27 January 2008

Ready To Join The Club

My phone rang off the hook last night.

My mother called as I sat in the basement, watching Barack and Michelle wave to the crowd while the enervating strains of Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” blared from the surround sound. I was actually on my cell phone with my best buddy, pointing out the South Carolinians I still remembered who stood behind the candidate as he made his speech, when Sheila walked across the room, the house phone to her ear , mouthing the words “your mother”, her eyes dancing.

I told my buddy my Mom was on the line and took the phone from Sheila.

“We won!” came through the earpiece as soon as she heard me say “hello?” My mother, who hasn’t exercised in God knows how long, who has been retired for years, a woman who just turned sixty nine on Friday, sounded like she was twenty years old again.

We talked about the returns, the super early projections by the networks that came out practically the minute the polls closed, the candidates who had filled the college auditorium in my home town of Orangeburg as late as a few days ago, the sentiments of the man on the street – it was as if the electric charge in the air in South Carolina was being transmitted through the phone line.

The irony of it all – her enthusiasm, her jubilance, even the statement “we won” – is that she and my father have been Republicans for over thirty years.

The thing we talked about the most was the “O” Train – the Obama phenomenon as a result of a craftily constructed and EXTREMELY well managed cadre of top notch political operatives. In Horry County, the only county of 46 that Clinton won, she only did it by 6% - 39% to 33%.

Instead of swallowing the pablum that commentators love to swill on morning talk shows and news blurbs, most of the people I know do what I do - hit the raw numbers, extrapolate them against raw census figures, and see what patterns emerge to us.

After half an hour, my mother gave me the number of one of my father’s contemporaries here in Atlanta, an old DC bureaucrat who’d retired down south.

So I called him.

“Man, this thing is getting interesting,” he said. He and I exchanged greetings, then I proceeded to listen as he deconstructed what he saw as the high points and the low points of the Democratic presidential primary. “I’ve given money to the DNC for years,” he said. “And I was pissed – pissed at Bill Clinton for showing his ass because his wife wasn’t getting a free pass, and pissed at Dean (Howard Dean, chairman of the DNC) for not reigning Bill in. So I called up there to talk to somebody and let them know how I felt about it.”

He and I both just about fell all over ourselves as we gave Roland Martin, a back bencher (ain’t that a bitch – all the black commentators on CNN were in the back row) a metaphorical high five for saying something along the lines of “Obama appeals to the hip hop vote - the young white voters” without blinking an eye as he looked into the camera.

The thing that has been making me hot under the collar the last few weeks came back as I listened to the post primary spin from ex-president Bill Clinton. I might as well be one of the people listening to the radio in the movie “The Great Debaters” back in the 1930’s.

What the hell is this “well you know, Jessie Jackson won there in ’84 and ‘88” shit? He might as well would have told Obama, “nigger, you need to get your ass back in that barrel with all them other niggers. We’ll let you back out when we need you.”

What the hell is that finger waggle at the camera, finger waggle and sanctimony – is that the finger you sunk into Miss Lewinsky, you post pubescent poon hound? Is that the finger you stabbed at the air as you stared into the TV camera and said “I did not have sex with that woman?”

Why do I feel like we need another March on Washington every time Hilary comes on TV looking like Miss Ann who is going to tell us black folks “she knows what’s good for us nigras?”

I don’t know what “experience” means. Maybe it means Hilary Clinton should be able to handily whip an upstart politician with a wisp of national exposure. Maybe it means when Obama is able to pull together a team that can go to a full court press on a county by county basis in EVERY state against Hilary, she should be able to shift more troops into place to get more support. Maybe it means that you have a deeper treasure trove of insults, put downs, veiled references and racial code words to dig into when the heat is on your ass.

I hope Bill Clinton keeps running his damn mouth. The more he talks, the more he is likely to say something stupid.

I hope Obama continues to utilize Muhammad Ali’s “rope-a-dope” fighting style and let these two talk themselves out of contention. Although I think the Tiger Woods method is better – just ignore the sum bitches and play your own game.

A lot of the black blogosphere is also up in arms. A few excerpts:

from The Field Negro:

I have been tricked! Hoodwinked! Bamboozled! Set up and played by the Clintons, and I fell right into their trap.

Oh don't act like they didn't trick the rest of you Negroes too. I read all the nasty comments and e-mails about Billary and their dirty tricks and racial politics. And the tone was all the same: "Why are you picking on one of us? Why are you racializing this election? Why are you playing the race card?"

