Thursday, February 07, 2008

The (Next White) President

Okay, got my political digs on. Let's roll.

So, it seems as if we have a Republican nominee!! Romney exited stage left, after spending some $40 million of his own fortune. Geez...I wonder how big that fortune IS, that he can just toss aside forty mil of it?!? Anyway, after suggesting just last week that Huckabee ought to be the one taking a bow, Mr. Poufy Hairdo himself is out. OUT. O-U-T out.

And that's okay. McCain seems like kind of a nice guy. Oh, most of his ideas are shite, but what can you do? Guy's a freakin' Republican. By definition, modern conservatism is completely at odds with good ideas. Still, he's seen as a maverick by the MOST conservative in his party, and he attracts lots of Independents and middle-of-the-road quasi-Liberals, so there's that. He must feel pretty damn great, too, since he was declared dead by nearly EVERYONE just six months ago. Kind of the biggest-time "Nyah-nyah!" that a person could hope for.

On to the Democrats, who are still slugging it out, with the media trying to deal themselves into the contest. Y'know, 'cause the media HATES to be left out of a high-stakes game. The media seems to think that playing the "first (fill in the blank) candidate" is some sort of trump. Right? "Oh, Barack Obama, he could make history here by being the FIRST BLACK PRESIDENT." Oh. Oh REALLY. Um...couldn't we just as easily say that he'd be, oh, the next WHITE president?!? See, this bugs me, 'cause the guy's split right down the middle. Don't believe me? 'Kay. Here's the Female Elder Obama:

Or, rather, Ann Dunham. Lily white, ain't she? Shit, she's from KANSAS. Do you GET more lily white than that? For comparison, here's the Male Elder Obama:

And, yeah...he's pretty black. SHOULD be, right, 'cause he's Kenyan. So. Caucasian mother, African father...equal parts. And yet...somehow he's being portrayed (or, portrays HIMSELF) as African-American. Hey, I got no qualms with that...guy SHOULD be able to identify with whatever he wants. I like to identify with my Scottish heritage, even though I have equal parts Dutch/German in my makeup. I'm just saying: I get to be equally right in saying that, IF he's elected, he'll just be the next white president. Because, to suggest that he's "black" simply because half his genes are African...well, that's racist, right? I mean, isn't that the whole Jim Crow "one drop of black blood" rule? Didn't we eliminate that, oh, about a hundred-forty years ago? Oh, right, I remember now: blacks got made "equal"...on paper. Shit, we're STILL fighting THAT war!

Of course, we can't forget Senator Clinton in all this fray. The media want to sanctify her as well, saying that "she COULD make history by being the first woman president!" Gosh, the media are just OH so very anxious to have us Liberals do something historic, aren't they? Anyway, sure, Clinton could be the first woman president. Well, the first one who was actually ELECTED president, anyway. Let's roll back the clock, shall we...?

(*deedle-deedle-dee, deedle-deedle-dee, deedle-deedle-dee*)

(That's the Wayne's World "time travel" sound effect, by the way.)

The first woman president? Hell we need to go all the way back to turn-of-the-century Liberalism for that! In a Dave-esque turn of real-life events, Woodrow Wilson duffered a debilitating stroke in 1919, leaving him partly paralyzed. Doctors refused to reveal the seriousness of Wilson's incapacitation, and his second wife isolated him from everyone except medical doctors. That woman was Edith Galt Wilson, and while she claimed to have "never made a single decision regarding the disposition of public affairs," she offered no hesitation in issuing memos under her own name, nor in receiving communication FOR the president which began "Dear Mrs. Wilson." True, later historical research shows that Edith never showed an interest in politics, and Wilson himself was known to rarely listen to women for advice, only becoming dependent on Edith AFTER his stroke. wonders. It would be nearly 50 years before Congress would pass the 25th Amendment which gave them the power to judge a president's incapacity and relieve him of duties if necessary. In the time of Edith Wilson, a power vacuum existed that somewhat diminshes the media frenzy attempting to make Clinton the "first" woman president.

