Obama's "They" Problem
Obama's "They" Problem
By P.H. Rolen
On January 3, 2008 Barack Obama won the Iowa Democratic Caucus and sent shutters through halls of power in the United States of America. That win single handedly brought the era of inevitability for the nomination of Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party standard bearer in the 08 presidential race to a close. Since that time Obama has sailed onto victory in other states; Washington, Nebraska, South Carolina, Louisiana, along with many others have fallen to the well oiled campaign machine and the polished message of "Change you can believe in." Across the nation hundreds of thousands of people have filled coliseums, town halls, and stadiums fans swooning and supporters fainting, creating the hallmarks of what pundits have since branded as "Obamania."
In a matter of weeks inevitability seemed to take a marked turn and the face of a new Democratic Party in America began to emerge in the form of a single caricatured face on an Obama for president t-shirt. A new political age had dawned campaign operatives contended. The age of post-partisan, post racial politics had arrived and as Obama proudly touted on the stump "Only in America could a man with a father from Kenya and a mother from Kansas" come to rise to such celebrity and power a wind up in a position where he could enact real change. Everything seemed perfect, the stage was set for a new era; the proverbial champagne bottles were already on ice and pundits from the Huffington Post and MoveOn.org were already lighting their cigars in celebration. But fairy tales aren't real…..are they?
The trouble first began when a bogus email circulated around the internet claiming Obama was a Muslim who swore his senate oath on the Koran. Next the typical xenophobic nonsense about him having links to terrorism emerged followed by pictures of him not covering his heart during the pledge of allegiance on campaign stops. The hits kept coming when the media picked up on the fact that Obama had stopped wearing his flag lapel pin and when questioned about it Obama attacked those who wear flag pins on their lapels as somehow disingenuous in their patriotism. Wave after wave came day after day and an undercurrent of Obama's post-modern elitism found its way to the top of some news cycles. However, the Obama machine addressed these attacks coolly and exposed many of them for the tomfoolery that they were. The new political age remained intact and Obama's inevitability remained untarnished.
In late February however, Michelle Obama, Barack Obama's wife, made a speech on the campaign trail where she proudly proclaimed that "For the first time in her adult life she was proud to be an American." Critics, including presumptive Republican presidential nominee John McCain seized upon the statement, quickly pointing out that many things to be proud of in America, including winning the Cold War, ending genocide in the Balkans, and pioneering of the internet revolution, had taken place during the Obama's adult life. The narrative of Barack Obama's loathe for America was thusly born.
Since Michelle Obama’s campaign gaffe in February the narrative has exploded and many American's are now intimately acquainted with Obama's pastor of 20 years and his "God Damn America" tirades, the links of Barack Obama to William Ayers, the confessed Weather Underground terrorist who launched Obama's Illinois state senate campaign at a party at his Chicago home in the 1990's. As well as the relationship between Obama and Chicago slumlord Tony Rezko who raised thousands of dollars for the Obama campaigns and is now on trial for corruption in Chicago. What has emerged by these relationships coming to light is much more than a simple narrative of Barack Obama and his Ivy League loathing for the American way of life, but is, what many see as, more of a vivid portrait of a candidate who was born out of the consummation of radical counter cultures with mainstream politics.
Though the Obama campaign has repeatedly asserted that his relationships with Rezko and Ayers have little to do with his politics, when coupled with the Jeremiah Wright scandal and campaign trail gaffes such as the Pennsylvania "Bittergate" controversy a pattern emerges that is what pundits and political operatives brand as a peek inside the real Obama. Right wing talk radio figure Shawn Hannity has repetitively attacked Obama’s “Loathe America” pattern for weeks and many others have joined in on what is sure to be the beginning of a firestorm to come. Even Democratic presidential candidate and former campaign front runner Hillary Clinton has begun attacking the weakness in recent campaign stops."I have a much broader base to build a winning coalition on." said Clinton in an interview with USA Today. As evidence Clinton quoted an associated press article that "Found how Senator Obama's support among working, hardworking Americans, white Americans is weakening again, and how whites in both states (Indiana and North Carolina) who had not completed college" supported her. Clinton’s arguments are only part of a broader narrative that strips Obama of his post-racial candidate status of the early campaign and squarely brands him as an underground, racial and post-modernite candidate who seeks to radically remake America. While it remains to be seen if any of these arguments are indeed true the fact remains that they have became a driving force in this contentious presidential election season.