I know you all meant well, and you were just looking out for one of your own. I read all the righteous indignation on your blogs, I heard it on black radio, and I heard it in your day to day conversations. But you were acting just like "Billary" wanted you to act, and you followed the script to a tee.

So what did we do? We helped to turn South Carolina into the 2008 version of Sista Souljah. The Clintons knew that by blackening up the "O" man, they would force us to come to his defense, and ultimately, make this election about race and nothing else. And what better place is there to set up a racial firewall than South Carolina, with black folks making up almost 50% of their democratic voters?

I heard it all night tonight from the lily white pundits and anchor people. "Boy race really played a part in this election." The blacks really came out for Obama." "Obama got 81% of the black vote which is far more than both of his opponents.... and on and on it went. When it was over, it was as if Jessie Jackson was running for president. Did I say Jessie Jackson? Oh yeah, and just for good measure; Bill mentioned him too. , just in case we forgot that Obama, like Jessie, is a black man.

from Jack and Jill Politics

I'd like to concentrate on those two points.

1. He only won because he's Black

This is condescending to the nth degree. For this to be the case, then that would mean that Obama would have been leading in South Carolina from the moment he announced in February 2007. And, the truth of the matter is, the race in South Carolina, according to the polls, only has had Obama in the lead beginning THIS MONTH- January 2008.

In November 2007, Hillary Clinton had a ten-point advantage; December 2007, Clinton and Obama were tied. So, from February 2007 until December 2007, Barack Obama was trailing Hillary Clinton in South Carolina. So, what happened in December 2007? Did everyone Black in South Carolina JUST discover that Obama was Black and said , ' I'ze gots to vote for the Black guy!'

Or, could it be, as with Iowa, and New Hampshire, and Nevada, Senator Obama began from Ground Zero - little national name recognition and no organization. And, as with those other states, he began to build an organization in South Carolina, from the ground up, and through visiting and through campaign events, he began to become better known and present himself as a viable candidate for President.

You mean, Obama, gasp, actually campaigned for the Black vote in South Carolina?

Indeed, he did.

So, it took from February 2007 until January 2008, for Barack Obama to become a clear choice in South Carolina. It took that time for Black South Carolinians to accept that Barack Obama WAS a serious candidate, and all that means. That, they had to accept this 'New' type of Black leadership as not only valid, but viable. To become comfortable with the pretext that Barack Obama COULD NOT be ' The Black Candidate Running for President' a majority of the time, but that he had to be 'The Candidate Running for President Who Happens To Be Black', and make peace with that.

February 2007 - January 2008: That doesn't scream obvious; that doesn't scream overnight sensation; that screams that the Black South Carolinian Population was deliberate about their decision making in terms of the Democratic Primary and should be respected as such. If those voters were such sheep, then wouldn't they be following in lockstep with the Black Establishment in South Carolina that, for the most part, has declared themselves for Hillary Clinton?

Which brings me to point #2 - An Obama victory in South Carolina doesn't REALLY count as a win because of the sizeable Black population in South Carolina.

So, let me get this straight - Hillary Clinton wins White women in New Hampshire, and it's this great victory, but if Barack Obama wins South Carolina, after ten months of campaigning, because of sizeable Black support, it doesn't REALLY count?

What is this - are we back to being Three-Fifths once again?

I don’t know who is going to win this thing, but I am glad Obama is still making it a horse race, mostly because the young black boys I see these days, the preteens, the ones who just started school – they have a look of hope in their eyes I haven’t seen before. They are dreaming bigger than ever.

from Average Bro:

The Presidency is that "final frontier" of black achievement. We've run Fortune 500 companies. We've become billionaires. We've gone to the moon. But the Presidency is different, it's unique in it's prominence and power, and it's has to be granted, not merely earned by "working twice as hard".

All other reasons of merit, qualifications, and experience aside, I finally realized tonight what truly makes the Obama campaign special.

The ability to dream.

As my son and I chewed crushed ice and watched the Obama speech, I finally allowed my cynicism to melt. Who's to say a black man can't be the catalyst for making America the best country it can really be? Who's to say blacks, whites, latinos, and asians can't all get along? Who's to say my son can't be President? Certainly not me. I can look him in his eyes, say it, and really, truly mean it.

It could really happen.

I’m not interested in overcoming.

I am ready though, like a lot of the rest of my brethren, to join the club.

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