Much of my (hopefully obvious) sarcasm comes from a total disdain of modern politics. I'm one of those people who doesn't so much vote FOR someone, as I vote AGAINST the worst person. When President Bush was appointed for his first term, there was an AVALANCHE of articles suggesting that we here in the U.S. have a voting system nearly as archaic as our paper money. The best solution I ever saw was a system that allowed for the casting of "points" to multiple people. Here are two scenarios, involving possible contenders for the Republican nomination:

1) McCain, Romney, Huckabee and Paul are running for President. You really LIKE Paul, but early polls show that he only has single-digit support, and you don't want to "throw your vote away" like that. So, you vote for McCain, even though you think he's the devil...but slightly LESS a devil than Clinton.

2) Same four guys running, but you have a total of 6 "points" to assign: you can give 3 to one candidate, 2 to another, and 1 to a third. THIS time, you can give Paul the big 3 points, then save 2 for McCain and 1 for Romney. (Fuck that whack-a-mole Huck.) This way, you're voting for the person you actually WANT, but you also get to cast a hefty portion of points to the "probable" nominee as well. Multiply this out, and you'll quickly see that weirdo also-rans like Tancredo, Paul, and even that Liberal vote-vacuum Nader could actually be legitimate candidates.

I dunno. This is all really just pent-up frustration at a political system that seems mindless, one in which candidates from the same party are virtually indistinguishable from each other, even as they claim that the tiniest minutae is super-important in separating them. The American public doesn't help either, claiming to want "honest politicians" who will "tell the truth," and then getting sucked into the same vacuous arguments that always dominate the political landscape. Here's the thing: I DON'T want the next president to be someone I can have a fucking BEER with. I have plenty of friends to drink goddamn BEER with. I want the president to be a powerhouse, a dynamo, so freaking brilliant that I feel like a dumbshit when I hear him/her speak. I want a leader who LEADS, and not one who panders to the lowest common denominator, a title that we all seem to be racing to claim for ourselves.


Blogger Strangeite said...

Come on. You are making the assumption that voting is SUPPOSED to franchise people. If the system was set up in such a way that the "People" realized that they had the strength, then the individuals with the power might risk losing said power. The subtle distinction between strength and power is that those with strength rarely use it, but those with power are forced to continously use it.

9:56 AM  
Blogger Steph said...

Dude. You can get lily-whiter than Kansas. Have you been to Iowa lately?

Scott, I'm not completely clear on where in your post you're meaning to be sarcastic and where you're not, and so please forgive me if I'm being horribly dense, but when you wrote, "I get to get equally right in saying that, IF he's elected, he'll just be the next white president." You ARE being sarcastic, right? Please reassure me.

11:02 AM  
Blogger Animal said...

Strange: Nice distinction.

Steph: Short answer? Sort of. Longer answer: what I'm really trying to do is, in an honest fashion, decide how I feel vis-a-vis the notion that just because he's HALF black, we REFER to him as black. Or, that he refers to HIMSELF that way. I definitely feel that there's still a little Jim Crow hegemony there, like the lawyer in the "separate-but-equal" school trials asking young African-American children "Which doll is the PRETTY doll?" and the kids would inevitably point to the WHITE doll. "Which doll is the GOOD doll?" White, again. So, if he's of equal heritage, why this insistence that he's ALL black? In some ways, that does seem racist.

Of course, this is (as is typical for me) intended to be of "shock value" in order to make my point. Jelly Roll Morton is one of the most-revered black jazz artists in the early history of the music...but, he denied his African heritage all his life, claiming that "All my kin came from the shores of France!" J.R. would have been HORRIFIED to see history laud him as a BLACK musician. So, in that sense, it's nice that Obama can "come out of the closet" per se and embrace his heritage.'s an equal heritage, n'est-ce pas?

There's your ammo. Fire away.

11:57 AM  
Blogger Jenn-Jenn, the Mother Hen said...

Scott, you ready should learn to tell people how you feel, instead of bottling it up inside. Don't be so enigmatic - tell us what you're really thinking.

LOL :-)

12:16 PM  
Blogger Strangeite said...

I think this issue is complicated and I know enough to know that I can't really comprehend the mental gymnastics involved in racial identity.

