Obama, Race and Class

Glenn Thrush, Politico, August 27, 2013

Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama, the two of most important black leaders in American history, operated in vastly different eras and political arenas—under a strikingly similar set of ground rules.

King and Obama—born 32 years apart—both learned that an African-American leader needs to link racial equality to the broader cause of economic justice that included white, working- and middle-class Americans in order to avoid failure, backlash and marginalization.

To that end, Obama will spotlight his fallen hero’s unfinished economic agenda when he celebrates the 50th anniversary of King’s 1963 “I Have a Dream” speech on Wednesday, leveraging an event most Americans view as strictly a racial milestone into something bigger—and more useful to a struggling president: A rationale for his second-term agenda.

Obama’s ability to blend class and race messages—to select the most aspirational elements of each—is a key to understanding his success. It’s his go-to power move, the political equivalent of a LeBron crossover dribble, the strategy that helped him bridge the gap between prophet and president.

“For Obama, economics is a safe way to talk about race,” said Taylor Branch, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of a three-volume history of the King era widely regarded as the definitive chronicle of the civil rights movement.

“Even though he’s the first black president, he’s in a tiptoe stance on race—that’s a phrase I borrowed from King’s ‘Letter from a Birmingham Jail.’ It makes him nervous. He can’t even ask the most basic question which he’s begging to ask: To what degree is the partisan gridlock that is frustrating his attempts to govern racially driven?” says Branch.

“I’m not blaming him … The slightest mention of race could alienate the millions of white Americans who voted for him,” he added.

Jesse Jackson, who more than anyone occupies the no man’s land between his mentor King and Obama, the man who won the political office he prized, told POLITICO he “absolutely” thinks congressional Republicans are motivated by race in opposing the president’s policies.

“The tea party is the resurrection of the Confederacy, it’s the Fort Sumter tea party,” Jackson said.

{snip}

Team Obama is not a deeply sentimental group, nor is it inclined to make big, dramatic gestures without a clear political upside. That’s why the West Wing has thus far brushed off suggestions Obama make a symbolic trip to the predominantly black, bankrupt city of Detroit—because “there’s not a goddam we can do right now to help them,” according to one Obama hand.

{snip}

King’s speech and the march on Washington, Obama recently told The New York Times, “is part of my generation’s formative memory … [A]fter the Trayvon Martin case, a lot of people have been thinking about race, but I always remind people—and, in fact, I have a copy of the original program in my office, framed—that that was a march for jobs and justice; that there was a massive economic component to that.

“When you think about the coalition that brought about civil rights, it wasn’t just folks who believed in racial equality; it was people who believed in working folks having a fair shot,” he said.

{snip}

King didn’t embrace economic inequality as a central theme until the summer of 1967, when he began organizing a multiracial Poor People’s Campaign, an unsuccessful effort to prod the Johnson administration to pass a national economic bill of rights; He was murdered a year later supporting striking sanitation workers in Memphis.

Yet even at the end of his life, King—unlike Obama—viewed his struggle as fundamentally racial, according to his biographer Taylor Branch.

“Race was and is the real third rail,” he said. “Race had been at the heart of our worst compromises as a country from the Revolution to the Civil War on down … It’s the gateway to everything else.”

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  • bigone4u

    Whatever Obama says at the festivities will have no credibility. He is morally bankrupt and increasingly politically bankrupt. So, let the empty rhetoric fly on Wednesday. Just don’t be surprised that no one is listening other than blacks. PS I hope his telepromter breaks down.

    • DON’T you have a GD clue yet? The Messiah can absolutely do NO wrong. People can actually be laid off from their jobs due his policies, and they will STILL vote for him if they could.

      • bigone4u

        That’s what the powers that be want us to believe.

      • IstvanIN

        He has increased the Food Stamp rolls.

      • Sick of it

        That’s not what popularity polls are telling us. Don’t listen to the lying media when most Americans disagree with virtually everything he is doing.

        • Oh come on! Remember how LOW his popularity was going all the way back to 2009, 2010, 2011, and last year?
          Waaay back in 1993, I was sure Clinton would be a one term president, BUT never underestimate a tepid Republican Party too afraid to go after the white vote.

    • Sloppo

      Moral bankruptcy didn’t stop millions of Americans from worshipping Michael King, so I doubt it can destroy the credibility of Obama unless the propaganda networks turn against him.

  • David Ashton

    “Race, gender, class”, the cultural marxist trinity.

  • Jenkem Huffington

    “Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama, the two of most important black leaders in American history”

    And the three most important women in black history are Aunt Jemima, Yo’ Mamma, and Mother F***er. Sorry I couldn’t keep reading beyond that tripe.

