Category Archives: African-American

OP ED: Burris burrows in … as well he should.

Many in the pundits in the press conjecture that Illinois Senator Roland Burris (pictured with Senate President Harry Reid) will have to resign as a result of the onslaught of negative publicity fomented by the press, itself. This media feeding frenzy has been given more heft than it deserves by a gaggle or self-serving politicians who either have an interest in replacing Burris with themselves of an ally, or merely see piling on as a hook to get their name and face in the press for another day. The psychology that is driving this hyper hype is the same that leads mobs of otherwise descent people to “take matters into their own hands” as an outcome of irrational hysteria.

So many of those calling for Burris’ resignation claim to respect him and consider him a friend. They cite his distinguished career. He is often described simply, but meaningfully, as “a good man.” Are we to conclude from this that the U.S. Senate is no place for “a good man?”

More specifically, all the jawboning and editorializing in the world cannot force the resignation. Only the U.S. Senate can expel a member, and it is more than likely that the collegial Upper Chamber lacks the authority or resolve to take such action in this case.

There are two major reasons that Burris should not resign. First, he has done nothing that warrants his stepping down. Yes, there have been inconsistencies in his testimonies and affidavits – nothing, according to prosecutors, that rises to the level of perjury. Despite media smears that have label Burris an egregious liar, his inconsistencies are not too far outside the range of anyone being asked questions in different ways on different occasions — and certainly nothing near the level of prevarication by those who now smugly demand his ouster. Unfortunately, such hypocrisy is pandemic in politics.

The second reason is that Burris needs to complete his current term to have any chance to reclaim his hitherto pristine reputation as public official. For some 30 years, Burris was praised by the political, civic and business communities as an outstanding public servant and honorable man – never even a hint of scandal (quite and accomplishment in Illinois). But even that history has been twisted, distorted and re-written by press and politicians to further demonize him. Once known for his friendly manner, accessibility and humility, Burrs is now labeled an arrogant hack.

If he were to resign today, he would slip into the shadow of public attention as the press created caricature. He would leave the public stage with the unfounded accusations of his detractors as his legacy.

Some say that the controversy leaves him powerless to perform his duties. How so? He still has all the powers of his office, his intellect and his skills. He can and will wheel and deal with the best of them. His colleagues are not likely to shun him for the benefit of the home town lynch mob – especially since they need his vote to stay close to that veto proof number and he still has the distinction and advantage of being the Senate’s token African American.

Once it is obvious that he will not resign, I suspect the media will cool down and shift lens and pens to some new political reality show – new indictments, new scandals, new investigations, the trial of Rod Blagojevich (or maybe just the antics of Rod Blagojevich). This will give Burris an opportunity to settle in as a hard working Senator for another 18 months – and longer if the public suddenly finds their incited anger turning to a sense of guilt.

People in the public eye are often advised to step down at the peak of the career to lock in their future reputation. Conversely, it is not advisable to step down at the nadir.

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IDEA: Obama in mint condition

If you follow this blog, you know I’m a great fan of Abraham Lincoln. As such, I have written often against the elimination of the Lincoln penny. I know I am a few years ahead of things, but here is my idea.

First, let’s all agree that unless Obama screws up badly, he is destined to be immortalized on some denomination of coin or currency. Right? Well, what about creating the Lincoln-Obama penny – a double profile impression. This is a case where two heads are definitely better than one. This would most certainly end any talk of doing away with the distinctive copper coin. Yea!

It is also a most fitting match up. The Great Emancipator and the first African-American President. The fact that both claim Illinois as their home state is a charming coincidence. On the reverse, I propose we replace the Lincoln Memorial with the iconic, albeit romanticized, abolition image (left) of Lincoln personally bestowing freedom on a slave.

This also solves another problem. If you don’t double up on the penny, who gets knocked off one of the other coins or bills to make room for Obama? Washington? Jefferson? Roosevelt? Or, you could wind up putting Obama on a denomination that gets no significant circulation.

I think Old Abe would be right proud to share his coin with the first President that at least looks like he could have had slave ancestors.

(A special thanks to my colleague, Xiong Neng Her, for the execution of the design.)

>REACT: Take me home country road …

>Hillary Clinton must be singing the West Virginia theme song these days — hoping that West Virginia’s country road will take her home to the White House. There once was an adage in presidential campaigns that claimed “as goes Maine, so goes the nation.” This year, I think the vision of things to come may be seen in West Virginia, where Clinton crushed the all-but-crowned Barack Obama by some 40 points.

How is that possible?

Pundits point out that West Virginia has a lower percentage of black votes – around five percent. There you have it. Obama is having a hard time winning over the non-black working class – and that includes Hispanics and Asians. If Obama, the perceived winner of the Democrat nomination, cannot beat Clinton in a Democrat primary, how can he beat McCain in a general election, where the demographics work against him to a far greater extent?

Ever since Obama first played the race card (and yes, as I noted in earlier blogs, he started it in order to push his margins up in the all-important primaries of South Carolina and Louisiana.) Unfortunately for Obama, you cannot rally one special interest group without alarming the other — polarizing the general atmosphere. The more Obama pressed for racial solidarity, the more he lost non-blacks who initially gave him some benefit of the doubt on the race issue.

Obama did what he had to do to win the nomination. His strategy was brilliant, and well executed. It seems now that he has gained his victory on the field of political battle. But, like the mortally wounded general, he will leave victorious arena only to die in another venue.

