White Boys and Barack Obama: Do They Hear Something Blacks Don’t?
by Glen Ford / February 21st, 2008
Tuesday’s Democratic primaries saw Barack Obama racking up over 60 percent of the white male vote in Wisconsin, riding an unprecedented historical demographic anomaly that will likely send him to the White House – barring a third consecutive general election theft by the Republicans. It appears Hillary Clinton’s goose is cooked.
Once whites demonstrated their willingness to vote for a “certain type” of Black man, in Iowa back in January, it was a foregone conclusion that African Americans would line up in overwhelming numbers behind the Illinois Senator. Before then, all that had held back the tides of Black mass commitment to Obama’s candidacy were lingering doubts that whites would support any “type” of Black person’s elevation to the nation’s highest office. When that dam broke, the African American celebration began. After 400 years in slave hell and Jim Crow purgatory, we’ve finally got a chance! Or so the crowd believes.
Obama wasn’t taking any chances. His strategy from the very beginning has been to flip the historical script by appealing directly to the most backward demographic in electoral politics: white males. This “white male strategy” – smelling eerily of a previous Republican “southern strategy” – required constant assurances to white men that Obama’s run would signal the end of race as a point of political contention in the United States. No longer would whites, especially males, be compelled to answer for their privileged status. A 40-plus year annoyance was nearly over, since Blacks had “already come 90 percent of the way” to equality. Obama told them so.
Reagan-loving whites – especially the white men who have always led the “backlash” against real and perceived African American gains – found themselves wooed by a Black man who understood their sense of revulsion at “the excesses of the Sixties and Seventies.” Wow! That’s the kind of change we’ve been waiting for, exclaimed increasing numbers of white males. A new day beckoned, free at last of psychological harassment from the likes of Reverends Jesse and Al.
Obama is a world-class wooer. His white male wooing is made much easier by the fact that those who consider themselves his “sisters” and “brothers” demand nothing whatsoever from him. Just come home when you get ready, brother. Obama is free to concentrate his attentions on the hard-to-get demographics, especially white men with their peculiar notions of “change.” No need for Obama to promise the hood a damn thing, except that he’ll cut a dashing figure in the Oval Office and make the homefolks proud that he’s there, symbolically representing them.
Republicans and GOP-leaning “independents” (meaning, deep-dyed whites) are crossing over in herds to vote for Obama. They’ve gotten the message: happy days are here again, when the darkies smiled and were careful not to hurt our feelings by telling the truth. That’s the kind of “change” we’ve always “hoped” for, by golly!
The white liberal/left, ineffectual and geographically scattered, are drawn irresistibly to the Black man who regales them with sweet nothings – literally, nothing in the way of the concrete policies for peace and social justice they claim to champion. His presence in their midst is enough. Besides, Obama is someone who is “capable of forging a progressive majority,” they say.
That’s a strange concept, since Obama doesn’t act like a progressive, or claim to be one. But he has no problem with folks gathering around him. He’s a real party guy.
The no-nonsense white men that rule society and cling to ownership of the world were harder nuts to crack; you’ve got to sign a prenuptial to get skin-tight with them. No problem. Before Obama even began to strut on the national runway, he’d won the approval of the Wall Street and military/industrial (and nuclear power) branches of the Money Family. Run-of-the-mill citizens will be barred from state court relief, so as not to jam up big corporations with their silly lawsuits. Energy companies can count on their usual subsidies. The “sanctity of contracts” will not be violated to save homeowners from foreclosure, no matter how deep the credit crisis becomes. The voracious military will be fed an additional 92,000 soldiers and Marines, regardless of what happens in Iraq, to be available for more wars. Most importantly – and this is the really smooth part of Obama’s game – the ever-increasing military budget will make moot all of Barack’s and Hillary’s (near identical) promises about health care, affordable housing, the whole public agenda that has been dangled in front of those fans and groupies in the cheap seats.
Once he gets in office, many of the swooners will find out that he’s already married to the Power Mob.
But that’s OK. Obama knows his most enthusiastic supporters – the ones that claim him as their own as a matter of blood – will stick by him without complaint. Hell, their “leaders” show every sign of allowing him to wine and dine and make promises to everybody else BUT them, at least until he is comfortably in office – maybe for the entirety of his first term. For the time being, though, Black folks aren’t even hearing what he’s saying to the white men or anybody else – they’re just enjoying the music: “It’s been a long, a long time coming, but I know, a change gonna come.”
Oh no it ain’t.
Glen Ford is Executive Editor of Black Agenda Report, where this article first appeared. He can be contacted at: Glen.Ford@BlackAgendaReport.com.