Monday, August 15, 2011

The American Civil Rights Movement and how it may explain our President's pathway to success.

Courtesy of W.E.E. See You:

The predominately white progressive intelligentsia don’t see Obama clearly because of our racial blind spot. We don’t see the role of race in how he seems to understand himself and how others perceive him.

First of all, we think that he understands himself as one of us. A progressive activist, heir to the radical and New Left movements most of us were raised in. He is not; I think that he understands himself (and certainly his real base understands him) as the first African American President. We’re thinking Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. We should be thinking about Harold Washington, the first African American mayor of Chicago. Washington was elected and immediately faced a solid wall of opposition from most white aldermen in the city. Washington understood his role as breaking down that wall of opposition and assembling a governing majority, which he finally did after his re-election. Unfortunately, he died shortly thereafter. By the way, one of Washington’s political strategists was David Axelrod. 

How does Obama break the iron unity of the GOP opposition to assemble a governing majority in the US Congress? 

If we progressives were not blinded by our own assumption that our history is the only history, we might see how Obama may be seeing his situation. 

White progressives often think that African American elected officials are politically naive. We will give far more credit to Cornel West, who has never been elected to anything, than to an elected state senator, or even the President of the United States. We think that Obama does not understand the nature of John Boehner, Mitch McConnell or Eric Cantor, as though he has not sat across the table from them. He doesn’t understand how mean they are, we think. 

Obama acts entirely within the tradition of mainstream African American political strategy and tactics. The epitome of that tradition was the non-violence of the Civil Rights Movement, but goes back much further in time. It recognizes the inequality of power between whites and blacks. Number one: maintain your dignity. Number two: call your adversaries to the highest principles they hold. Number three: Seize the moral high ground and Number four: Win by winning over your adversaries, by revealing the contradiction between their own ideals and their actions. It is one way that a oppressed people struggle. 

Obama has taken a seat at the negotiating table and said “There is no reason why we cannot work out solutions to our problems by acting like responsible adults. That is what people expect us to do and that is why we have entered into public service.” That is the moral high ground. 

Honestly, I have been reminded more than once in the last few months of those brave college students sitting in at a Woolworth’s lunch counter, back in the day. Obama sits at that table, like they did at the counter. Boehner and McConnell and Cantor clown around, mugging for the camera, competing to ritually humiliate Obama, to dump ketchup on his head. 

I don’t think those students got their sandwiches the first day, but they won in the end. 

Obama is winning. Democrats are uniting behind him, although some white progressives think that they could do the job better. Independents are flocking to him. Even some Republicans are getting disgusted with their Washington leaders. Obama is not telling us about lack of seriousness of the Congressional GOP; he is showing us the vivid contrast between what we expect of our leaders and their behavior. The last two and half years have been a revelation of the essential conflicts in our society and politics. 

If white progressives understood much about the politics of the African American struggle in the United States, we would see Obama in the context of that struggle and understand him better. And you don’t have to be African American to know something about the history of the African American struggle. The books and the testimony is there. It’s not all freedom songs. But you have to be convinced that it is something that can teach you something you don’t already know.

Like many progressives I have often felt frustration that President Obama does not stand up to the Republicans and shout in their faces that they are tearing this country apart in the service of future political gain. Or that he does not shout from the rooftops that THEY are the problem, and that the media is simply not reporting on the kinds of sabotage which is happening behind the scenes.

But every time I stop to think how that would look splashed across our television screens I know exactly why he does not do that.

Number one it is not part of his character to act in that way, but it would also redefine him as the angry black man, which would be the box that he would live in for the remainder of his first term.  And let's be honest, after that there would be NO second term.

President Obama is blazing a trail, that even ten years ago would have seemed impossible.  He literally IS sitting at that Woolworth's lunch counter stoically maintaining his dignity, while suffering the taunts from those who believe only THEY should have the right to sit there.

And sometimes I fear that he is sitting there all alone. That he is waiting for all of us to see him there and take our place next to him.  NOT to tell him to stand up and push back against the bullies, but to rest our hands an his shoulders and say that we understand his struggle, and that we have his back.

(H/T to Andrew Sullivan.)


  1. Anonymous7:45 AM

    I dunno... I assumed Obama knew what he was doing up until last december when he handed power over us all to the teabaggers by failing to deal with the debt ceiling then.

    I'm really not seeing a genius playing a "three-dimensional chess game" anymore, I'm seeing a guy getting manipulated by sociopaths.