    • Hal K

      If there’s a n- n- n- on the label label label,
      you will like it like it like it on your table table table!

    • OlderWoman

      Using Martin Luther’s name was a stroke of genius. He used a God-fearing White man’s name to promote his anti-White racism. Michael King was a corrupt man.

  • WmarkW

    Is the Attorney General is going to call him a coward?

  • Jesse Jackson, who more than anyone occupies the no man’s land between his mentor King and Obama

    Jesse Jackson once threatened to cut Obama’s n***s off.

    “The tea party is the resurrection of the Confederacy, it’s the Fort Sumter tea party,” Jackson said

    No real Confederate would put blacks on the podium and run them up the political flagpole to tout their “tolerance.”

    That’s why the West Wing has thus far brushed off suggestions Obama make a symbolic trip to the predominantly black, bankrupt city of Detroit—because “there’s not a goddam we can do right now to help them,” according to one Obama hand.

    That bad that even the Good King Hopeychanger is out of arrows?

    “For Obama, economics is a safe way to talk about race,”

    That means that Obama’s speech will be nothing more than his usual teleprompter mehe tested in polling and focus groups. You will hear the words: Sequester, wealthiest among us, children, chemical weapons, Trayvon Martin.

    • jane johnson

      You forgot “fair share” and “It’s the right thing to do”.

  • NeanderthalDNA

    “I’m not blaming him … The slightest mention of race could alienate the millions of white Americans who voted for him,” he added.

    —————————-

    Good point. The long legged mac daddy is no going there. Wish he would…

  • MekongDelta69

    Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama, the two of most important black leaders in American history

    Sorry – that’s where I stopped reading. Was there anything important in this article, besides noticing the author can’t even write correctly?

    [That was a rhetorical question, b/c I don’t really give a damn what Glenn Thrush thinks.]

  • Spartacus

    “The tea party is the resurrection of the Confederacy, it’s the Fort Sumter tea party,” Jackson said.

    ———————————————————————————————————————

    I hope this idiot is right for once. The South must rise again !

    • Sick of it

      He’s completely wrong, unfortunately.

  • Tinfoil A22hat

    There’s some white crusty stuff there at the corners of your mouth you must have missed earlier, chief.

  • Bo_Sears

    “Even though he’s the first black president, he’s in a tiptoe stance on race…”

    Nonsense, he’s all about race, but most of the diverse white American peoples don’t see it because they don’t see themselves as a race…they think they are just Americans. This is particularly true of conservatives, they will always hide behind a philosophy like the libertarian voice, or a political party voice, or a religious voice.

    But when they speak out of their American voice, much snickering ensues because it is heard in various quarters as having been spoken out of their white voice. I know this is hard for some readers to understand.

    When African-Americans speak out of their African-American voice about social justice, reparations, voting, etc., no one has any doubt about the voice they are speaking out of. And there are various clues and phrases that we should be able to interpret, but probably won’t.

    For example, when he referred to “acting white” in his 2004 convention speech, African-Americans correctly understood that he was claiming that white Americans act alike without diversity, and that black students should celebrate their own diversity. It was two messages, and the one to us, an insulting message, went right over the heads of most of the diverse white Americans. We were misled by commenters and pundits who explained that “acting white” was an insulting phrase within the African-American community to put down studious African-American students. But it was much, much more than that.

    Then two days after his “wonderful” speech on race during the 2008 campaign (and I have to say here that I doubt anyone remembers a single important or insightful sentence in that speech), he gave a radio interview and there he referred to his white American grandmother as “a typical white person.” There you have it again, his denial of our internal diversity. It doesn’t mean much to us because we know how diverse (national origins, regional origins, etc.) we are, but that was a big slap to all of us. Had another person used the same phrase with any other ethnic or racial designation, private businesses would have fired that poor soul…and that did happen over and over again on the West Coast in the Eighties and Nineties.

    So kindly become aware that he has always been given to double messages which can be heard one way by us, and a more malicious, hilarious way by others who catch on that he is ridiculing us in a racially-tainted way.

  • Spartacus

    “To that end, Obama will spotlight his fallen hero’s unfinished economic
    agenda when he celebrates the 50th anniversary of King’s 1963 “I Have a
    Dream” speech on Wednesday, leveraging an event most Americans view as
    strictly a racial milestone into something bigger—and more useful to a
    struggling president: A rationale for his second-term agenda.”

