Friday, November 7, 2008

Finallying Burying the Race Card?

One thing that is now unambiguously clear is that the United States is not a racist country. It has long been a common charge that the US is still a racist country, that there is rampant institutional racism in America. It seems hard to believe that this charge can still be made, now that America has its first black president.

This is not to say that racism does not exist in America. There are certainly many racist individuals in America. However, racist people in a country is an entirely different intellectual construct than a racist country. While the difference may seem subtle, it leads to drastically different answers and solutions to the problems.

In a racist country, in which there is institutionalized racism, the system itself is broken. This is what the country was like some 40-odd years ago. The civil rights movement did a tremendous job in changing this- and should be commended. That battle has long been won, and has been quite clearly crystallized through the election of Obama. In a racist country a black man could not be elected president.

Modern civil rights activists still operate under this construct. They still act as if they have to change the system, but the system has been changed. The struggle now is to address the personalized racist attitudes that individuals, in society, may have. Policies that aim to change the system (read affirmative action etc.) only serve to draw racial distinctions where they are no longer needed or beneficial. While Americans are entitled, by the very freedoms in the Bill of Rights, to think or feel as they please (although not entitled to act on all of these freedoms in a way that harms others), the focus of such movements should be to educate people that harbor such discriminations against the ‘wrongness’ of their ideas.

Having a black man win the presidency was a surprise to many. This shows a failure to internalize the fact that the Civil Rights movement was won long ago. Hopefully, Obama’s election will serve to finalize the internalization of this concept- America is no longer institutionally racist (it has not been for a while). Racism that does exist is the product of narrow minded individuals. There are many succinct ways to deal with such issues.

This is also a superb opportunity to address a number of issues that have, for too long, been colored by the lens of institutionalized racism. The plight of the poor, black, urban community is not the result of a systemic oppression by “the man” (the man is now a black man, so that argument falls flat), but a general historical cycle of failure of the community and home to provide strong structures and stable values to allow for success in a broader American culture. Hopefully, the crutch of blaming the system to avoid facing the internal community wide problems will be cast aside, and replaced with a more sophisticated discussion about what maladies define the community.

Hopefully, Obama will represent a new era in black leadership- that will cast aside the Jesse Jacksons and Al Sharptons, and replace them with the likes of Bill Cosby. At a minimum, it is a ripe opportunity for the Republican Party to draw the rational minded from the black community, who have cast off the blinders of institutional racism, into our folds. Hopefully, such a monumental election will forever end the discussion of institutional racism and allow us to focus on the real, tangible issues at hand. If such happens, it is almost certain that there a members of the black (and historically Democratic) community that will now fall in line with the values of strong community and family support and individual responsibility- lock-step with a New Republican base.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Loss of the White House

Unsurprisingly, Barack Obama has taken the White House. With the gross distaste for Bush, it was all but inevitable that a Democrat- any Democrat- would take the White House this election. It is to McCain’s credit that he not only hung on for so long, but was able to do decently well in the polls.

While it is unfortunate that the GOP did not hold the White House; this can be seen as a real opportunity for the party to redefine itself. Obama’s win is a monumental event- both an indictment of the current Republican leadership and a historical event in its own right. McCain’s gaffes were precisely the things that, in the eyes of the voter, brought him closer to the Bush administration. His move from the ‘dark horse’ maverick (yes, I know the term is overplayed) to a standard Bush-base Republican (and then maybe a little back and forth with some fence sitting in between) is what doomed him in the eyes of most independents. It is scary to see the number of voters out there who equate McCain with the current administration. This is eye opening and a clear indictment of the current administration. Hopefully, the party will use this to discard what is old and outdated in the party and refresh our image- returning to the underlying principles that once made the party great.

The election of Obama is also monumental from a more applied perspective. It effectively puts an end-cap on the past eight years. Whether he truthfully would have been four more years of Bush or not (I believe not), it is highly likely that the perception of McCain would have been such- at least in the short run. The election of a Democrat essentially ends the hostility and hatred towards the Republicans (at least in a broad sense). As the opposition party, we will be able to cleanse our image and rebuild.

Likewise, it (hopefully) will put an end-cap on the screams from the left of the racism of America. For the first time a black man is president (although I think his classification as a black man is somewhat tenuous, I don’t want to discuss it here because I think it is the perception that matters). This is a real opportunity to bury the race-card once and for all. It becomes very difficult to argue institutional racism when our president is black. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure some will do it; but, it is a much more difficult argument to stand behind. This can be a real boon for the Republicans- as the issues of race and poor-black Americans will necessarily need to change form. This can allow the GOP to effectively increase its base as it can appeal to a broader range of people based on real fundamental issues such as the economy and healthcare.

Obama will ultimately disappoint. There is far too much promised and far too few resources to get it done, especially since the Democrats did not reach sixty senators. He will not be able to maintain the monumental support he currently has come February as he has to renege o n promises- cutting programs or raising taxes. The Republicans should use this to their advantage- redrawing the lines as we see fit to establish a firm New Republican base.