    At this point I'd have to say yeah, I think he's politically naive. But that's due to what's happened, not race.

  2. Anonymous7:51 AM

    A GOOD analysis.

    Whatever Pres Obama's reason for seizing the moral high ground, I am ready for it. I have longed for it. I support him in it. It is the right place to be.

  3. Anonymous7:52 AM

    I say this all the time. White "progressives" just don't get it.
    I am very tired of the FireDoggerz, for example.

  4. great analysis. i am always so impressed with the amount of dignity and grace our president exhibits. he must take his frustrations out on the basketball court, because that amount of frustration must be released somehow. and yet he usually insists that racism isn't a factor in the way he's viewed and treated. but taking the high ground and letting the racists and race-baiters come out of the woodwork should be more apparent to all of us.

  5. Chitown7:59 AM

    Anybody from Chicago going to his appearance in Atkinson, Il on Wednesday?

  6. Anonymous8:00 AM

    I love Obama but I'm not letting him off the hook that easily. I feel he could and SHOULD stand up to the Republicans more than he does -- in a calm but firm way, not shouting, descending to their level, or making himself look like an angry black man. I am frustrated that he does not do this more often. People can be firm and determined without descending to the behavior of a 6th grade schoolyard bully.

  7. Sorry, Gryph, but the moral-high-ground approach assumes that your opponents care anything about morality.

    See the science fiction story "The Last Article" by Harry Turtledove for further elaboration of my point.

  8. Anonymous8:05 AM

    Unfortunately those scumbags who were pouring condiments on those black people at that counter are still alive and would take a dim bulb like Palin or Bachmann over a thoughtful black man any day.

    I've never really felt that the U.S. deserved a president like Mr. Obama. As someone in another post wrote - his talent and intelligence are being wasted on the uneducated, fried Twinkie eatin,' 'reality' TV watchin' U.S.

  9. Anonymous8:07 AM

    The fact that he conducts himself with dignity and respect is exactly why he deserves in the Oval Office and will always have my vote. I don't want him screeching and barking like the angry idiots trying to take him down. I want the discourse elevated and the country to return to dignity and respect.

  10. Anonymous8:09 AM

    When you wrestle with pigs, the pigs love it, and you only get muddy.

  11. Very well said, G.

  12. Anonymous8:13 AM

    Scary political times...

  13. Beldar Obama2012 Conehead8:14 AM

    If Obsms is constrained by racial politics from saying what needs to be said about the reprehensibke baggers and mainstream GOP where are his surrogates to do that dirty work? Where is Biden? Where are the left's establishment leaders? Who is organizing public demonstrations condemning the tactics of the right while showing support for our president?

    Today's headlines are very sad: Obama bus tour and Obama approval rating slips below 40%. Bus tour? Really?

    He isnt perfect and I dont support everything he's done but if he loses to any of the horrible people running against him the damage done to this country will be irreparable.


  14. Anonymous8:15 AM

    Excellent. President Obama is doing an bang up job, better than any other person that could.

    repubaggers are just repubs telling their truth.


  15. Anonymous8:21 AM

    This is a really thought-provoking piece. Please, please, please let it be true. Our President deserves our support AND a second term.

  16. Anonymous8:23 AM

    A Christian Plot for Domination?
    Michele Bachmann and Rick Perry aren't just devout—both have deep ties to a fringe fundamentalist movement known as Dominionism, which says Christians should rule the world.

  17. Anonymous8:29 AM

    Thanks for this post, G. What many people didn't realize at the time, the civil rights movement was not a war AGAINST the racists, but FOR the hearts and minds of the majority of white Americans who considered themselves moral fair-minded people, yet were tolerant of discrimination and prejudice. Many African-Americans at the time thought King was weak and preferred the accusatory, more aggressive style of Malcolm X. Given the gross cruelty and evil nature of the racist opposition, Malcolm X's approach felt good, but it was King who opened the eyes of America and won the day.

    Obama, like Lincoln and King, is trying to unify the country and reconcile the values we say we believe in (fairness, equal opportunity, concern for the poor and elderly, tolerance) with the way many Americans vote.

    If he were to simply rail against the Republican leadership, pointing out what extreme assholes they are, it would gratify many progressives, but the wisdom of his approach is that it will allow well-meaning moderates, who vote Republican, to see how little their party aligns with their values. His battle is not AGAINST the far right, but FOR middle America.

