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Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Obama's Speech: One Week Later

(Editor's note: Today is part 2 of the blog's first "mailbag," which will directly respond to reader emails and comments from the last few weeks. Part 1 was yesterday. All questions, comments, and personal attacks are accepted through the comment page at the end of each post as well as through the "Email me" on my profile.)

Date: 3/19
Reader: Most Things Are Connected at Some LevelRe: Puerto Rico Primary
Comment/Question: Now that Mr. Barone --of U.S. News & World Report-- has discussed whether Puerto Rico's "all-or-nothing" 63 Delegate Primary might be incredibly decisive in determining the outcome of the primary, will you comment on this related issue that may well impact the result of the PR Primary?
PPFA Response: Simply, the reports that the June 1st Puerto Rico Primary has a winner-take-all primary for its 63 delegates is erroneous. True enough, as the basically anonymous reader points out, Michael Barone did write a piece that declared Puerto Rico as an "all-or-nothing" primary, but Barone and many others who went under the winner-take-all assumption, did not do enough research.

The misconception stems from the last few Puerto Rico Primaries. For example, both Al Gore and John Kerry swept the Puerto Rico delegation in 2000 and 2004, respectively. Why? Because no one else was left in the race. Puerto Rico was the last primary and Gore and Kerry were the last candidates remaining in their respective contests. Thus, they earned all delegates from the island.

Make no mistake, the island uses proportional voting, and if Hillary Clinton is still alive in this race come June 1st, both candidates will earn delegates.

Date: 3/21
Reader: William
Re: Richardson's endorsement of Obama
Comment/Question: Bill Richardson for VP?
PPFA Response: I've gone back and forth on this one over the last year. Bill Richardson is perfect for the bottom of your average ticket. His experience is broad and deep (Congress, Ambassador, Cabinet, Governor). He attracts the crucial Hispanic vote in the swing-states of New Mexico and Florida. His strength in the southwest offers a good geographical balance with the northern Obama or northeastern Clinton.

But if this primary continues to barrel towards a Barack Obama nomination, could an African-American and Latino run together on a ticket when neither ethnicity has ever been on one? Is this feasible in an undoubtedly hard-fought and tight general election?

It's a difficult call for the party. On the one hand, a ticket like that could represent exactly what a change election should be. Two Democrats who criticize the current administration and look unlike any presidential or vice-presidential candidate in the history of the country. (And yes, I realize this could work for Obama-Clinton.)

On the other hand, this election was seemingly in the pocket of the Democrats until they started to screw it up. Discouragingly, putting an African-American and a Latino on a ticket might do be another example of self inflicted gunshot wounds in the feet.

Date: 3/19
Reader: Lexi
Re: Obama's speech
Comment/Question: Why is a guy who grew up a rich kid with a Kenyan father and Southern White mother (no ties to being a slave whatsoever) lecturing Northern Whites regarding the Civil War when it was our ancestors who fought and died in the Union Army to free the slaves?
PPFA Response: Where to begin...

Obama did not grow up a "rich kid," so you started an argument with either intended deception accidental ignorance. His autobiography and all biographical data explicitly state that he was raised in a middle class family. That Kenyan father you mentioned left when Barack was 2, not returning until a brief visit 8 years later.

Regardless, I don't think it's relevant that he has no Union Army ancestors. Why is ancestry required to intelligently discuss history? Does an American history professor need lineage traced back to the French and Indian War? Of course not.

The Civil War, however, is not without a role in the discussion of racial division in this country. In this sort of discourse, its presence is essential. Remember that while the Union Army fought, whether for slavery, union preservation, or because they were conscripted, there was a Confederate Army, too. In 1860, when a liberal presidential candidate the South did not vote for won the election on a platform that included abolition, they were willing to go to war in order to maintain the African slave as a sub-caste in society.

Here comes the crux of the matter: Is there clearly not a residue effect from slavery in this country? Furthermore, are we not seeing an echo of the darkest period of this country's history in this campaign? You do not have to be a caricatured racist for race to be an issue. Poor schools, cleaning up ghettos, affirmative action... these are not race-less issues.

Obama tackled these issues straight on. He did not sidestep the controversy, he did not throw his friend with whom he disagreed under the bus, he did not dodge his ethnicity, he gave the white person's perspective (continually bypassed via racial affirmative action) and the black person's perspective (the whole slavery and civil rights thing), and he still spoke to the issues that are relevant today. He articulated what was on every educated person's mind and did this as well as any politician since RFK.

I look forward to future Obama speeches on this subject, as I would if it came from Clinton, John McCain, or President Bush. To ignore it accomplishes nothing. To address it, in a time where you are certain the 24-hour news cycle will analyze it for a week, is as heroic as it is unsafe. Obama, whether you love him or hate him, whether you agree or disagree with his platform, should be unanimously commended simply for his attempt.

He closed asking for a stronger union, for a union that acknowledged imperfection yet continues to strive to be perfect. What is important here is not that a mixed race presidential candidate lacks ancestry in the Civil War. One does not need a familial connection to our country's history to have a deeply personal connection with its present.

The issues, the ideas, and the hope were the story. To attack the man proves nothing except that the point of the speech was lost. Let us hope that Lexi has the minority opinion.


Anonymous said...

Couldn't agree more, IC. Great post!

Saj said...

here, here.

The Dude said...

So your telling us your ansestors Didn't fight in the French and Indian War?

And you want to be my latex salesmen....

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