Sure, Barack Obama is, obviously, the Second Coming of Christ — but can he be elected president? This is the question on the minds of those exasperated by the reign of the Bush Administration. And if he can’t get elected, is it because America, as a whole, is too racist to elect a black president – or is there more to it than that?
Race isn’t the only challenge for him, of course. He’s also a sees-both-sides-of-the-fence person, and that rarely plays well in politics. Even when George Bush says something entirely senseless like, "The only way we can win is to leave before the job is done," he says it with authority, by God, and the people like that in a leader. On first glance it would seem Obama’s election to the Senate would be a good sign, until we remember his opponent was Alan Keyes.
There’s a lot of speculation ranging from Obama will be unable to overcome the inherent bigotry of our nation to Obama will likely be assassinated if he does manage to get elected. But there’s a deeper issue of racism in America that’s personified by the possibility of an Obama candidacy — and that is, do we have to create a savior complex around him in order to accept him as a respectable leader?
Liberals are often accused of seeing racism where there is none, and I’m apparently conservative enough to find fear of his assured assassination to be absurd. I do see racism in the hype surrounding Obama, however, just not in the same way others do. This whole savior thing he’s been burdened with reminds me of the old movie Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner in which the father, played by Spencer Tracy, could get used to the idea of his daughter marrying a black man, as long as the black man was perfect in every way. And in true old-racist-Hollywood fashion, Sidney Poitier’s character was just that.
Obama has that air of perfection around him now, but will he survive the inevitable media scrutiny should he win the nomination? Famous people don’t get that way by accident. He might be smart and progressive, but he’s also ambitious. And for those not paying attention — he’s a politician.
Obama gives very moving speeches, he’s personable and his intelligence (in sharp contrast to the current inhabitant of the oval office) is refreshing — yes. But has he really come to “save” us? Those who think so were evidently absent the day Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was shown in their high school Civics classes. (And that’s giving Mr. Obama the benefit of the doubt — there’s a reasonably good chance that his heart is not quite as pure as Mr. Smith’s.)
Don’t get me wrong, I like Obama fine, as far as politicians go. He seems to be doing a good job for the people who elected him and would likely make a fine president. But he isn’t a saint — I don’t care how many people he currently has fooled. Then again, I don’t need him to be of impeccable character — I’ll be happy enough if he supports good policy and can actually get elected. If he does, history will show his presidency to have been a mixed bag of good and bad, just like everyone else’s.
Massachusetts just elected its first black governor and he’s being heralded as the answer to all of the state’s problems, much as Barack Obama’s being lauded as the answer to our national crises. Jeffrey Berry, a political scientist at Tufts University was quoted in the New York Times recently in response to the election saying, “Democrats regard him as something of a demigod. They expect him to be able to leap tall buildings in a single bound and pay for social services.”
Clearly, the question here is not are we as a nation still too racist to elect a black man. Nor is it — are we so racist that a black president will surely be assassinated. The vital question is, can we acknowledge that a black man could be a fine leader, even if he’s only human? Unfortunately, the answer appears to be a resounding no.