    This upcoming election is going to be critical. The right is scared. They are terrified of what another Obama term will mean for the country they believe belongs to them, just like southern whites were scared of integration and equal opportunity. So in their quest to destroy Obama, the Republicans are going to be so offensive, so vile, so extreme, so anti-everything that most Americans believe, Obama will be able to win over a new, powerful majority. In his second term he will have the numbers and the support to transform America, just like the right is frightened he would.

    I for one will continue to support this president, as the bullies dump on him, with my resources and my time. We'll see who comes out on top.

    Romans 12:17
    17Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

  18. Bumper sticker: I HAVE BARACK'S BACK

    Gryphen, you've commented on David Gregory doing a decent job questioning Bachmann. One of Sully's readers points out big lies Gregory missed:

  19. Anonymous8:43 AM

    I,too, have spent many moments of frustration wondering when My President was going to push back.But the more I read and the more I see, I know I admire him more than any man or woman who has ever held political office. And I am putting my hands on his shoulders and telling him I have his back.

  20. Those who are critical of Obama because he hasn't satisfied THEIR agenda items often sound like pouting children to me. They don't see or understand the big picture and they don't want to.

    Obama is a leader with enormous wisdom and political savvy. He also is the President of the United States, not just the blue states. There are many progressive policies that I would like to see enacted -- 'but you can't always get what you want.' Obama must look at the big picture, which includes the international scene as well as the entire U.S.. I am almost 60 years old and I am still a little surprised that we were able to elect an African American man as our president. I never expected to see this in my life time. This, alone, is a profound accomplishment and has shifted the energies of this nation for the better. All of the wing-nut rants are bemoaning this fact, no matter how they try to divert attention from the issue.

    I will be happily voting for Obama next year. I did not expect him to make the revolution in four years. I expected him to set a tone of unity and open, honest discussion of the the real issues that we face in this century--- and he has. I expected him to begin to re-establish better international relations--- and he has. I expected him to keep the needs of working class and middle class people at the forefront of his policies --- and he has.

  21. Anonymous8:47 AM

    This is a good anaylsis in many respects, but there is one fundamental reason why this is inaccurate: "Number two: call your adversaries to the highest principles they hold."

    The president does not do step number two because he shares some of the same principles as republicans (not all principles, but many key ones). This whole portrayal of him as someone who has a progressive agenda but has no political capital to get things done is simply fantasy. HE IS A CENTRIST, not a progressive, so it's not surprising that progressives are not happy - why should they be?

    The president's economic philosophy is in line with Republican's philosophy (e.g., Keynesian), and to say that he is fighting on behalf of progressives and doing the best he can is disingenious and ignoring the views he has espoused since he was campaigning.

  22. Anonymous8:48 AM

    Thanks Gryphen, I really appreciate the sentiment in that article. There are so many blogs that I won't read any more because of the constant harping on the President. So many are just acting like spoiled children, saying they won't vote for him again. It sounds like they would rather have a Rick Perry or Mitt Romney for president. Now wouldn't that be nice? I appreciate your support for the president, even though like me, you sometimes don't agree with him. Unlike those firebaggers I believe he is the only hope we have in 2012. If a republican gets in office I think we are doomed to be a third world country, I'm afraid we are already well on the way to that.
    I once was so proud of this country and what it stood for, now I won't even fly the flag anymore because I'm no longer proud of what this country has become. It makes me very sad I have read where folks from other countries have said that the US doesn't deserve President Obama. I think they may be right.

    Sue in Kansas

  23. Anonymous8:53 AM

    Damn it, Gryphen...will you stop writing these compelling defenses of Obama? You're making me feel guilty for all the times I've criticized him!

    You are dead right with your comparison of Barack Obama's dignity with the quiet stoicism of the lunchroom protestors. The comparison just about brought tears to my eyes.

    I also do absolutely agree the media is poised to devour him the minute he shows a shred of righteous anger. Just look how they characterized him as "agitated" when he mildly asked if the Republicans could agree to anything in the debt ceiling deal?

    The sons of bitches. So many of these media people are probably racist to the bone, while thinking they're enlightened people above it all.

  24. Awesome, just awesome. I believe that many white people, liberal or conservative, don't understand what black people are up against. I never felt the extent of racism myself, until I went to another country. When I came back, it was like a weight settled on me. I explained it to my mom this way - when I was in Europe, I was at times treated more like a human being by the skinheads than by the average white person here. Their hate was better than the casual condescending attitudes of even some of my FRIENDS. The assumption that I was not smart enough, etc.

