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Monday, February 19, 2007

'Is Barack Obama Black Enough' and Other Stupid Questions

There are times when the media gets stuck on a meme and just keeps repeating what's an obviously stupid question. The question becomes part of conventional wisdom and no one ever questions why it's asked.

"Is Barack Obama 'black enough'?" is one of those questions. There are a whole pile of unfounded assumptions attached to it; that black people will only vote for black candidates or will automatically vote for black candidates is one. That those voters carefully put the candidate to a rigorous biographical test, comparing him or her to some unknown measurement of racial purity. Does Obama's white mother disqualify him as a 'black candidate?'

Yes, there probably are people out there who'll vote for Obama simply because he's black, just like there are some who will automatically rule him out for the same reason. There may be some who look at him, see a biracial man, and won't vote at all. But I think we can look at history and conclude that none of these groups has ever thrown an election.

And, if Obama lacks the necessary blackness, then who gets his voters who will vote anyway -- the ebony goddess Hillary? The logic must be that there are a huge, election swaying number of voters just waiting to vote for a black candidate. This huge -- and previously non-voting -- block will turn up their noses at some guy with a white mom and, once again, fail to vote. Or is it that there's a block out there who'll vote for anyone other than the black candidate if said black candidate isn't black enough? Does that even make sense?

The media needs an 'interesting' question to ask about each candidate. Another stupid question that come to mind is whether Joe Biden hurt his chances of becoming president by calling Obama 'clean' -- excuse me, what chances? He never had a chance to begin with. What's a lesser chance than 'no chance?'

Mitt Romney's 'too mormon.' Hillary's too mannish and doesn't bake cookies. It's like none of these people actually have views and policy ideas that would be important to know about before you vote. No, the important stuff is the stupid BS because, frankly, the media believes you're an idiot. You couldn't possibly understand questions about health care or foreign policy, so they feed you idiotic questions about whether a candidate's enough this or too much that.

We do vote for personalities -- I think that's pretty much a given. There's absolutely no freakin' way George W. Bush would've been elected (if he ever was) if he was a prick in front of TV cameras. He was too obviously a dope. But his likeability was only enough to get him over the hump -- both elections were squeakers.

In contrast, there's no reason to think that 2008 will be a close election. A Newsweek poll finds that only 28% want a republican president in 2008. Yet, notice that the media isn't asking who's 'too republican.' They have real data to talk about, but they focus on supposition and speculation. Pundits exist pretty much only to create news, not analyze it. So whether Obama's 'black enough' is a question for discussion, despite the fact that no one outside the pundit class has asked that question.

People are stuck talking about this idiot fluff because we're given very little real info about candidates. Both Clinton and Obama have a position on health care -- you know what they are? Both McCain and Giuliani have opinions about the environment --- any clue as to what they are? Wouldn't these be worth talking about, rather than pulling issues out of thin air and treating them with all the gravity of actual fact?

Without anyone actually discussing any substance, we have pundits driving the discussion with inane questions about trivia that barely matters. Where the debate should be over issues, it's basically about nothing. We're looking for a candidate, not a date. Whether or not Barack Obama is black enough is as important as whether or not he snores -- I don't freakin' care.


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Jason Hoekstra said...

Yeah, I'm with you on this one. I'm hoping the hype will begin to die (over the announcements of who is running) and we can begin the real debates. Personally, I'm wishing for a long, intense political debate that lasts until the end of the primaries. Also, I'd like to see the debates carry themselves from the conversations of the candidates on TV and radio, down to the family room of American homes.

Hamilton said...

Great post! Then again, I posted entries at my blog on two of the topics you mock.

I think that when the formal debates begin (starting this very month), there will be a shift towards looking at policy differences between candidates and even the smaller fish will have a chance at gaining ground on the (polling, fundraising, assumed) leaders.