“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.


  1. “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.”

    I don’t know about this part. Obama seems like an acceptable alternate to the DLC crowd should HRC crash and burn. It’s better to have two pliant candidates in a contest than one especially if either one can keep a true progressive from the presidency.

  2. star1

    Barack Obama is the real deal. Lets give him a chance and not cut his legs from under him before he has an opportunity to prove himself. He is supported by legitimate Black leaders as well as White. I question YOU–skeptical brother–who is pushing your button to put down so many of our men and women of leadership.

    We are not in any position to do anything but complain or suppot. I tend to lean toward SUPPORT. Try it sometime.

  3. star1,

    I doubt seriously that Barack Obama is the real deal, however, I haven’t closed the book on him and remain hopeful. I will vent my criticism and skepticism because it is not something we hear much of in the corporate media. Clearly you’re not in the frame of mind to hear it. I understand and expected reactions like that.

    I refuse to be brainwashed into believing that he is a savior. He is a black man, just like me and he puts his pants on one leg at a time just like I do. He has flaws and is imperfect like the rest of us. It is time we realize that and examine the man and the myth side by side.

    Support him if you must, but realize what you’re getting. I do.

  4. rikyrah

    Well, I’m for Senator Obama. I find him no less qualified than anyone else running in the Democratic group.

    And, I still get the feeling that you’re applying an Obama-only ‘ Black Tax’ to his candidacy that you aren’t with any of the other candidates.

  5. Rikyrah,

    No, baby. Don’t get me wrong. I am holding him to a standard, that much is true. It is a high standard because the Presidency demands it, but I also think that it is fair because Dr.King articulated it. If he is to ask for our support, he needs to come correct and earn it. He hasn’t. Neither has Hillary, truth be told. I haven’t been easy on her either. Edwards is the only one that is about right among the big three. Don’t misconstrue that as an endorsement because it isn’t.

    I am just a little southern black boy whose opinions don’t really count, but I feel the need to make my voice heard and my feelings known. What I have written is what I genuinely feel. This is what is on my heart right now. I understand if you don’t agree. I deeply respect you and your opinion. Don’t stop letting me hear it.

  6. yogo

    If any good is to come out of a Sharpton run it’s this–we’ll certainly find out what Obama’s made of, and how far he’s willing to go to get to the White House.

  7. I think that catches my position on Obama – I haven’t closed the book on him, either. And I’m trying to remain hopeful.

  8. Watch for how…and if…he evolves on the free trade issue between now and 2008. That will be key as to whether his whole agenda is bought and paid for by the DLC. And yes we need the Rev. Al to make some issues heard, that would never be brought up if left to the usual suspects. Good points!

  9. Great piece. For me, the jury is still out on Obama. The level of apprehension I have about him is indescribable. It’s weird.

    I’ll take Al Sharpton over Obama any day. At least with Sharpton, I know exactly where he’s coming from. Despite occasional pandering, Sharpton has been deep in the trenches for a long time.

    With Obama I don’t see it. Maybe he’s playing “the game” well. Either way, admittedly, I am lost. He does not move me at all.

  10. Skeptical Brotha-

    Fascinating post. This *white* Jewish boy is enjoying your sencerity.

    Can I ask – what’s your opinion of Edwards?

  11. Carson Sasser

    “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.”

    Liberation movements? Progressive social change? Tasting freedom? What year is this? Sounds like you’re stuck in the past Brotha.

    What kind of progressive social change do you want? Do you want to turn this country into France or Cuba? If so, I’ll let you know now that I’ll do my best to block you every step of the way. So will Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Herman Cain, Larry Elder, Star Parker, LaShawn Barber, Bill Cosby, Colin Powell, …

  12. This is very much on point. I like Obama: I think he’s attractive, has a good speaking voice, and he has a zeal for compromise — all qualities our current president seems to lack. But while those qualities are great for politics, are they enough upon which to base a candidacy? Will Obama become the American Left’s Margaret Thatcher?

    I think the goal is to wait and see: to wait to find out what sorts of measures he advocates, how he commands tricky issues, and how citizens perceive him as he cues up more resources and platforms to run.