    Those who have not lived cannot understand fully. But they can try, and they can understand that Obama is doing his job well, and those who claim to be on the left should support him, and give him more to work with, instead of criticizing him because he is not doing the job as they would imagine it should be done. Crossing your arms and staying home is only hurting those of us on the left. See, Obama is beloved around the world, and will be rich and powerful man when he leaves office. His legislative victories to date have solidified his place as one of our better presidents. History will judge him well due to the unprecedented opposition that he has faced. So all that he does is for us, not him. We should at least respect that, and continue to support him.

  25. Great analysis. I agree with what you're saying, but at the same time I wish he'd quit trying to compromise. There is no compromising with terrorists and that IS exactly what the cons in Congress are acting like.

  26. Anonymous9:00 AM

    Why is Obama giving away the store to Republicans, Gryphen? Medicare, SS, the public health option...totally rolling over without a fight... giving a free pass to the criminal Bush administration, continuing in its warmongering, tax-break-to-millionaire-giving footsteps...

    I would think, being an African American, he would fight harder against the oligarchy that enslaved his brothers and sisters, but he doesn't fight at all. He's a pushover for the right wing status quo.

  27. I think this is absolutely right, and I hadn't really considered it that way. Thanks for putting this on, Gryphen. I added it to my Facebook page. A lot of people should read this.

  28. I think this is absolutely right, and I hadn't really considered it that way. Thanks for putting this on, Gryphen. I added it to my Facebook page. A lot of people should read this.

  29. Anonymous9:06 AM

    I fully support President Obama, while I don't agree with every decision he makes, I truly think he is the best our country has to offer to lead us out of the Bush depression.
    I am a very, very progressive liberal. Born and raised in NE Minnesota (the Iron Range) a stronghold for the union and the democratic party. And I supported, worked for, and voted for then Senator Obama.
    I never during that period of time thought for one second that President Obama was progressive, I knew then as I know now that he is a moderate and always will be.
    The people blaming President Obama for teabaggers getting elected better think of the phrase "when pointing fingers at others, remember 3 fingers are pointing back at you". WE let the baggers win, we did not do enough to get our friends and neighbors to the polls. I accept my part of the blame, I spent most of my volunteer hrs working against Perry here in Tx. President Obama had one vote--same as the rest of us, no more no less.
    I will be volunteering fully, and will take time off as the election nears to proudly work for President Obama's 2012 campaign.
    Believe me people , you do not want Perry to get close to the White House--he has destroyed the school system here in Texas.

    Bikers For Obama 2012

    Little Rabbit

  30. Wonderful article. It makes a lot of sense. I too am guilty of wanting Obama to rise up and tell these idiots where to stick it, but in reality, I don't. I respect Obama for what he is, intelligent, gentle, respectful, insightful and sensible.

    I think I needed to read this article to put his actions into perspective.

    Thanks G.

  31. Until people stop offering "their advice" and vote for Democrats on all fronts, we have no chance to see what this President can do---GIVE HIM THAT CHANCE! VOTE FOR OBAMA and convince everyone you know that is apathetic about voting to get to the polls.

    OBAMA 2012!

  32. Anonymous9:24 AM

    Anon @ 8:05 wrote:

    " - his talent and intelligence are being wasted on the uneducated, fried Twinkie eatin,' 'reality' TV watchin' U.S."

    Exactly my feelings, too. And I'm an American. Only when this country comes out of it's 'our team against their team' mentality will we succeed. We need to work together as one nation.

  33. Anonymous9:37 AM

    Oh shut up 7:45am. Dems in Congress was responsible for dealing with the budget & the debt ceiling, but they put it aside. They were too worried about the elections.

  34. Anonymous9:52 AM

    Yeah 7:45 a.m. He should have allowed the debt ceiling deadline to come and go. Why is it, with Obama, we forget that there are three branches government? He's not Dumbledore and D.C. isn't Hogwarts.

  35. I like our President a lot. That doesn't mean I'm not disappointed with him. I am. But I think that if we can get him elected to a second term he will make us proud. And hiding amongst the disappointments are many things that already make me proud. The sustained assault on his presidency has not brought him down. I'm going to continue to give him my support because I sure don't see anybody better at this point. Certainly not the timid and corrupt Democrats in Congress.

  36. That picture made me cry...

    The one girl looking at her friend,

    the friend unable to look back, just staring at the counter,

    Could You Do It?


