Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Is There A Difference Between Choosing Badly and Making Bad Choices?

By any stretch of the imagination, the 2008 Presidential race will be the most historic race since America elected George Washington as its first president. This race has already accomplished many firsts – an African-American or a female will become a major party’s candidate – not to mention it has catapulted race, this nation’s biggest social dilemma, to the forefront of the national discussion.

Senator Obama’s speech in Philadelphia is definitely the highlight of this arduous campaign season, and has been well received by many in both parties. In fact, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice weighed in on the subject recently. Many have regarded it as the “I Have A Dream” for this generation. While we have yet to see the resulting impact of the speech, it has surely caused many African-Americans to take a more critical look at the current crop of Black leaders on the local and national front.

An interesting thought came to me while watching the NCAA basketball tournament the other day. Little known Davidson upset the mighty Georgetown Hoyas and to show that it was not a fluke, they backed it up by beating Wisconsin. While these upsets were monumental, what makes it even more astonishing is the fact that Georgetown and Wisconsin were both ranked #1 at one point during the season. Analysts attributed Davidson’s success to many factors but they all agreed that their success was due to the fact that Davidson made their opponents play bad basketball. By comparison Davidson was no match for either team on paper. The players for Georgetown and Wisconsin were all highly recruited and could easily be a standout on most teams. So how is it that a highly skilled team loses to a team, that by all counts they were supposed to defeat soundly?

By the same token the current crop of elected officials is considered to be highly successful according to contemporary standards. Then why are African-Americans feeling an even bigger disconnect with those who we have chosen to represent us? Carrying the basketball analogy further, I began to ponder whether or not our Black elected officials are playing badly or are we electing the wrong “leaders”.

In 1903 W.E.B DuBois introduced the idea that Blacks needed to develop a Talented Tenth – a group of Black Americans who would acquire the skills and/or education that would enable us to succeed in the larger society; and who would eventually “come home” and use their tools and talents to build a bridge between the Black “haves” and the Black “have-nots.” However DuBois warned against making the objective of this group’s development anything other than being responsible for, and accountable to their communities. DuBois says,

“If we make money the object of man-training, we shall develop money-makers but not necessarily men; if we make technical skill the object of education, we may possess artisans but not, in nature, men.”

So in that respect I don’t have a problem with Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), Magic Johnson, Bob Johnson or Andrew Young supporting Hillary Clinton for president. However, I do have a problem with these individuals making a choice not to speak up against the divisive racial tactics that the Clinton camp has engaged in with reckless disregard. I do have a problem with these individuals making a choice to turn a blind eye to these tactics because they hold their personal gains above those who have supported them, especially when they had been rejected by the wider community. I do have a problem with these individuals making a choice to validate the idea that their Super Delegate status gives them free will to act autonomous and without regard to their constituents.

I am reminded of a part of the Declaration of Independence which says,

“… [G]overnments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…”

In other words, if the government (representative) that the people have chosen has become ineffective to the people then it is the right of the people to replace it (the individual) with one that will protect the rights of the people.

We should not and cannot abandon our duty to participate in the electoral process… that would be a bad choice. Voting for the Republican, John McCain just to spite the Democratic Party because Obama isn’t the candidate is also a bad choice.

And re-electing these individuals when their terms expire is, most definitely, a very bad choice.


DP said...

Well, that was worth the wait @pbuzz. I think we're electing the right folks at any particular time, but as they get playing time and have a few good games, they start to believe they are the stars of the team and indispensable. That's the problem with a lot of these "on the fence" superdelegates right.

They think we "can't win" without them, so what are you gonna do if they support the candidates other than the ones their districts voted for.

We'll see how it goes, but right now it does NOT look good for our local superdelegate Sheila Jackson-Lee next time around.

Francis L. Holland Blog said...

I completely agree. Since we understand that our Congressional representatives are in the minority, we don't expect that they, alone, can implement policies that only Black people deem beneficial.

However, the very least that we expect of them is to consistently and publicly give voice to and at least advocate for political values and goals that Black people hold dear, even if whites utterly disagree with us.

Blacks are furious with Hillary Clinton's campaign and yet John Lewis is the only Black elected official who seems to have spoken up loudly about it. This means that our views are not being represented by our elected officials in the public square.

I also agree that there is a big difference between a Black official endorsing Hillary Clinton, on the one hand, and endorsing her color-aroused politicking on the other hand. It is utterly counter to the interests of Black people as a group for us to help to elect - or fail to oppose - a presidential candidate who proposes to win by demonstrating - at all costs - that Black people are not capable of making political gains. When a politician proposes to win by denigrating and undermining Black people - including our viability in politics - then that politician is ineligible for our political support and deserves our relentless, energetic and determined opposition.

Any Black elected official who doesn't agree with this premise is one who doesn't deserve to represent Blacks' interests in Washington, DC. said...

Thanks for the comments dp and francis!

The Black community is a very forgiving place. This is both an asset and a liability. For those of us who have been around for awhile, we have come to accept that progress is not swift; but for this new microwave, convenience store generation who is entering the political process, I don't think they will accept the argument that you cannot be effective until your 3rd term in office and that the current office holders are owed their position until a better offer comes along.

I personally think that it is a travesty for a person to hold office for more than 12 years. In most cases these people have become comfortable and their campaigns are filled with scare tactics because they want their constituents to think that if they leave office then they will no longer have access.

DP said...

It's not just the microwave generation, I've been around for a minute too, and count myself among those who are tired of politicians having to get "acclimated" over a couple of terms before they can even think of getting anything done.

These politicians aren't owed anything, they owe the people! It's that level of entitlement, across the political spectrum, that I feel is driving this election cycle's mantra of change.

Yobachi said...

"...supporting Hillary Clinton for president. However, I do have a problem with these individuals making a choice not to speak up against the divisive racial tactics that the Clinton camp has engaged in with reckless disregard."

Exactly! Barack's campaign is not the Black revolution, and no Black people are required to vote for/suppot him. However, they are required not to inable race-baiting and racial denigration; especially against their own people.

DP said...

Yobachi - good to see you up in here, and I think your comments are on the money.