“And so we shall have to do more than register and more than vote; we shall have to create leaders who embody virtues we can respect, who have moral and ethical principles we can applaud with an enthusiasm that enables us to rally support for them based on confidence and trust. We will have to demand high standards and give consistent, loyal support to those who merit it. We will have to be a reliable constituency for those who prove themselves to be committed political warriors in our behalf. When our movement has partisan political personalities whose unity with their people is unshakable and whose independence is genuine, they will be treated in white political councils with the respect those who embody such power deserve. ” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
As we profess to honor the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr this week, we should be mindful of his words. As the leader of a movement tasked with dealing with politicians large and small, he came to become intimately familiar with human nature and the psyche of the black politician. He came to understand what made each tick and was able to separate the wheat from the chaff. Barack Obama has taken a step this week on a journey that no other African American has ever been on. It is a step leading to the precipice of ultimate power: the Presidency. We, along with the entire world, will get a chance to see what this brotha is really made of. Unlike the dashing enigma that some in the corporate media have portrayed him to be, in reality, he is nothing of the sort.
His path to power has been eased by his gracious personality and his craven political accommodations to those of greater power. His unique positioning in the field of 2008 contenders is both calculated and largely deceptive. While Senator Obama is one of us, his candidacy is not from us.
This boom-let of uncritical and fawning praise and publicity culminating in his announcement for President is not a creation of the black community. We actually chose Jesse Jackson. He spoke for an undiluted consensus of black political thought. He did so eloquently and forthrightly despite the enormity of his vanity and ego. In contrast, Al Sharpton’s political persona is substantially weaker and his vanity, ego, and manifold character flaws are even greater. However, the substance of his critique of the Democratic Party as an institution which takes African Americans for granted is valid. Obama, on the other hand, speaks for those to whom he is indebted.
Dr. King was insightful when he wrote, “The majority of Negro political leaders do not ascend to prominence on the shoulders of mass support. Although genuinely popular leaders are now emerging, most are selected by white leadership, elevated to position, supplied with resources, and inevitably subjected to white control. The mass of Negroes nurtures a healthy suspicion toward these manufactured leaders.”
Obama is a manufactured leader who has allowed himself to be advanced by a cabal of media elites and “DLC centrist” political actors determined to choose an alternative to Hillary Rodham Clinton. Those of us in the progressive black blogosphere have ample reasons to be suspicious of brotha Barack. While it is important to examine what a politician stands for, it is just as important to examine who stands behind them pulling the strings.
Standing foursquare behind Senator Obama is the Chicago Daley machine. The Daley machine of old led by their father, and the Daley machine of today, have always stood for the maximization of white ethnic political power and the subjugation of minority communities to their corporate backed rule. As I’ve said before, Mayor Daley has endorsed Obama for President in a self-serving power move designed to eliminate the looming black threat against his re-election in a metropolis that long ceased to be majority white. His brotha Bill Daley, the former Gore Campaign Chairman and Secretary of Commerce in the Clinton Administration, has also come aboard ship Obama, signing on as a senior advisor.
In the Daley Machine of old, the contenders had to make a great show of coming to Chicago and kissing daddy’s ring. During that time, he controlled the Illinois delegation of convention delegates to the Democratic National Convention. His active support was usually critical and his active efforts in 1960 led to JFK’s narrow win over Nixon. Today, the Daley brothers exercise that power as a team.
Mayor Daley heads a Chicago political fiefdom in which he is virtually unchallenged. He has maintained that control by buying off black elected officials with patronage and pork barrel projects and by shamelessly catering to rapacious corporate interests. He issued his first Veto in 17 years as Mayor to prevent the City of Chicago from mandating that Wal-Mart and other big box retailers pay living wages of at least $10.00 an hour. He did this despite an accumulation of over $78.9 billion in assets for Wal-Mart’s founding family.
Mayor Daley’s brotha Bill Daley negotiated NAFTA on behalf of the Clinton Administration and PNTR with China. These, and other regressive free trade packages advanced by the corporate friendly Clinton Administration facilitated the ongoing destruction of America’s manufacturing base by shipping jobs to Mexico and other developing nations better suited to paying workers poverty wages and leaving Americans unemployed. He is now the Chicago front-man for the investment banking firm of JPMorgan.
