better.  Many Republicans and conservatives thought not, and apparently stayed home on election day.) 
 
And now there are conservatives celebrating, even for a minute, Obama's election?  Frankly, this sickens me.  There is nothing about Obama's victory worth celebrating.  Nothing.  Our country didn't need to elect a leftist with black skin to prove we weren't "racist." 
 
Looking ahead, how many Republicans in Congress will agree that "a failure to support Obama politically [is] a failure of decency"?  This is what the mainstream media is going to be screaming from even before Obama is inaugurated.  Who will have the backbone to stand up to this moral intimidation?  Which Republican senator is prepared to withstand taunts of racism and Jim Crowism to filibuster Obama's legislation? 
 
Will Obama's race trump his politics?  Is the desire not to appear "racist" so deep in this country that we will give up our legacy of freedom -- not to mention our standing as the world's greatest military and economic power -- to rid ourselves of this "stain" by going along with Obama's plan for "change"?
 
Unless Republicans and conservatives are capable of rejecting -- openly and confidently and absolutely -- the notion that Obama's election was good for the country, I fail to see how we will be able to block his socialist agenda.  We cannot concede that his election was a positive event, for any reason, or we will undermine our ability to argue that his politics are pernicious.  After all, from "good" people and "good" events do not come "bad" things.
 
Refusing to acknowledge anything "good" about Barack Obama's election may not be the "decent" thing to do, but the alternative is much worse.