Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Obama Hearts Geraldine

She's the Obama campaign's new heartthrob--or at least she should be.

Token Female V.P. Candidate Geraldine Ferraro has given Sen. Obama a gift that is certain to keep on giving by raising the issue of race. It has inflamed passions, inspired outrage and will likely help increase turnout among black voters in the crucial Pennsylvania primary.

That's because Token Female Ferraro has committed the ultimate sin in the world of Democratic Party identity politics: She told the truth.

Token Female Ferraro's original comment was, "If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position [as frontrunner]. And if he was a woman, he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept."

From a political standpoint, was this an incredibly stupid thing to say? Absolutely. The only thing dumber would be for her to follow up by claiming she's a victim for being a woman and being white.

But just because you shouldn't say something doesn't mean it isn't true. And Ferraro's point, while inarticulately made, is also undeniably true. Sen. Obama could not be the front-runner for the Democratic presidential nomination if not for his race. Is there anyone who disagrees?

You do? OK, then try this thought experiment:

Bill O'Bannion is white Democrat from Chicago. He has no business experience and, as an attorney, he's never tried or won a major case. In fact, he has no private sector accomplishments of any kind.

He gets elected to the state senate as an ally of the Daley machine. His political reputation is so underwhelming that he loses his one primary bid for Congress by a 2-1 margin. After two terms as a state legislator, he runs virtually unopposed for the US Senate. Two years later, having not a single significant accomplishment to his name (other than earning the most liberal voting record in the Senate) Bill O'Bannion announces "I want to be President of the United States!"

Where would that white, uberliberal, untested, unknown US Senator rank on the list of nominees on the "realistic shot at being president" chart--above or below Mike Gravel?

The one necessary condition to turn O'Bannion's story into Obama's is race. Without race, there is no Obama campaign. Nobody would have even heard of a freshman senator from Illinois. Don't believe me? Quick--name the SENIOR Senator from the land of Lincoln!

Don't be embarrassed. 80% of Democratic primary voters don't know who Dick Durban is, either.

Oh, but "Bill O'Bannion" would be a shoo-in, right?

What Barack Obama and (as I know from personal experience) Deval Patrick object to is the idea that their accomplishments are a result of their race alone. That would be a stupid thing to say. If being black in and of itself were enough to make one a president or governor, 12% of the US population would be serving as cheif executive of something right now.

Sen. Obama has earned his success through talent, hard work and smart campaigning. Deval Patrick had to beat two experienced, better qualified Democrats to win the nomination in 2006. Those are accomplishments of which these two politicians should be proud.

But those are also accomplishments that they never would have had the opportunity to achieve if they were Bill O'Bannion and Danny Patrick, white guys.
One final comment: This entire debate is irrelevant and, to a degree, silly. The fact is, Sen. Obama IS the front runner, he's beating Mrs. Bill Clinton like a gong and that's not likely to change. Token Female Ferraro's whining is like listening to the head of the Harvard Debate team claim that the black guy who just wiped up the floor with her during the last competition "never would have gotten into Harvard without affirmative action."
Maybe so. And if he is an affirmative action recipient, it's certainly not racist to note that fact. But hey, Geraldine--what difference does it make how he got in, if he's still kicking your butt?