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Operation Reach B.L.A.C.K. is a Pan-African Blog with an acronym that stands for Building Leadership Awareness and Cultural Knowledge.

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(Opinions, Observations, and Commentary)

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

In Response to Mr. Krugman . . .

Note: Edits have been made since the original posting of this piece. Some of the racial discussion has also been removed from this piece. Although race was a very prominent backdrop to the 2008 campaign and has relevance to this post, Mr. Krugman's motivations regarding that aspect are not assumed.

I happened to catch Paul Krugman's New York Times op-ed piece in which he likens Obama supporters to cult members. Sure, it's cute so long as Obama makes us feel good about ourselves. We can pat ourselves on the back and pride ourselves on this historic election. But this is getting serious now. He might actually win. We can't have that now can we?

I know we can get a little too sensitive sometimes, but I read something like this and I hear: "How dare you ungrateful Obama supporters bite the hand that feeds you! Don't you know you're supposed to kiss the ring? You idiots. The only reason you're winning is because they hate Hillary so much. Yeah, that's it . . . they hate her more than they love you!" But maybe that's just me.

And Krugman didn't stop there. It seems as though Obama supporters are also guilty by inaction. Apparently, we're supposed to rush to Hillary's defense everytime someone says something bad about her - even if it has nothing to do with us; even if it might be false outrage for political gain; even when Hillary's campaign has used the same type of coded language that they claim to hear from MSNBC. Nope, we're supposed to drop everything. Obama's supposed to stop campaigning. The world is supposed to stop rotating because someone dared cross the Clintons.

You know, I remember seeing Hillary sit nice and cozy while watching Bob Johnson smear Obama in her name. Yeah. She never spoke out against that, did she? I remember Andrew Young saying Bill was blacker than Obama. But maybe I just imagined that. Kinda like an imaginary black friend or a fairytale. Yeah. I guess the Clintons were front and center to denounce some of those comments. What's that Bill?. . ."Give me a break. This whole thing is the biggest fairytale I've ever heard." Amen to that.

Let me say this much. Shuster's comment was out of line. He deserved the suspension. MSNBC apologized four times (3 times on air and once in print). But there comes a point where justified anger turns into a political power trip. And, as far as the Clintons are concerned, given their recent history in South Carolina, they should be the last ones to lecture anyone on offensive patterns of speech.

Secondly, it's extremely condescending to suggest that Obama is where he is . . . that he's gained this amount of respect and success merely because of a.) cult-like followers; or b.) "irrational" hatred for Hillary.

I also find it offensive that people continually suggest that 1.) Obama is an empty suit with no specifics and 2.) his support is based in emotion.

Why is this offensive?

Because it denies agency and intellect: agency of the Obama campaign and intellect on the part of his supporters. Make no mistake about it, Obama is doing well because he's worked hard to get where he is. And now . . . now that he's almost there . . . now that he's got the nomination in his sight . . . some want to make it seem like he just lucked into his position.

This train of thought also maintains the assumption that everything must center around Hillary Clinton. The idea is, "Well, you didn't actually beat me. I just lost."

Ironically enough, the converse assertion that Hillary and her supporters are somehow more informed, reasoned and rational can, by itself, be labeled as shallow and emotional.

The fact is, her "experience" hasn't done her much good in this campaign. Her "experience" has netted less pledged delegates, less states, less money and a slow, but steadily decreasing amount of support. But instead of realizing this and taking time to regroup, Hillary belittles any loss she gets with an abundance of ready-made excuses: (to paraphrase) it's just a caucus, my husband never won this state or that state, it's just a small state, latinos aren't likely to vote for a black candidate, there were a lot of black people, etc.

Listen. I know, this thing is far from over. And yes, Hillary is more than capable of making a comeback. But make no mistake about it, Senator Clinton is LOSING right now. This is her fault. No one else's. She's losing, in part, because her message is not connecting with enough voters and people have grown tired of her style of politics. Clinton fatigue is already setting in before we even have a nominee.

Contrary to her claims of "experience," she has NOT distinguished herself from Obama on the "issues." They are practically the same from a policy standpoint with only slight differences on a few matters (healthcare, etc.). These are slight differences that don't matter in the long run because everything has to get through (and will ultimately be compromised by) Congress anyway.