    ———————————————————————————————————————

    I think Obama has other things on his mind right now :

    • bigone4u

      I would rather have offered a banana to Snowflake the only white gorilla ever found and a fixture in a zoo in Spain until she died about a decade ago. Snowflake would have appreciated the banana, although I must admit the Obamas look like they’re ready to fight over the one in your picture.

      • JustSomeDude888

        That’s a good-looking monkey!

      • robinbishop34

        May I ask you economic questions?

    • OlderWoman

      Priceless photo.

  • HJ11

    He’s not the president of my America. My America is 100 % White.

  • Sick of it

    Every one of these people is verifiably insane.

  • Evette Coutier

    Move back to Africa where there are great natural resources and no white man to oppress you, and there you can be free to rebuild the great Africa of 3,000 years ago, free to build economic equality without the racist whites, free at last, free at last to be black. I am so charitable I will personally pay for one of your one way tickets to Liberia.

    • NorthSea

      AND, free to build some more pyramids!

      • OlderWoman

        giggle. Africans never had the skills to build the pyramids. If they had, their American descendents would have contributed positively to this nation. As it is all they did is destroy every thing they touch.

        • NorthSea

          You’re right, of course. Have you heard that in African-American Studies they teach that Napoleon’s soldiers blew the nose off of the face of the Sphinx to hide the fact that the nose was African, in order to disguise that it was built by sub-Saharan Africans? I heard that one from a student of that program 🙂

          • Andy

            Afrocentrists can really be delusional. Yesterday I was reading an article complaining that white scientists “deny the genetic connection between Africans and Andamanese” to racistly prevent people from knowing that great, early civilization builders in Asia were Africans. In fact, white scientists say they’re not closely related because 1) They have been separated a long time, so there’s truth to it and 2) because they want to be anti-racist and prevent people from noticing that the members of various unimpressive societies around the earth look a lot like Africans and 3) only groups who inhabited greatly different climates from sub-Saharan Africa have evolved in many important ways since the races split.

          • NorthSea

            What are Andamanese?

          • Andy

            They’re people from the Andaman Islands, south of India. They look something like African pygmies, and were one of only two groups (the others being Tasmanian aborigines) unable to start fires prior to European contact. They regularly killed visitors to their islands, and were by some accounts cannibalistic.

            Not who I’d brag about being related to, but to each his own…

          • NorthSea

            In other words, they used to eat people raw. Alrighty.

          • Sick of it

            The Australoid construct has been a great cover for black ancestry in various parts of the world.

  • Funruffian

    “King and Obama—born 32 years apart—both learned that an African-American leader needs to link racial equality to the broader cause of economic justice that included white, working- and middle-class Americans in order to avoid failure, backlash and marginalization.”
    I have no idea what this quote means. All I can gather from its convoluted decry is that we need to fleece hard working Whites of all their money and give it to Blacks. There have been thousands of efforts to implement Blacks in the workforce and the system learned that Blacks and employment are as incompatible as rats and cats.
    Racial equality has destroyed the economy and has left the US in debt for over 30 years. Our economy stinks ever since Obummer ratcheted up the AA movement and started placing AA Blacks in jobs they weren’t qualified for. This argument has logic completely reversed. Any clear thinking adult without an Economics degree can figure this out.

  • KittyAmerica

    Taylor Branch is White; not a one of King’s own people competent enough to write a Pulitzer-winning trilogy?

  • NorthSea

    Elizabeth Warren, the Cherokee Princess?

  • NeanderthalDNA

    The long legged Mac Daddy is one smooth zipcoon. I’m guessing his IQ is considerably above the average American black and probably above the average mulatto…probably above the average white. He didn’t get where he is SOLELY on the bleeding backs of treacherous liblefty slime – many of whom, you are correct, are mentally ill and hell bent on spreading their psycho-plague.

    They are the most vicious when in power – the conservatives are only obnoxious, lol… They create this crazy little self abnegating/adoring fantasy world that makes them look good/bad in a weird sort of God-less morality play. They are utterly convinced of their intellectual, moral, and social superiority and are on a 24 hour 7 day a week mission to convert everyone to their high holy godless crusade.

    Like I said, and painting in broad brush strokes, I was one of them and I HATE myself for THAT. Lot of “red” on my ledger to pay down. I try not to be the zealous convert, you know, and come to think of it, still do hate the neocon/corporate trash element of “conservatism”, not too fond of the fundamentalist “life’s so sacred but keep it away from me” crowd…

    Yeah, I’m still a nutso, lol, but at least I know this. Those still hardcore in that camp don’t. I may live the rest of my life under the portico of a crumbling temple, but at least I know where I am!

  • David Ashton

    That is usually stuck in the “gender” bit. It gets worse – LGTB + I….