Obama’s vote for the Oman free trade agreement is probably the source of Bill Daley’s enthusiasm and should be a basis for progressive skepticism. Oman prohibits union organizing and is nothing more than a top down dictatorship with a record of human rights abuses. Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis as he supported a strike by black sanitation workers for living wages and collective bargaining rights. It is an affront to King’s legacy and contrary to his dream to support right-wing trade agreements that fail to uphold people’s basic human right to a living wage.
Political Scientist Michael Parenti has postulated that “American capitalism represents more than just an economic system; it is an entire cultural and social order, a plutocracy — that is, a system of rule by and for the rich — for the most part.” Now that Obama’s moderate, mealy-mouthed political manifesto has met with critical acclaim and made him a millionaire, he is acceptable to the ruling class as a colored proxy and Trojan horse for their malevolent interests.
During the contentious debate over the nomination of dangerous black reactionary Janice Rogers Brown to the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals, the nations second highest and most important appellate court besides the Supreme Court itself, Obama said, “I am not somebody who subscribes to the view that because somebody is a member of a minority group they somehow have to subscribe to a particular ideology or a particular political party. I think it is wonderful that Asian Americans, Latinos, African Americans, and others are represented in all parties and across the political spectrum. When such representation exists, then those groups are less likely to be taken for granted by any political party.” Part of that statement contains a kernel of truth but also reveals a stunning lack of insight about liberation movements and progressive social change. Nobody tasted freedom by becoming an Uncle Tom reactionary.
None of the groups he has mentioned has been unscathed by a bald-faced economic, social, and politically directed racism meant to subjugate them under a paternalistic white hand. His lack of fortitude in filibustering the nominations of Samuel Alito to the Supreme Court and Appellate Judges like Clarence Thomas Clone Janice Rogers Brown, reveal a political moderation that goes against the progressive grain of the black political consensus and a capitulation to the contemporary forces of reaction.
This betrayal and lack of fortitude make him palatable to the teeming masses of white political activists yearning for the chance to wave their support of Obama in our faces as proof of their liberalism while the racist underpinnings of our imperialistic domestic and foreign policy remain intact. I believe in the old adage “show and prove.” Both Obama and the liberal white blogosphere must do copious amounts of both before they are “absolved of all sin” by me. His run for the White House was paved by the efforts of Jesse Jackson and the black community 20 years ago. Obama has yet to show himself worthy.
While Jesse Jackson was at heart a black politician and part-time preacher in search of political legitimacy. Al Sharpton is a street hustler with a clerical collar in search of a better hustle. If that means partially representing the black political consensus by running for President while simultaneously living the high life on campaign funds solicited by GOP operatives trying to embarrass and weaken the democratic party, he seems to be O.K. with that. That, in a nutshell, describes Reverend Al’s 2004 Presidential bid.
Al is always getting in bed with disreputable people he has no business dealing with in an unscrupulous effort to make a damn dollar. Rhetorically however, he comes closer to being on point than most of his so-called mainstream brethren. He sounds the right notes at the right times from an undiluted, and politically honest sheet of authentically black music.
“This is not about a party. This is about living up to the promise of America. The promise of America says we will guarantee quality education for all children and not spend more money on metal detectors than computers in our schools.”
“The promise of America guarantees health care for all of its citizens and doesn’t force seniors to travel to Canada to buy prescription drugs they can’t afford here at home.”
“The promise of America provides that those who work in our health care system can afford to be hospitalized in the very beds they clean up every day.”
“The promise of America is that government does not seek to regulate your behavior in the bedroom, but to guarantee your right to provide food in the kitchen.”
“The issue of government is not to determine who may sleep together in the bedroom, it’s to help those that might not be eating in the kitchen.”
“The promise of America [is] that we stand for human rights, whether it’s fighting against slavery in the Sudan, …AIDS in Lesotho; (or)… police misconduct in this country.”
For the aforementioned reasons, I feel it necessary to sanction another run by Al Sharpton. America, especially black America, could use a sober dose of candor regarding race and its relationship to the Democratic Party. While this falls far, far, short of an endorsement, I feel his presence necessary to articulate what Obama always fails to say. If for no other reason, I relish the chance to see Sharpton “spank the donkey” one more time. If he has to slap some damn rhetorical and policy sense into Barack Obama in the process, so be it. If nothin’ else, it might keep Barack honest enough for black folks to eventually support and honor the legacy and dream of a King.