Elections & Voting
Man overboard! Obama Wrights-off a drowning friend
By Mike Whitney
Online Journal Contributing Writer

May 2, 2008, 00:20

Obama is "outraged."

After weeks of blistering attacks by the media, Barak Obama held a press conference on Tuesday and made it official; his relationship with the Reverend Jeremiah Wright was over, terminated, kaput. He would no longer associate with a man who believed that the United States of America could do horrible things to its people (like infect them with AIDs virus) or that 9-11 might have been blowback from US foreign policy. As Obama said, that's just outrageous.

Obama's press conference: "I have spent my whole life trying to bridge the gap between different human beings . . . That's who I am and that's what this campaign is all about. Yesterday we saw a very different kind of vision of America (Rev. Wright's speech to the National Press Club) I am outraged by the comments that were made and saddened over the spectacle. The Reverend Wright I saw yesterday was not the person I knew 20 years ago. His comments were not only divisive and destructive, but they give comfort to those who prey on hate. They do not accurately portray my values and beliefs. If Reverend Wright thinks that is 'political posturing' than he does not know me very well. And based on his comments yesterday I may not know him as well as I thought either."

The media, of course, is elated that Obama has thrown in the towel and jettisoned his longtime friend. For them, the destruction of Wright is just another trophy for the mantelpiece; another well-executed media-mugging that required around the clock coverage with plenty of libelous commentary. Every verbal miscue that Wright made in the last decade has been thoroughly analyzed, picked apart by lacquered-hair anchors, and coughed up endlessly on the 24 hour news stations. The Obama campaign never really regained its footing. Barack has been backpedaling from day one, while Wright is wondering if he'll ever overcome his image as a fire-breathing black fanatic.

Since Tuesday's press conference, over 2,000 articles have appeared in headline news celebrating the prodigal's return to the fold. Barak is back. Hooray. Obama's capitulation may be the greatest media triumph since the shrewish Linda Tripp produced the blue dress with the incriminating splotch. It doesn't get any better than this. Obama showed that he is not only willing to sacrifice a friend for his political ambitions, but that he's also willing to distance himself from the very traditions and movements which made his candidacy possible. It's a crushing defeat.

But the Wright episode is just the beginning of Obama's troubles and the good reverend is just one of many weapons that will be used to bludgeon the well-meaning candidate into submission. By inauguration day, he'll have been stripped of his dignity, his aspirations, and his identity as a black American. It's all part of the grueling preparation for becoming the next president of the United States.

On Wednesday, the Wall Street Journal ran an article attacking the "Afrocentric educators" to which Wright referred in his NAACP speech. According to the Journal, these black academics are no more than "charlatans."

Wall Street Journal: "The list of Afrocentric 'educators' whom the Rev. Jeremiah Wright has invoked in his media escapades since Sunday is a disturbing reminder that academia's follies can enter the public world in harmful ways. Now the pressing question is whether they have entered Barack Obama's worldview as well.

"Some in Mr. Wright's crew of charlatans have already had their moments in the spotlight; others are less well known. They form part of the tragic academic project of justifying self-defeating underclass behavior as 'authentically black.' That their ideas have ended up in the pulpit of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ and in Detroit's Cobo Hall, where Mr. Wright spoke at the NAACP's Freedom Fund dinner on Sunday, reminds us that bad ideas must be fought at their origins -- and at every moment thereafter.

"Approving of self-destructive behavior in school is just one part of the vast academic project to justify black underclass dysfunction." ["The Wright Side of the Brain" Heather MacDonald, WSJ'

Part of the tragic academic project of justifying self-defeating underclass behavior as authentically black?


But MacDonald is right; how dare black Americans think they can have their own history, traditions and education? What effrontery. As Ms. MacDonald points out, it's all "crackpot Afrocentric pedagogy." But we must be vigilant, the WSJ warns, because "we may be on the verge of seeing such madness spread into the White House."

Hide the children!

So, it looks like Obama will have to wash-away the stains of black culture before he'll be accepted as a viable candidate in some quarters. Some things never change. And the guileless Obama thought he could simply toss Wright overboard and be done with it. Wrong. There's no Faustian bargain in politics; no "one moment" when a man sells his soul and then moves up to the next level. Politics is like gangrene; it's piecemeal. One body part turns black and rots away and then it spreads to the next appendage. The same rule applies to presidential candidates; as they elbow their way to the top of the political ash heap, they cast off one chunk of their humanity after another. Eventually, if there's anything left, they enter El Dorado and take the swivel chair in the Oval Office.

It's no different for Obama, but that doesn't make him a bad man. In fact, he's a good man and would probably be a better president than either John McCain or Madame DeFarge. But that doesn't change the fact that the system prevents people with strong convictions and integrity from reaching the highest rung on the political ladder. It does. It grinds them down and contaminates them. They're forced to compromise on too many issues. Eventually, the level of compromise is so great that the system no longer functions properly; the economic situation deteriorates, the corruption spreads, the country gets bogged down in unwinnable wars, and the liberties upon which the nation was built begin to crumble. The same things we're seeing right now.

Obama can't reverse the course of events nor can anyone who operates within the system. That's why men like Reverend Wright are more important historically than Obama, even if Obama becomes president. Wright represents people-powered change, "transformational change"; the change that takes place when workers organize into labor unions and shut down plants and factories. The kind of change when women form liberation movements and demand the right to vote or equal pay. The kind of change when gays demand equal protection under the law and equal opportunity at work. The kind of change when black people say "enough" and take their place at "white's only" lunch counters or in seats at the front of the bus.

The real society-altering changes, which have shaped the class-race-gender struggle in America for over two centuries, have nothing to do with politics or politicians. They don't even have that much to do with voting. They came about through grassroots movements that took the political system by the throat and demanded radical change. For the most part, those groups were spearheaded by charismatic leaders like Jeremiah Wright.

Wright laid it all out in his speech to the National Press Club: "Our congregation took a stand against apartheid when the government of our country was supporting the racist regime of the African government in South Africa.

"Our congregation stood in solidarity with the peasants in El Salvador and Nicaragua, while our government, through Ollie North and the Iran-Contra scandal, was supporting the Contras, who were killing the peasants and the Miskito Indians in those two countries."

While the US government was squashing the workers and peasants, Wright and his congregation were part of the struggle for liberation and radical change -- no to apartheid, no to neoliberalism, no to occupation.

There's nothing wrong with Obama; he'll probably be a better-than-average president. But don't hope for miracles. Transformational change will not come from within the system; it must be forced on the system. And that's what Jeremiah Wright is all about.

Mike Whitney lives in Washington state. He can be reached at fergiewhitney@msn.com.

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