Why We Write About Obama

Caught up and rendered silly by Obamamania, Black progressives who should know better have unilaterally disarmed themselves in surrender to a media-amplified euphoria that most resembles a group drug fest. The faculties of memory and common sense shut down, as longtime activists effectively repudiate their former lives to join the mindless bacchanal swirling around Barack Obama’s thoroughly corporate candidacy. As one of the writers for Black Agenda Report, I and others have consistently held Black politicians to the standards of the historical Black Political Consensus. Now we find ourselves reviled by Black erstwhile progressives "based on annoyance that we brought a skunk to the party." But the stink does not emanate from us—it comes from Obama when he praised racist Ronald Reagan and the 1990s "ideas" of Newt Gingrich, in a blatant bid to make common cause with those who wish to destroy the last vestiges of a black movement, root and branch.

In an editorial board meeting with the Reno Gazette-Journal, Obama said the following about Ronald Reagan: "I do think that for example the 1980 election was different. I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s, and government had grown and grown, but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity, we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing."

Not only did Obama praise Reagan, but he used racist, conservative code words from the GOP playbook to do it. Obama’s supporters should be the first to ask him what he believed to be the "excesses of the 1960s and 1970s." Does he think the Voting Rights Act was an excess? What about the Civil Rights Act? Were the protests against the Vietnam War excessive? What about Fair Housing legislation, was it all too much for the Republic to handle? Was abortion legalization an excess?

What does this statement portend for the policies of an Obama administration? It is past time for the love fest to end and hard questioning to begin. If Hillary Clinton or John Edwards had uttered those same words they would be quite rightly taken to task. At his worst, in the nadir of his Sister Souljah moment, Bill Clinton did not dare to make such statements.

A presidential election year is always difficult. The Democratic Party is run by people who don’t want it to be a political party at all. They actively search for ways to squelch activism and deny victory to Democrats who are unafraid to be Democrats. The game is rigged against true democracy, forcing us to make difficult choices and compromises instead of working for what we really want. These contradictions will not be easy to deal with if Obama supporters continue to give him a free political ride. We won’t take pleasure in seeing black America end up with a bad case of buyer’s remorse. Passive support for Barack Obama can only lead in that direction.


Margaret Kimberley’s "Freedom Rider" column appears weekly in Black Agenda Report.