Mark Morford usually gets it right. (He’s one of the savviest, funniest columnists around.) This time he flubbed it, methinks. Musta taken a happy pill when he wrote his latest. It appeared this morning:
Barack Obama isn’t really one of us. Not in the normal way, anyway.
This is what I find myself offering up more and more in response to the whiners and the frowners and to those with broken or sadly dysfunctional karmic antennae — or no antennae at all — to all those who just don’t understand and maybe even actively recoil against all this chatter about Obama’s aura and feel and MLK/JFK-like vibe. …
Don’t buy any of it? Think that’s all a bunch of tofu-sucking New Agey bulls– and Obama is really a dangerously elitist political salesman whose inexperience will lead us further into darkness because, when you’re talking national politics, nothing, really, ever changes? I understand. I get it. I often believe it myself.
Not this time.
Mark apparently believes in “Obama the Magic Negro,” per David Ehrenstein, whose half blackness / half whiteness gives him a certain authority on the subject (not to mention his gayness, which isn’t evident here, and his pop-culture expertiseness, which is). David wrote this back in March 2007:
As every carbon-based life form on this planet surely knows, Barack Obama, the junior Democratic senator from Illinois, is running for president. Since making his announcement, there has been no end of commentary about him in all quarters — musing over his charisma and the prospect he offers of being the first African American to be elected to the White House.
But it’s clear that Obama also is running for an equally important unelected office, in the province of the popular imagination — the “Magic Negro.” …
Like a comic-book superhero, Obama is there to help, out of the sheer goodness of a heart we need not know or understand. For as with all Magic Negroes, the less real he seems, the more desirable he becomes. If he were real, white America couldn’t project all its fantasies of curative black benevolence on him.
And then there’s Manuel Otero, who also got it right earlier this week:
Doubtless, Obama’s mission has a lot to do with an urgent need of the ruling class to transcend, at least perceptually, the race divide in the United States. Doubtless, this urgent mission has a lot to do with the changing demographics in the U.S., the growth of the so-called Latino minority, and the need to create a new integrated, post-racial majority, that could marshall the electoral processes towards a new “American” consensus.
Yet, Obama’s mission has more to do with providing safe channels of political mobilization that creates the illusion of empowerment without actually going there. Obama, the master illusionist he is, could believe his own fairy tale, and attempt some ground-shifting ventures on his own, and then most probably he will be quickly disposed of, or he could try to play out his role as scripted, and be washed away by general frustration, cynicism and disillusionment.
Either way, the real owners of the U.S. will gain a few more years to clean up the Bush-Cheney mess, distract the masses, obscure any real political goals, and consolidate their hold on key strategic world resources.
A’course it was my friend Bill Osborne who pointed out the Otero to me.
Postscript: June 9 — Not to queer the prospect of keeping the BananaRepublican heir apparent out of the White House, but I meant to post Ralph Nader’s remarks from a recent interview in The Wall Street Journal. Like this one:
I think the central issue in politics in this country is the domination of corporations over our government, and over our elections, and over so many things where commercial values used to be verboten . . . What’s happened in the last 25 years is an overwhelming swarm of commercial supremacy, and he, Obama, has bought into that.
An email message from another friend, George Mattingly, reminded me of the interview:
The economic bad tidings are likely to elect Obama, but I feel sorry for my two sons who are head over heels in love with him. I don’t know whether they have the emotional or intellectual resources to recover from the disillusionment when they discover that in reality he is the Senator from Archer Daniels Midland.
Tunku Varadarajan, not my favorite journalist, did a good job of asking Nader the right questions, i.e.: What about Obama’s desire to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement, his criticism of the Detroit automakers, his emphasis on not taking money from lobbyists?
Nader: “You see, that’s all permissible populist rhetoric that the corporations understand and wink at. ” Varadarajan: “So is it all a charade?” Nader: “Yes, a charade. His health-insurance plan lets the health insurance companies continue their redundant, wasteful, often corrupt — in terms of billing fraud — ways, ripping off Medicare.”
Would Democrats accept a characterization of Obama as “an agent of corporate America”? Nader:
He’s not an agent, but he moves in an environment that’s conditioned by corporate power. … [H]e’s made up his mind to be a very conciliatory, concessionary, adaptive politician to the reality of corporate power. And people like him are told, ‘Look, if you don’t adhere to certain parameters and expectations, you’re going to have a hard time winning any nomination or election.’ And Obama’s made his peace with that.