Thursday, May 6, 2010

Barack Obama - Race Versus Substance

A lot of the hype about whether Barack Obama was "black enough" for the African-American community had died down when reports began to surface that the Reverend Al Sharpton had complained about Obama's "blackness." Specifically, the reports alleged, Sharpton was interested that Obama had never been active in the black community and that his campaign was largely driven by white Americans.

As the first serious black contender for the Presidency, Obama came under fire early for not being "black enough" to fully represent African-Americans. Jolivette Anderson-Douoning, facility and program supervisor for the Black Cultural Center, said the following: "His father didn't experience Jim Crow. He was a black man not defined by Jim Crow America." She went on to say that the black community was interested with Obama's family's lack of the "black experience" and his politics towards blacks.

But is this really significant? We will never be able to move away from judgments based on skin color as long as folks insist on voicing such ridiculous questions. Yes it's an accomplishment that for the first time an African-American is a serious contender for the Presidency. But the color of his skin ought to not matter beyond that achievement. What ought to matter is what Obama believes, and what qualifications he possesses that would make us comfortable entrusting to him the leadership of the most powerful nation on Earth. ran an article on March 23, 2007 that really gets at what is significant. In the article, columnist Allison Harvey writes: "The question America ought to be asking has nothing to do with who is a black enough candidate....The real question for 2008 is this: Does Barack Obama have the chops to stand up as a qualified Commander-in-Chief?"

Ms. Harvey is right on the money with her question. We, as Americans, ought to be asking why Barack Obama is the best man for the job. Unfortunately, so far candidate Obama has done little to let us know the answer to that question.

As soon as he announced his candidacy, Mr. Obama began to get pelted with questions about his lack of experience and demands for details of his plans for America. Those details have been very slow in advent as the Obama campaign focuses instead on calls for bipartisanship and unity in Washington, D.C. The central idea of the Obama run for the Presidency seems to be "Can't we all just get along?"

With the candidate and his campaign tight-lipped about what a President Obama would stand for, we are forced to consider his restricted time in the Senate for some answers. That time has been short, to be sure, but the two years Senator Obama has been serving the folks of Illinois do in fact provide us with some clues about what we could expect from an Obama Presidency.

Steven Thomas, writing recently for the McClatchy Washington Bureau, known as Barack Obama more liberal than even radical left-wing Presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich, and that's no small accomplishment. Thomas bases his assessment on a National Journal analysis of votes cast by all the members of Congress currently in the race for President. That analysis ranked candidates based on comprehensive voting records, resulting in a ranking for Obama that made him the most liberal Senator after two full years in that legislative body.

That's what voters ought to be focused on. For liberals, Obama's ranking is probably uplifting. For conservatives and moderates, though, there is cause for worry if Senator Obama succeeds in becoming President Obama.

All of the time wasted focusing on Obama's "blackness," or lack thereof, would have been better spent educating Americans about what a President Obama would mean for government spending, taxes, foreign policy and national security, immigration, and social problems faced by this country.

rather than focusing on candidate Obama's skin color, or the skin color of those running his campaign, we ought to be focused on what he has to offer the citizens of this nation. When the debate moves to among substance over race, then we will have truly progressed.

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