Saturday, January 12, 2008

An Abiding Sense of Something

David Greenberg's column in today's Washington Post attempts to answer why Obama has attracted hosannas of praise and few detractors who have criticized his relatively unsubstantial policy agenda. I admit that I would like to see some definitives from his campaign rather than feel-good rhetoric about political compromise and national unity that although it appeals to the hopeful side in all of us, sacrifices specifics for vague notions of change. The American peoples' desire for reform and our desire to rid ourselves of politics as usual has given him the ability to tout such things without a great degree of criticism, but at some point in the near future, I recommend strongly that the tone of his discourse shifts to specific remedies that would effectively address the multitude of problems we face in the months and years to come.

I've noticed a few critics on the left have attacked him for reinforcing stereotypes as "The Good Negro", the stereotypical virtuous black character played to perfection by Sidney Poitier in a variety of movies. Any minority group finds itself unfairly scrutinized and uniformly judged to a hyper-critical degree. I would argue that Obama has to walk a tightrope in which he must be careful to not seem too black for a white audience and too white for a black audience. This sort of conundrum applies not to just a minority group per se, but to any representative of a demographic that has been historically under-represented in politics. Hillary Clinton has found herself a victim of this sort of perspective as well, since she is the first woman to run for President with a serious chance of winning the office. She must take care to not seem too masculine else her inherent femininity suffers in the process, but also be cautious not to seem too feminine else she be criticized for weakness.

This is virgin territory we are traversing and with no established precedent, neither a minority, nor a female candidate is quite sure of the path that lies ahead. Nor, really, are voters themselves completely certain of it. Elections have been won and lost based on a variety of factors. Each cycle has its own dynamic and the rules of politics find themselves under constant revision. What no one questions is that we are all in for a very interesting, very competitive race. That may be the only definitive answer we can expect for the next several weeks.

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