During a recent speech in North Carolina Michelle Obama once again made the case for a radicalized Obama argument by accusing an omniscient "They" of tricks and tomfoolery in the campaign. "Every time he (Obama) made a move forward." she proclaimed "they moved the goalposts a bit further away from him." "They" had said that he could never build a viable political organization "Once it was built they said it was not an organization- the stakes changed again." Michelle's "They" comments echo comments made by Obama himself back in February during his victory speech after winning the Iowa Caucus "They said this day would never come. They said our sights were set too high. They said that this country was too divided." Obama proudly exclaimed to a jubilant crowd of supporters. His comments were taken by the mostly white crowd in Iowa as triumphant and no questions were asked. It is now clear however, that questions are being asked. Who is "They" exactly? Are "They" the cynics that Obama spoke of as having defeated by winning in Iowa or are "They" indicative of a much darker picture, one that reminds middle Americans of racial figures such as Louis Farrakhan, Jeremiah Wright, Jesse Jackson, and Al Sharpton; figures who have proved divisive in the past in the realm of presidential politics. No one really knows and most will decide for themselves, the facts remain clear however, for Obama the road ahead looks rough. With poll numbers in key demographics sagging and members of his own party exploiting the obvious weakness, Obama appears, at least for now, to have a very big "They" problem.
Michelle Obama’s tales of woe
By Byron York
Posted: 05/07/08 06:39 PM [ET]
I took in the Michelle Obama Show this week in Charlotte, N.C.
The wife of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) was in town for an election-eve get-out-the-vote rally, to make sure that Obama voters were fired up and ready to go for Tuesday’s primary.
Usually, such events are rah-rah, go-team affairs. But Mrs. Obama’s appearance was a little different.
It was an hour-long tale of resentment and anger.
First, she complained at great length that her husband had been treated unfairly in the Democratic presidential race. Every time he made a move forward, she said, “they” — she never spelled out exactly who “they” were — moved the goalposts a bit farther away from him.
First, “they” said he couldn’t raise the money necessary to run a big-league campaign.
But “once he proved that he could raise the money, then all of a sudden money didn’t matter,” Mrs. Obama told the crowd. “Everybody said, ‘Well, money isn’t important.’ ”
Then “they” said the test for Obama would be whether he could build a political organization. But “once it was built, they said it’s not an organization — the stakes changed again.”
Next, “they” said Obama had to win Iowa. But “once he won Iowa, then all of a sudden Iowa was no longer important.”
“They” had moved the bar again. This time, Obama had to win a primary state.
“Then we rolled into South Carolina,” Mrs. Obama said. “Then you know what they said? They said South Carolina didn’t count, because Barack was supposed to win.”
Then came Super Tuesday, and after that Obama’s stretch of victories in a series of primary and caucus states.
Still, Mrs. Obama complained, “they” tried to undermine her husband every step of the way.
“We’ve learned that we’re still living in a time and in a nation where the bar is set, right?” she said.
“They tell you all you need to do is do these things and you’ll get to the bar, so you go about the business of doing those things.
“You start working hard and sacrificing, and you think you’re getting closer to the bar, you’re working and you’re struggling, you get right to that bar, you’re reaching out for the bar, and then what happens?
“They raise the bar. Raise the bar. Shift it to the side. Keep it just out of reach.
“And that’s just what’s been happening in this race.”
All the while, the crowd cheered as Mrs. Obama listed one supposed injustice after another.
Now, it should be noted that her husband was, at that moment, on the verge of a blowout victory in North Carolina, one that would spur new calls for his opponent to drop out of the race.
So you might have thought Michelle Obama would be a pretty happy camper.
Instead, you got the sense that she was angry that the Democratic Party did not, at some early point in the race, simply award her husband the nomination by acclamation.
Instead, he had to face an opponent who — get this — really wanted to win it for herself.
Mrs. Obama had lots of other complaints, too.
She’s irritated at those people who have suggested that she and Sen. Obama are elitists.
And she appears to be still outraged — at this late date — by the fact that she had to take out loans to attend Princeton and Harvard Law School.
It took her years to pay them back, something she has kvetched about in numerous public appearances.
Imagine that! First she had to borrow money to go to some of the world’s most selective and expensive schools — schools whose graduates usually do pretty well in the world — and then they made her pay it back.
There “they” go again.
If you’re wondering how that negative message went across in Charlotte, the answer is, it went over very well.
This was as pro-Obama a crowd as you could find in a decidedly pro-Obama state.
So look for Mrs. Obama to continue sending out her message of dissatisfaction and resentment.
She appears to have begun the presidential race in an angry mood, and, despite her husband’s extraordinary success, it looks like she’ll finish it angry, too.
York is a White House correspondent for National Review. His column appears in The Hill each week. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org