Sunday, January 14, 2007

Sen. Barack Obama

On New Year's Day Laura Washington wrote a column titled, "Whites may embrace Obama, but do 'regular black folks'?" And that's a question that has been on my mind since he ran for the US Senate in 2004.

I remember when he ran against Rep. Bobby Rush back in 2000 to take his congressional seat. He also was running against State Sen. Donne Trotter (who I voted for only because he was out campaining and we shook hands). Needless to say Obama didn't win that contest perhaps the one election in his life he has lost so far.

Oh yeah Washington has an analysis for that...

Black voters, especially older ones, are very conservative. They believe our elected officials need seasoning. Once we get our people into office, we want them to marinate, keep the seat and bring home the bacon. Obama learned that lesson in 2000 when he challenged longtime incumbent U.S. Rep. Bobby Rush and got a good whipping. The message from black voters: Wait your turn, young man.
Well in those days I couldn't say that I knew exactly who he was. Then what a difference four years made. He ran in the Democratic primary for US Senate and his opponents included a rich self funded campaign by Blair Hull (who was endorsed by Bobby Rush who must have egg on his face right now), Joyce Washington (a black woman whose campaign was based on the single issue of health care), and Dan Hynes (Illinois state comptroller who's father Thomas Hynes was a Democratic committeeman in the 19th ward until last year and was a Democratic national committeeman). Out of this field he won and he was set to take on Jack Ryan.

Then things get funny quickly. There was some interest in Ryan's divorce records. Something was found and the Republicans wanted him to withdraw from the race, which is what he ultimately did. In his place was the very loud and outspoken Alan Keyes and while the start seemed promising until Alan Keyes made statements (he discussed giving blacks taxbreaks and said something about Vice President Cheney's lesbian daughter) and he quickly proved that why he twice failed to get the Republican Presidential nomination and why he lost his race for the US Senate in Maryland. Needless to say that he got hammered by then state Sen. Obama.

Now if I were to say this wasn't a real race could I have been correct especially if Obama has been facing Jack Ryan who certainly was Obama's equal in that election. It wasn't a real race with Alan Keyes even though as Keyes would claim the IL GOP took race out of the equation when they nominated him to run in Ryan's place. Well we don't know now unfortunately.

After that election how can the nation even consider Obama a good candidate for president. What is it exactly? Is it his attractiveness? Or his oratorical ability? I wonder. But looking at Washington's columns I wonder what most blacks think of Obama. There are some answers...

Around the Christmas dinner table, the family was amazingly blase. My uncle Leland "Sugar" Cain is famous in this space for saying, during the 2003 U.S. Senate race that Obama, a biracial graduate of Harvard Law School, was an overeducated "elitist" who wouldn't play well in the 'hood.

Now he is a fan. In between the greens and gravy, he offered some food for thought. He opined on Obama's chances, saying that his fellow South Sider was a ''good man'' who will make a great president -- someday.

''He can do better than Bush. He can probably do better than Clinton. It's not like he can't carry his own weight,'' said Sugar Cain, a retired railroad worker. Yet, he was adamant that Obama can't win the presidency in 2008. For one thing, Obama needs "more experience."

White voters aren't ready to elect the nation's first black president, he added. "It's easy for him to appeal to them now, but when it's time to go into the voting booth, they're not going to pull that lever."

My uncle follows political news 24/7. He reminded the gathering of Harold Ford's failed bid to become the first black U.S. senator from Tennessee since Reconstruction. ''Look who should have won in Tennessee,'' he expounded, his finger flailing in the air. ''Until they put that woman on TV on the telephone.'' He was recalling the controversial campaign ad that featured a sultry blond who reminded Ford that they met at a ''Playboy party'' and invited him to ''Call me.''

The rest of the family -- cousins, in-laws and play-aunts, all -- gave an "Amen!" and proceeded to dig in to my mother's legendary mac-and-cheese.

My random queries to other African Americans elicited similar sentiments. "He's a great guy, but I don't know much about him," says my brother Andrew, an Army sergeant in Fort Carson, Colo. From Randy, who works the door in my building: ''I don't know about him, but what I know, I like.''

I checked in with Michael Meyers, executive director of the New York Civil Rights Coalition, who specializes in keeping tabs on African-American leadership.

''I don't hear anything from regular black folks about Obama. . . . He's not a star in their orbit. They think he's young, attractive, well-spoken. But I don't know anybody who takes him seriously.'' Obama's not ready, he said.
My two cents in that Sen. Obama doesn't have much to his record. He wasn't making waves in Sprinfield and he definitely isn't in Washington so far. The question that should be asked is, what would make him a good candidate for President?

Unfortunately so far I haven't figured that out.

Check out this other article that blogged about late last year too.

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