  37. Anonymous10:00 AM

    Very informative insight to the perils that face President Obama. I feel we owe him our support, he has the best interest for our country in his heart. I'm appalled at the lengths others will go to in order to defeat him...and does nothing for our nation.
    I agree with Little don't want Perry for president!

  38. Anonymous10:03 AM

    While many of us saw the election of President Obama as a shining point in our history,there were those like Rove,Kochs and their ilk, whose greed and thrist for power was all ready to destroy this.

    From day one, their mission was to defeat and destroy,They have no love and care for the people of this country. They became comfortable with the supreme powers of Bush/Cheney and have used and will use every tool to bring President Obama down.

    We have to ask ourselves, what has the GOP offered, everything negative, but nothing good.They have trampled upon ordinary people and disected everything that is helpful to those who need it most.

    When they get all this power can you imagine what is going to happen to us as a society?

    We know what they are about, so we have to stand together and fight back.These guys think they are smarter than us we have to show we are smarter and better..We the people.

    When President Obama got the Nobel Peace Prize,it was a nod to this country , we were on the high road,alas the robbers and thieves were already armed.

    I will stand with President Obama anyday. When I look at the alternatives, I want a better place for my children/grandchildren

  39. Anonymous10:03 AM

    Excellent and much needed. I am a better person for taking these understandings into myself.

    For those who say, "yeah but..." I think you missed the point. Please think some more.

    Thank you, G.

    And to Beldar at 8:14 I say RIGHT ON! YES!! Where are they? Why do we see instead the Dems who tear down this President who is some profound ways stands almost alone in a struggle that involves all of us?

    signed: another progressive

  40. Anonymous10:03 AM

    That photo of the civil rights' activists getting sodas and food dumped on them by racists is so compelling. Yes, this is the Jim Crow era the Teabaggers want to "take my country back" to. Well, screw them! America has to keep moving forward, not backwards.

  41. Carrieoki10:05 AM

    I agree with this analysis. Am by no means an expert, but had a hefty amt. of African American studies in my courses. Every now and then, I have thought that President Obama does not want to be portrayed as an "angry black man." The historical significance of a black man becoming President of the United States is immeasurable to African American culture and to the general American culture. I have faith in President Obama. That said, I had hoped he would get the best of the best to advise him--I do not know if he has done/is doing that.

  42. Anonymous10:09 AM

    Yes, Firedog has some points about Obama and his seeming inability to take a more rigorous stand against the opposition. But, I think a second term will cement his creds. The Repubs know this, fear for their power and will do anything to make sure he isn't elected.

    I also think it has been shocking the degree of racism the president has had to endure. I really don't think we people who elected him saw this coming. There really is a divide in this country that is worse than ever expected. But, when you look back to the last election, it must have been terrifying for the goppers to see how many people Obama energized. Think back and then look at the present. Do you see any GOP candidate creating that kind of energy in the upcoming campaign? Nope.

    The really funny part I look back on now is how stupidly Sarah Palin played her cards. Despite her lame behavior in the last election she might have gained traction among the GOP if she had soldiered on in her gov job, studied and used her base as a base and not an ATM, she might have become the candidate in 2012. But, she is easily manipulated, lazy and intellectually incurious (the perfect GOP candidate). Her base has shrunken to the dimwitted and the old boys in shorts crowd. Everyone else has seen the ruse and moved on.

  43. Anonymous10:13 AM

    I agree with this! I voted for President Obama and will again. I say a prayer for him and his family every night and have since he was elected.

    He has taken the high ground in being our President. I've not always agreed with him, but I sure as hell don't want those crappy Republicans taking over again. They are horrid (especially in the House and I'm wagering will not be re elected in the next cycle).

    We are so fortunate in having this man in office vs McCain and Palin. Can you imagine?

  44. Anonymous10:14 AM

    This is the best post I have read in a long time. Very informative.

    You are absolutely correct. President Obama´s approach works. I am a conservative who now stands solidly behind him.

  45. Anonymous10:17 AM

    I just want to say to President Obama it's okay to be an angry black man because the GOP has given him every reason to be. Listening to all their bullshit(GOP)and especially to Sarah Palin you begin to think they'd love to lynch him literally! He's our first African American President and instead of being proud they're all shitting in their pants because a black man is the leader of the free world.

  46. Anonymous10:28 AM

    I worry for him - seems thinner and assuredly is grayer.

    Cannot imagine the pressure he is under in holding the office.

    I hope he is not hearing the constant 'negative' commentary on the national news (TV/radio) being said about him - hour by hour and minute by minute (Limbaugh).

