Is This Why Obama Wont Win?
Putting aside for the moment whether any of this is true, what’s more important is the sentiments displayed. It parallel’s the consternation over whether Senator Obama is “Black” enough for African-Americans (a drum beat happily echoing through the conservative talk radio chamber).
I don’t think it a stretch that many of the people joining the Black Women Against Harold Ford support group argued that Bill Clinton’s personal life shouldn’t have been a factor in his political life. But Ford’s is?
Though the complexities of racial issues in this country is at issue*, there’s also a more fundamental, less “sexy” issue at play; moderation. Know your role. Don’t step out of societies norms. We give lip service to the idea that these things aren’t important to one’s abilities to lead, be an intelligent legislator, yet in truth the candidate’s personal life, personal background, are treated as tantamount. We’re a gossipy, keyhole peeking nation. We love tabloids and our neighbors tribulations, however, even more we love it when those things befall the powerful.
The thing itself is not so dispiriting. It becomes sad when you imagine the kind of people who are discouraged from seeking political office (or higher office; I’ve no doubt there are old school Democrats who still pour a sip of beer on the dirt for Mario Cuomo’s presidential aspirations, and the same for Republicans and Colin Powell).
So, how important is it, really, whether Obama’s ancestors suffered at the hands of slave masters? No matter how often Glenn Beck fawns over the senator’s alleged Whiteness, people observe him as a person of color anyway, and most are not really asking themselves the question about whether his Father being from Kenya makes him “Black.” Is the question about his background more important than whether or not he can answer a foreign policy question on something other than Iraq? Does it reduce his ability to lead?
*I certainly don’t mean to gloss over the issue, Ford’s Friday night selections and Obama’s biracial, direct African ancestry are tied to each other in the minds of some.