3/15/2007

The Essence of Obama, Part II: Changing of the Guard

There is a brilliant commentary by Kathleen Parker that just came out and talks about the latest installment of the Barack Obama-Al Sharpton lovefest.

In one of my earliest posts on The 7-10, I talked about the stupidity of the questions swirling around Obama concerning whether "he was Black enough" and why so many Blacks are conflicted about his candidacy. Kathleen Parker's commentary digs a little deeper and finds the root of the problem:

Al Sharpton's desperation is showing. His recent attacks on presidential candidate Barack Obama and his threat to withhold his support have exposed the trick behind Sharpton's magic act. His audience is leaving the tent, and Sharpton is scrambling for relevancy.
(In other words, there's a changing of the guard in the Black community that doesn't sit too well with some people.)

Well, yeah. I could have told her that a long time ago. Here's what I wrote in The 7-10 on February 26:
While the Revs. Jackson and Sharpton are owed a great deal of gratitude for their sacrifices and struggles during the civil rights movements of yesteryear, their rhetoric makes it seem like little has been made in the way of progress. And as long as they continue to be seen as occupying center stage in the Black community, it makes it harder for the newer generation of Black politicians (Obama, Harold Ford Jr., Deval Patrick, Chakah Fatah, etc.) who have greater cross-racial appeal to be viewed as credibly as a traditional Black politician that runs primarily on blasting the vestiges of slavery and discrimination.
In the weeks between this post and now, Obama has made great strides among Black voters, which has Hillary's camp (and therefore Sharpton's camp) in a panic.

(Kathleen Parker should have consulted with me because what's happening now is not surprising to me at all. Maybe I should get a job as a syndicated columnist or as a commentator for the Washington Post?)

Anyway, despite his lack of experience, I must respect the fact that Obama has seriously redefined what it means to be a presidential candidate. It's like Barack Obama is the Nintendo Wii of politics. The energy and enthusiasm surrounding his campaign is quite infectuous, and his ability to draw new voters into the process is something I have never seen before. I recently read a news clipping about how 500 people showed up just to organize one of his rallies. Read that again. 500 people to organize (not attend) a Barack Obama campaign rally. Unbelievable.

Do you think Al Sharpton could ever generate such an outpouring of support? That's where the rub comes from. Figures like Sharpton and Jesse Jackson were able to stay relevant for so long because they were seen as the face of Black America and could be relied on to deliver the Black vote to candidates that relied on their support to survive politically. So politicians had to play nice with the likes of Sharpton so as to not offend them and risk depressing Black turnout. What makes Obama so threatening is that he doesn't need to defer to Sharpton to generate the Black vote. Simply put, Obama is eclipsing Sharpton in terms of effectiveness, message, and appeal. The race card still has some effect, but Obama is able to play this card in such a way that he can talk about race without talking about race. He can demonstrate to all voters that he is cognizant of his identity while not being solely defined or restricted by it. Sharpton, on the other hand, continues to beat the same old drums of racism, slavery, affirmative action, and racial profiling. Don't get me wrong, those are all important issues. But I think voters in general have soured on his firebrand approach to talking about these issues and find Obama's message far more enticing.

What does Sharpton do when his role within the Black political community and the Black community in general is diminished? What does Sharpton do when he does not have to be kowtowed to in order to deliver the crucial Black vote for Democratic candidates? What does Sharpton do when he has such a long history of civil rights activism and is treated like a gadfly only to watch a first term senator come out of nowhere and be so unbelievably well received?

What does any animal do when it feels threatened? It lashes out.

And that's why Sharpton is worried.

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Copyright 2007-2008 by Anthony Palmer. This material may not be republished or redistributed in any manner without the expressed written permission of the author, nor may this material be cited elsewhere without proper attribution. All rights reserved. The 7-10 is syndicated by Newstex.