Or is the American public?
Archives For Barack Obama
Look: the racial politics of all this was bound to happen at some point. We should not be surprised by the likes of Mickey Kaus or Sean Hannity or Geraldine Ferraro fanning racial resentment and fear. Since it is part of everyone’s emotional make-up in America, we were never going to get past these issues without going through them. And as we go through them, we shouldn’t engage in utopian notions that we could ever have a campaign in which these things would not at some point dominate. Better now than in October.
What matters now is how Obama gets through them. I fear a spasm of constantly ratcheting squalls of racial insecurity and loathing, which drags everyone down to the level on which the Clintons operate and where they feel most at home. Obama therefore has a brutal job to do. But he has so far shown the grace to pull it off. Patience, restraint, hope: that’s all we have to go on right now. But those three things can still win the presidency, if harnessed carefully enough.
A few days after I won the Democratic nomination in my U.S. Senate race, I received an email from a doctor at the University of Chicago Medical School . . .
[T]he reason the doctor was considering not voting for me was not simply my position on abortion. Rather, he had read an entry that my campaign had posted on my website, which suggested that I would fight "right-wing ideologues who want to take away a woman’s right to choose." The doctor went on to write:
"I sense that you have a strong sense of justice…and I also sense that you are a fair minded person with a high regard for reason…Whatever your convictions, if you truly believe that those who oppose abortion are all ideologues driven by perverse desires to inflict suffering on women, then you, in my judgment, are not fair-minded….You know that we enter times that are fraught with possibilities for good and for harm, times when we are struggling to make sense of a common polity in the context of plurality, when we are unsure of what grounds we have for making any claims that involve others…I do not ask at this point that you oppose abortion, only that you speak about this issue in fair-minded words."
So I looked at my website and found the offending words. In fairness to them, my staff had written them using standard Democratic boilerplate language to summarize my pro-choice position during the Democratic primary, at a time when some of my opponents were questioning my commitment to protect Roe v. Wade.
Re-reading the doctor’s letter, though, I felt a pang of shame.
It is people like him who are looking for a deeper, fuller conversation about religion in this country. They may not change their positions, but they are willing to listen and learn from those who are willing to speak in fair-minded words. Those who know of the central and awesome place that God holds in the lives of so many, and who refuse to treat faith as simply another political issue with which to score points.
So I wrote back to the doctor, and I thanked him for his advice. The next day, I circulated the email to my staff and changed the language on my website to state in clear but simple terms my pro-choice position. And that night, before I went to bed, I said a prayer of my own – a prayer that I might extend the same presumption of good faith to others that the doctor had extended to me.
And that night, before I went to bed I said a prayer of my own. It’s a prayer I think I share with a lot of Americans. A hope that we can live with one another in a way that reconciles the beliefs of each with the good of all. It’s a prayer worth praying, and a conversation worth having in this country in the months and years to come. Thank you.
Obama is not a woman, nor a white man. He’s who he is. To say that if he were different, things would be different is to say nothing at all. As a white woman, maybe he would have led a military coup and established himself dictator. Who knows!? Hell, if he were a slightly less inspiring speaker, or had an off-night at the 2004 Democratic National Convention, he wouldn’t be in this position either. Similarly, if Hillary Clinton were a black man, it’s unlikely that she would have been a national political figure for the past 15 years, as it’s unlikely that she would have married another man from Arkansas, and unlikely that the country would have put an interracial, same sex couple in the White House. But so what? This is an election, not Marvel’s "What If?" series.
An update from the Clinton camp: