January 11, 2008

Stop Whining and Stand Tall - Like Obama. This is Political Warfare

As I noted in my New Hampshire primary predictions, I decided to drink the kool-aid and predict a landslide Obama victory in the NH primary. I was not alone in this. Pundits, the media, news anchors, bloggers, all were swept up in irrational exuberance over the prospect of an inspiring, historical moment. Swept away with the idea that America would nominate a black man to run for president and were he to win, give America a shining moment to believe that as a nation we have come far enough to deliver on Martin Luther King's dream, that we judged Obama by the content of his character, not the color of his skin.

I, like many other black people I'm sure, was captivated by the idea that I might actually see a black man become President of the United States in my lifetime. Something I never thought possible. Something I thought my children might see, but not me. As Obama says on his website "I'm asking you to believe". So I did.

Hillary cried, Bill lied. And then, after all of the hype and exuberance and high expectations, came the NH numbers and Obama narrowly lost to Clinton, by a mere 3%. Pundits, media, bloggers and Obama supporters were all befuddled, asking themselves "WTH happened"? The postmortems of the primary result have come fast and thick. Where did Obama come up short? With women primarily. The polling stopped 3 days before the voting, and didn't catch the movement that might have signaled the tightening of the race. The black blogosphere has been full of its own theories and one that has made its appearance repeatedly is the "Bradley Effect" theory. Across the Afrosphere, blogs like the field negro, Jack and Jill Politics, Electronic Village, Pam's House Blend and many others have opined that the Bradley Effect, a phenomenon where white voters give inaccurate responses to polling questions about support for a non-white candidate out of a fear that they might appear to others to be racially prejudiced, was to blame for the NH result. In other words, white voters were not going to vote for Obama because of his race, even if they said they were.

With much respect to these and other bloggers, ENOUGH. Obama is competing for the job of leader of the free world. This is political warfare of the highest order. You don't play for stakes higher than this and in addition, his life and the lives of his family are literally on the line. If he wins the nomination and ultimately the election, he ascends to a position that makes him arguably the single most powerful man on the planet. His opposition are the highly capable and well financed leaders of the one of the most formidable political machines ever seen in democratic politics. The road to the nomination is going to be a dogfight, there will be blood and lots of it. There will be victories and as in NH, defeats in this war for the nomination.

Do not cheapen the significance of his effort, win or lose, by naming racism and prejudice as the cause when he is unsuccessful or suffers a setback. Racism and prejudice are a fact of life. Colin Powell once said "you must outperform racism". The same way the market factors political instability in the Middle East into the price of oil, African Americans must factor prejudice and racism into our calculations and plans, and so must Obama. He must outperform prejudice where it is in evidence and more importantly he must outperform his opponents. He fought the good fight in NH and he lost. He congratulated his opponent, declared and demonstrated that he was unbowed and forged on to the battles in Nevada, South Carolina and the Super Tuesday states. No mention of racism or prejudice. None. He got beat. It ain't over.

We should follow his leadership. Barack did not give any credence in defeat to the idea that racism had held him back. Neither should we.