Therefore, given their similarities in policy, people will obviously give more weight to the intangibles: style of leadership, "inspiration," "change v. experience," electibility, etc. Obama is winning the argument on each of these fronts.

For me, Hillary's "experience" is exaggerated. She's more "experienced" because she says so . . .because she's made that her stump speech (like Obama has made "change" his stump speech). People just keep on repeating it and it becomes gospel. "Hillary's more experienced, Hillary's more experienced, 35 years of experience, 35 years, 35 years . . . " To be honest, you could ask your average Clinton supporter why they support Hillary and you'd get the same blank stare and canned one-liners that critics accuse Obama supporters of having.

And let me stress this point. If Hillary's supporters are so concerned with "experience" then why didn't they support Senator Biden, Senator Dodd, Governor Richardson - just to name a few? These people dwarf both Hillary and Obama in "experience." As a matter of fact, when you consider that some of their elected experience goes as far back as the early 70s, Hillary's 4-5 year advantage over Obama in the U.S. Senate seems quite insignificant. This is especially true when you consider the fact that Obama has MORE ELECTED EXPERIENCE than Hillary once you factor in his 8 years as a state legislator.

So her experience argument is disingenuous. If people really wanted "experience," they would have picked Senators Dodd or Biden. But they didn't. Obviously, people were looking for more than "experience" when they made their decision. People are looking for more than "experience," now. Obama, though less known, has already proven to be her equal (as evidenced by this campaign) and has a much higher ceiling and an ability to expand the party and perhaps shift the country from a center-right to a center-left disposition.

The proof is in the pudding. Obama validates his message of change and hope everyday. What's the proof? PEOPLE RESPOND TO IT. Yes, educated, sincere and passionate people of all races, ages, colors and backgrounds come out to support his message. People who've never voted before; young people; people who've felt disenfranchised; people who've left the Democratic Party; cross-over Republicans . . . yes, people who have lost HOPE . . . are eager to participate in their government again.

That's change. . .

That's different. . .


Because his message connects with something bigger than politics. Beyond all the speeches and rallies, Obama's message is really about SELF-EMPOWERMENT!

This message is universal. It's not bound by race or political party. Yet Hillary still wants to see this as some sort of phase . . . something we'll grow out of. She wants to give us all a reality check and chastise us for believing in false hope. I'm sorry. But that is so dismissive and depressing.

You know what? It's OK. People are starting to see this. It's ok to "roll the dice" especially when the wager consists of the power that we have to be the change that we want to see. There is life after Bill and Hillary Clinton.

But, for some strange reason, we like to equate intelligence with cynicism. We're never impressed. It's always too good to be true. Change is top down not bottom up. We're told, "You don't know what you're getting yourself into. Wait your turn. Save 'hope' for some other day."

This is an extremely condescending message. And people have begun to reject it.

There comes a point in time when, failed encounter after failed encounter, one has to start looking at his/herself. . . look in the mirror. But the Clintons don't do this. No, it's always somebody else's fault. It's the vast right wing conspiracy. It's media bias. It's cult like Obama supporters. As Tucker Carlson noted (yes, I know . . . Tucker Carlson can be right every once in a while) it always comes back to some entrenched character flaw on the part of Hillary and Bill's critics. That sounds familiar . . . "you don't support me, you're unpatriotic, you don't support the troops" . . . eerily similar to Bush.

Fact is people like Krugman are LOOKING for a reason to NOT vote for Obama. Like I've said before, switch roles (give Hillary a string of 8 or 9 wins in a row) and you'd have the DNC rallying behind her, urging Obama to drop out. In fact, Obama has to be the PERFECT candidate. If he loses just one primary tonight, you'll have the media claiming a Hillary Clinton victory. Hmm . . . surpassing low expectations . . . yup, that sounds pretty Bush-like to me. Senator Clinton can embark on some "Rudy Giuliani" style campaign and no one calls her on it. . . "Yeah, I'll lose for the entire month of February. But don't worry. I'll win it all starting March 4." Obama doesn't have that luxury.

Krugman is simply grasping at straws here. So . . . let me get this right. He won't support Obama because he doesn't like his supporters? Okay. Please note, Krugman doesn't list a single transgression on the part of Obama or his campaign. Why? Because he can't. I'm not saying Obama is the second coming of Jesus, but it is true that Obama has run a clean campaign.