West Virginia is more like the nation demographically than is South Carolina. If this had been a close election, then Obama could have claimed some appeal across the socio-economic spectrum. But, he was not only beaten, he was smooshed. How can the pre-emptive candidate explain getting beaten so-badly?

A lot has been written about Ron Paul winning descent percentages in his hopeless race against the already designated GOP standard bearer, John McCain. Paul, however, is only getting impressive percentages – no victories, and he certainly has not slam dunked McCain in any contest.

Now that Obama has played the racial card, and allowed others to respond in kind, it is inevitable that the General Election will be dominated by the race issue. Obama’s elitist white supporters will see virulent racism in any opposition. If he falls behind in the campaign, his black base will claim they are being denied their “right” to a president of their race. All this, of course, will only exacerbate Obama’s non-black, working-class problem. Now that Obama has played the race card, he cannot withdraw it. It is face up on the table to be trumped. Though they may put on a happy face, the outcome in West Virginia has to privately scare the bejeezus out Obama and his strategists.

>REACT: Missing the point in Mississippi

>As expected, Barack Obama cruised to an easy victory in the Mississippi Democrat primary, picking up about 20 of the states 33 delegates, with the remainder going to Hillary.

His victory, however, is more evidence that he will be an extreme underdog in the General Election. Mississippi has the highest percentage of African-Americans of any state in the nation. They represented and overwhelming 70 percent of the voters in the Democrat primary. They gave Obama more than 90 percent of their votes as an expression of racial solidarity. (Dare we call it racism?) Conversely, Hillary took the vast majority of white votes. (Dare we call it ethnic pride?)

And yes. There is irony in the fact that the Mississippi flag (pictured) incorproates the old confederate “stars and bars.” Even more so when you consider that a new flag proposal was soundly defeated by two-thrids of the voters in 2001. That referendum could foretell Obama’s future in a general election. His impressive victory in the Democrat primary may be counterintuitive in terms of November.

Whatever you call it, racial voting has floated Obama’s campaign to the top – and it will sink it in a general election if he is the Democrat standard bearer.

As I have previously written, as soon as Obama picked up the racial cudgel in South Carolina, he began to position his campaign on the great American racial fault line. Race — not the audacity of hope or the promise of change in the White House, other than skin color — is the underlying defining issue.

It is not unheard of for a candidate to do what is necessary to win a nomination, only to find the winning formula in the primary is a receipe for defeat in the general. Obama finds himself in that position. After running as the son of his father in the primaries, can he run as the son of his mother in the General Election? That takes a lot of hope — and more change than one can believe in.

Footnote: I have been hearing a lot of my conservative compatriots a’hopin’ and a’prayin’ for a Clinton nomination in the belief that she is the more beatable of the two candidates. I disagree. Without a monumental disaster in the McCain camp – never to be discounted —
I think Obama is predestined to be an also-ran. I think it is dangerous to underestimate the Clintons, just as the Democrats always underestimated Ronald Reagan when they were a’hopin’ and a’prayin’ that he would be the opposing candidate.

>OBSERVATION: Obama a danger to black churches

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When I served as campaign media guy for Mayor Gene Sawyer’s 1989 attempt to retain his office on the fifth floor of City Hall, it was my pleasure to travel with Hizzoner as he made the Sunday rounds of black churches. It was an all day event.

I say “pleasure” because I am a total fan of black gospel music. I cannot get enough of Mahalia Jackson. Having grown up in the sonorous monotones of Gregorian chant, I find the foot stomping, hand waving, and sweaty swaying of the black Baptist tradition entirely uplifting. In terms of religious preference, I am as black as Bill Clinton, John Kerry and Father Michael Pfleger. Okay … maybe not as black as Pfleger.

Traveling with Sawyer was also politically enlightening. At each stop, Sawyer was presented to the throng in characteristic black minister style, with the over-the-top introduction punctuated with endless audience responses of “amen” and “you tell ’em, bother.”

Typically the minister would praise the good work of the Mayor, remind the audience that he is a “brother.” He would call on the assembled to spread the word to all the neighbors. It was not the word of God he was promoting, but the message of the campaign. Get out and vote “for our man Gene.”

The Mayor would then say a few words about the campaign, the issues, and the need to get out and vote for him. In some cases, a “special collection” was taken to be handed over to one of the Mayor’s aides.

Often during these Sunday services, three little words would pop into my mind – Internal Revenue Service. Clearly, the black churches were grossly violating federal laws governing 501(c)(3) tax exempt institutions. To be tax exempt, you must avoid partisan politics.

Despite this common knowledge, the black ministry has always enjoyed an informal political exemption from the law. Black churches were routinely used by candidates, Republican and Democrat, as political platforms. We were just too politically correct to call in the feds. After a couple hundred years of slavery, and another hundred years of segregation and prejudice, we were entirely too guilt ridden to point an accusatory finger at the black God merchants.

Now cometh, Barack Obama. Obviously, he is the darling of the black ministry. However, he brings more public and media attention to the black churches than any previous candidate – even the Almost Reverend Jesse Jackson. This in turn is raising the questions of propriety and legality to new heights.

Ironically, it is the liberal attack on Jerry Falwell, and the religious right, that will make the case against the liberal and black churches today. Barry Lynn, the head of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, lead the successful effort to get Falwell’s tax exemption canceled for a couple years. Today this unabashed left-winger is parsing his own eloquent arguments in an incredulously inept defense of churches serving as liberal political platforms. He is trying to sell a difference with out a distinction.