I remember reading an interview with Halle Berry whose mother is also white. In the interview she tells the story about the time when she was about 10 or 11 years old and her mother told her that she needed to think of herself as black. Her mother told her that like it or not, the world is going to view her as black and therefore she needed to view herself as black in order to find her place within the world. My initial reaction (and the interviewers) was that this was horrible, but Halle Berry simply said she didn't view it this way. In fact she said that this lesson from her mom was one of the most important lessons she ever learned.

Is it right that we live in a world that this is the reality. No. However, with that being said, being a middle-class white man from an educated family, there is no way that I can truely understand the difficulties involved in trying to wrap your psyche around identifying with multiple cultures. I am sure that there are many people out there that succesfully do just that, but I can not hold it against someone for making a different choice.

I am pretty sure that I have not gotten across what I was trying to say, but oh well.

12:53 PM  
Blogger L*I*S*A said...

I think perhaps you identified your candidate on the last two sentences of your post.

You identified mine.

1:40 PM  
Blogger Steph said...

Well, as two white Americans without any experiential knowledge of what it means to be perceived as anything other than white, you and I might be the blind chatting with the blind, but we can always give it a fair try:

(Sorry, this is going to be a long one.)

Is there really such an insistence that Obama is “all black,” whatever that means? Because he’s identified, and identifies himself, as African-American? From my white privileged distance, it seems to me that people of mixed racial heritage take endless shit from all quarters no matter how they choose to identify themselves. Obama has struggled throughout his campaign to legitimate himself to black voters as an African-American because his one black parent is not American and he was raised mainly by white people. White people, on the other hand, frequently seem anxious to insist that European heritage not be forgotten or denied when a biracial person presents him/herself. And I wonder if as white people our energy might be well spent investigating why we have that anxiety, rather than worrying overmuch about how people of color choose to identify themselves. (Please understand I’m not accusing you of racism. Maybe your whole intent was to investigate that.)

You’re right to point out the abhorrent inherent racism in the old “one drop” rule and the ways in which it was/is used. But it’s also worth remembering that for most Americans of any color, a culture of whiteness, slippery and indefinable as that might be, is ubiquitous. It doesn’t need to be thrown an identity party to be acknowledged. To have visible non-European heritage is to be at least partially denied the privilege that comes with being part of that culture of whiteness, no matter what color your parents are. The majority of African-Americans have some European heritage, whether it’s from a white parent or grandparent or slaveholder ancestors. It’s not, I think, the business of white people to decide what they should make of that fact (not that I’m saying that’s what you’re doing), though I think it is absolutely our business to listen, non-defensively, to African-Americans talk about it. For our own education.

The fact that someone with Obama’s racial heritage has ascended to this political level is staggering and huge. To say “but hey, he’s just as white as he is black, so what’s the big?” is a denial of the political reality he’s working within. (Again, not saying that was your intent.) He doesn’t have a choice about “coming out of closet,” even if he wanted one. In this society, he is black. And while I don’t really know what the journalists are up to, Obama himself is hardly denying the white side of his family. When he came to Kansas, home of his maternal roots, before our caucuses, he came as a native son and proudly pointed out all his old aunties and cousins in his audience in El Dorado. Sure, that was clever and probably gave him a little boost in Kansas, but he wasn’t in much danger of losing. This “lily-white” state is wild about Obama. As, frankly, am I.

2:17 PM  
Blogger Animal said...

As always, Steph, your comments couldn't have been more insightful or well-put. I especially liked "To have visible non-European heritage is to be at least partially denied the privilege that comes with being part of that culture of whiteness, no matter what color your parents are." because that includes lots of folks of Middle Eastern descent, an especially noticeable potential denial in a state with such a HUGE Muslim population.

Also, you question “but hey, he’s just as white as he is black, so what’s the big?” did a much better job than I was able to do in portraying sarcasm, which probably was why you had a harder time telling when I did and didn't intend it.

For the record: not only do I support Obama in his (truly!) historic quest for the presidency, I'm starting to get tingly-toes that he just might pull it off. And we'd ALL be better off for it!

7:48 PM  

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