So instead, Krugman lists actions from other people (David Shuster, etc.) and tries to attribute those comments to Obama and his supporters. This is very disingenuous. He must think we're stupid.

Listen. I can't say this enough. It's not just right wing conservatives who've grown to dislike the Clintons. It's a growing, substantial segment of the Democratic Party (blacks, progressives, anti-war activists, etc.) The Clintons (and a number of their supporters) have insulated themselves in their inner circle so much that they're convinced that ANY criticism MUST be irrational. I mean, "How could anyone dislike the Clintons?" "What would we ever do without the Clintons?"

As though there's no RATIONAL reason to support anyone who's last name isn't "Clinton." As though there's no RATIONAL reason to dislike the Clintons and their campaign tactics.

You know, it's disappointing that the Clintons turned their attack dogs on their own party. But it shouldn't necessarily be surprising that they tried to hit us with a low blow. But I tell you what. You want to know the real surprise in all of this? This time . . . WE HIT BACK!

It's funny. Krugman says we're the cult members. But, in truth, it's the Clintons who've become a kind of religion to many rank-and-file Democrats over the past 16 years. They're all we know. Indeed, a lot of us can't even fathom a world without them. They are our habit; our knee jerk response to everything political over the last two decades.

Well, pardon me Mr. Krugman, but many of us are ready to turn the page. Try not to worry. We're just as capable as you. We're not crazy. We're not irrational. We're not children.

We want something different, and we see Obama as a vehicle to affect the change that we want to see.

Krugman doesn't have to agree with our willingness to change the system. I just hope that he and others would respect our decision (and capacity) to do so.

Be Somebody,



  • LoveTruth says:
    February 12, 2008 at 3:37 PM

    I've heard nobody say it better.

    People are extremely condescending to Obama's candidacy on so many levels. It is beyond transparent.
    This whole cult thing is the newest swipe at Obama and its ridiculous and offensive.

    P.S. I am hearing that Obama turned down Tavis Smiley's invite to speak at the SOTBU. Smiley is trying to make it seem like Obama doesnt care about black issues or black people.

  • B-Serious says:
    February 12, 2008 at 4:25 PM


    Thanks for the comment.

    As for Tavis - Yeah, there seems to be a whole lotta HNIC syndrome going on. I haven't heard his latest comment yet, but it looks like the SOTBU could have some fireworks (and I don't mean that in a good way). I'll say it again. I can't shake the feeling that I'll see a panel full of "leading blacks" praise (or defend) the Clintons for four hours while their audience looks on with disdain.

    Obama is winning without vocal support from traditional black leadership. Leading blacks seems to be going one way while their contituents go the other. A lot of these leaders probably lined up behind the Clintons before Obama even announced his candidacy. What can you say. Crabs in a barrell.

  • cadms says:
    February 13, 2008 at 1:58 PM

    Great post.

    Erica Jong has been writing some "hysterical" (yes I said it, I'm a woman too, so sue me) posts about how Hillary is being derailed by the misogynistic patriarchy and Hillary Haters (by which I'm pretty sure she means Obama supporters).

    Anyway, she's written a lot of posts on Huffingtonpost.com and in one of them she makes the argument that it's just not Obama's time. And that maybe Hillary can appoint him to the Supreme Court to "counter that embarrassing Clarence Thomas". So that kind of clues you into where she's coming from.

    As a woman, I surely wish she'd stop speaking for feminists everywhere because it's embarrassing.

  • B-Serious says:
    February 13, 2008 at 3:27 PM


    Thanks for your comment. As you can tell, I too have a problem with the condescending tone - especiall because . . . that's right . . . Obama's winning!

    He didn't luck into anything. He's running a better campaign with a more inclusive, more inspiring message. Senator Clinton should give credit where credit is due.

    Hey, I appreciate the feedback. Feel free to visit any time!

  • rikyrah says:
    February 16, 2008 at 12:47 AM

    They are trying to use the Cult thing...they're not subtle or slick, and it's pathetic.

    Yeah, I'm a cultist.


    It's ridiculous.

    The condescention is getting more offensive by the day.

  • faboomama says:
    February 18, 2008 at 10:02 PM

    I'm beginning to think that Krugman's role in this campaign is to provide quotes for the Clinton's attack ads on Obama. IIRC, they've already used 2 from his op-eds.



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