    (And of course, there’s the skeptic in me that doesn’t want Obama to get shot…)

  13. Well, “wait and see” is exactly what we’re going to miss out on if he runs for prez right now. I can’t say I’d do any different in his shoes – if you have the juice, you have to use it, I suppose. But I’ve never been known for my patience.

    I can see your concern though – is it worth it to have four years of who-knows-what just to get the symbolic win?

  14. Bob

    Let’s give obama a chance to prove his worth, and stop the “CRABOLOGY” – an African phraseology for pull him down.

  15. That was a fascinating assessment of Obama. I do think that the fundamental problem with politicians is that they are exactly that. Politicians.

    I don’t think that Obama or Clinton will be on the Democratic ticket. Not because they are any worse than any other politician, but because the more chicanery the Republicans engage in the more likely the Dems are to take the Whitehouse. I highly doubt they will put up a ticket that has the potential to polarize opinion and jeopardize that. (Hilary, even more than Obama, I think would turn off large segments of the voters. She’s fairly divisive even in New York.)

  16. The interesting thing about Obama is that, when he started out in Chicago, he was not immediately embraced by the black community. His challenge of Bobby Rush damaged his standing amongst African-Americans and it took him awhile to build up his cred. Running as the only real black candidate in the primary in 2004 helped eventually, but initially, his main base of support were affluent whites.

    He definitely did not run as “the black candidate” then and I don’t expect him to do so in 2008. I would add, though, that is the reason he will probably be the first black president. And if you want a candidate who understands and promotes “the urban agenda” as Rev. Sharpton calls it, Obama is clearly the best serious contender.

  17. rhp

    I have read with disgust, criticism of Obama’s run for the White House. It is quite clear to me now why the plight of the black man exist today and will probably continue. We live in a world controlled by by white men, and in this country blacks are outnumbered by whites. Yet many many of my fellow black folk expect black leaders to acquire powerful posiions in this country and corrrect the injustices we suffer without the assistance of whites.

    My brothers, that is nothing more than a pipe dream. Do these critics feel that white folk will just sit on their hands and give up power, when all we do is criticise each other and blame the next person because they are not “black like me”.

    Guys you better wake up, and quickly too; otherwise you may not find a single black man (or white) if you take too long. I am not saying you must vote for Obama, but if you don’t you better have damn good reasons and not some dumb statements.

  18. rhp,

    Please stay tuned for my next commentary on Obama tomorrow. It really gets to the nub of my skepticism. In the meantime, why do you go touch the hem of his garment or something so that you and white America can be made whole. 🙂 As for me and my house, we shall remain skeptical.

  19. Katie McGee

    Interesting comments on all fronts. Has anyone read Obama’s books? In particular, his first is illuminating, I think. He has been around the block and paid some dues, outside of the limelight.

    I don’t pretend to say that he is not a politician and therefore, by definition, contains some distasteful qualities. I will be watching him closely. If I had to pick right now between the Democratic contenders, I have to say it would be him. We’ll see.

  20. Steve Bumbaugh

    Geez…I assumed that psuedo-afrocentric types would start lampooning Obama because he doesn’t despise white people. Obama, unlike most other black leaders of his generation, started his career as a community organizer in low-income black neighborhoods on the southside of Chicago. To suggest that he has no connection to the black community and doesn’t share our concerns, is ludicrous and pathetic. Here are the real objections that my psuedo-leftist brothers and sisters have with Obama:
    1. He has two Ivy-leage degrees;
    2. While he is cognizant of historical and institutional racism, it hasn’t driven him to angry diatribes against the man…something my psuedo-afrocentric brethren see as a sign of racial fidelity;
    3. He is half-white….that’s okay when it’s someone like Elijah Muhammed or Malcolm X, people who firmly established their antipathy towards ‘the man” (though Malcolm later recanted_, but it’s offensive when it’s someone like Obama who is actually able to get along with many white people;
    4. He is not overcoming a drug addiction, marital infidelity or some other carnal sin…That is, he has not established himself as a fellow sufferer. He is actually clean, sober and by all accounts a good husband and father. Shame on him!
    5. He actually has a chance to win….There is a transparent element of jealousy that this brother, who I consider to be the embodiment of MLK’s dream, has a realistic chance of becoming the first African-American president of the United States. By overcoming an obstacle that seemed insurmountable a mere 20 years ago, Obama would diminish the influence of those in our community who are fixated on blaming all of our problems on white people.

    Well, racism still does exist, but it doesn’t have to enslave us. I say GO OBAMA. I am all for him and I hope that our entire community will give this brother our full support.

  21. Wakeup

    The black community (and all communities!!!) should not only stand behind their man Obama, but run with him and vote for him. It is the only way to see what a black man can do for this nation. Much as Dr King is quoted as saying that “the mass of Negroes nurtures a healthy suspicion toward these manufactured leaders” in reference to black leaders who rise to priminence on mass movements…I hardly think that this can be applied to Barrack Obama. Dr King said in that same vein that genuine leaders were emerging, as opposed to the fake ones to whom the quote applied. Mr Obama is a genuine leader in our generation. So let us open our yes and ears and see him for who he is. People have to see him for what he has already done in the community in Chicago when the spotlight of the press was not shining on him. He has proven himself. He is ready, qualified and experienced to run this country. He does not portray himself as a savior, but as a different voice, more pregressive, less burdened by party politics and with a fresh view. We all know he is human and he has confessed to some growing up experimentations. Dont we all? So let us SUPPORT him and spread the news. One last comment: Steve Bumbaugh brings up the issue of ivy schooling — my take: the schooling thing is what is used by one community to justify the appointing/or hiring of other communities, particularly people of color. We are smart enough to ignore this and say we do recognise it as a distraction. People of color are aware that everytime one of their own is appointed to a position by past and present administrations, the issue of their “qualification” is prominently displayed…but we dont hear where the rest of them went to school etc. My point in this parenthesis…we know the drill, and its not just in government it is in the professional work places too, and we choose to ignore it, for now. Education is important. We know. Let me pose a question to skeptikal brotha…what exactly do you want of/from a black leader?(It is easy to judge and criticize, so state how you want things to go.)

  22. Bizzy

    Well said Skeptical Brotha.
    I’ve read a number of articles and points of view that are Critical of Mr. Obama… this is honestly one of the most comprehensive and best that I’ve read. Barack Obama is a politician like the rest and it is imperative that we remain critical and judge him based on his voting record and his rhetoric.

    While there is a vocal, irrational minority that opposes Obama for “not being black enough”, THERE ARE REAL REASONS TO CRITICIZE AND OPPOSE THIS GUY

    Pundits predict that each of the final two presidential candidates will have to raise and spend $500 million dollars each. This should trouble all of us, and make it clear that in order to even be considered a “viable candidate”, you must capitulate and become a political tool for the corporate elite. This is an indictment of the sad American political climate, where our leaders are first vetted by the wealthy business community, before we even get a chance to vote one way or the other.

    Apart from that… Skeptical brotha mentioned his support for Condoleeza Rice, his unwillingness to Fillibuster the reactionary Bush appointed judgeships, and his stance on corporate globalization. Let’s not forget that his stance on Iraq is woefully inadequate. He is lockstep in support of the continued criminal occupation of Palestine and he supported the Israeli act of agression against Lebanon last summer. Let’s also remember that one of the first things Obama did as a Senator was to vote for “tort reform”, a corporate agenda bill that serves only to undermine lawsuits, by making it harder for Americans to sue for damages against a company. This affects us!! (…us being the working class/poor both blacks and whites.)

    In the end, this discussion appears to me, to be one where those who rely on evidence are pitted against those who have a type of unwavering faith. The “give him a chance” crowd are way off since they cannot point to a good reason to. Keep it real.
    This was a great piece Skeptical Brotha.

  23. Malcolm A. Mitchell

    I’m going to assume that a great deal the skeptical sounding attitudes were adjusted, thawed out, and eventually refreshed as the world watched the leadership, judgment and decision making attributes of Obama allow him win the presidential election. In fact, I will be so bold as to presume that almost all who wrote skeptically in 2007 eventually found themselves passionately supportive of Obama during the three debates and passionately indignant when opposing black republicans in particular, were seemingly incapable of appreciating what was happening before our very eyes.

    If anyone has learned anything useful about the power of positivity and the constructiveness of objectivity, you have in part been instructed by the example of our President elect Barrack Hussein Obama.

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