    I so dislike our national media and have stopped watching and listening to it. All channels seem to be Republican based and supported. Even some of the hosts on MSNBC are derogatory towards, stopped watching them too. Where is fair and balanced news these days? There isn't any!

    Am glad he has the love of someone like Michelle and his daughters to provide the loving support he needs and deserves.

  47. Anonymous10:30 AM

    I grew up in the northeast in a rural area (now a suburb)with a diverse population. Many of the people where immigrants from Europe and Eastern Europe. We had Blacks, Spanish and many Jews as well and we all got along. There was no discrimination and one of my brother's black friend told him years later he didn't know he was black till he left for college. I think because the majority were immigrants they understood what America stood for which is equality and freedom for all. I came here on a green card with my family when I was a toddler. My background is Eastern European and we immigrated to the States in 1951.

  48. Anonymous10:30 AM

    So many people don't understand that even though he is president, he's powerless to do anything. The system is totally screwed up of course and it's been manipulated into a situation where the Repubs are in control. Really stupid to blame Obama for it.

  49. Anonymous10:31 AM

    I grew up in the northeast in a rural area (now a suburb)with a diverse population. Many of the people where immigrants from Europe and Eastern Europe. We had Blacks, Spanish and many Jews as well and we all got along. There was no discrimination and one of my brother's black friend told him years later he didn't know he was black till he left for college. I think because the majority were immigrants they understood what America stood for which is equality and freedom for all. I came here on a green card with my family when I was a toddler. My background is Eastern European and we immigrated to the States in 1951.

  50. PollyinAK10:32 AM

    in my opinion, he is like an aikiddo master. when you have a zillion angry people hurling stones at you, there is an art to winning. hurling stones back at them he is sure to lose. patience, he's got their number.

    the GOP are provoking him to lose it (get angry). i say don't do it. he will find the right cutting truthful words that will be stronger than anger.

  51. Anonymous10:35 AM

    Anon @ 7:45, I kinda think you and others who comment in a similar vein are not progressives at all, but Rethugs come here to stir up trouble.

    Do you have any idea how evil his opposition is? Was it on this blog that someone recounted a recent conversation with financial sector professionals who were saying how they were intentionally withholding their money offshore, that they didn't care if they economy tanked, that they almost HOPED IT WOULD so they could get the n*&## out of office? How much worse could the motives of the opposition get?

    Has Obama ever once played the race card and cried "victim", even though that's just what he potentially is? (These closet racists and robber baron criminals will probably stop at nothing to push this President to fail.) No, he has sucked it up and soldiered on, because he's strong, brave, and brilliant. He will not let them win, but he needs more time.

    This piece - thank you, Gryphen, for posting it - speaks powerfully to what this man is up against.

    Don't know if it has been quoted here already, or even where the quote comes from, but in the past it has been said that some hardline Progressives would rather lose an election than win one, if they could hold on to their precious principles in the process.

    I say, fuck them! FUCK THEM. Who I hate the most are rich Progressives who have no idea what the middle class is struggling with... How dare they demand perfection when some of us will take compromise, no, NEED compromise, over nothing at all?

    There was a confessional by a guy who voted for Ralph Nader who said he didn't realize how terrible the alternative was going to be - GW Bush. Remember people, just remember. We are in these terrible times because a Republican got into the White House.

    Stop your whining and let's get it together.

  52. Virginia Voter10:51 AM

    I avoid those firebagger sites like the plague....half the time I like to think they are infested with right wing trolls who pose as "liberals", because I hate to think there are such stupid progressives.

    The Rove/Tea Party/Koch/Faux Noise smear machine is trying to do its very best to discredit Obama at every turn, and they win when idiots like 7:45, and 8:47 come on here and pretend like there isn't a Republican majority in the house, and the Senate filibusters everyone Obama nominates, and every bill put forward. This is a democracy idiots, not a Marxist dictatorship like the Baggers profess it is.

    Get out and support Democratic House and Senate candidates in 2012....that is the ONLY way things will change.

  53. Beldar Obama2012 Conehead10:57 AM

    The Right is incapable of governing this country responsibly for all but their twin constituencies: the incredibly wealthy and the extremely wealthy.

    But they are brilliant political strategists.

    They've managed to get unprecedented concessions from Obama while simultaneously and deceptively convincing their own low-information base that Obama is doing - destroying jobs, health care, Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security - PRECISELY that which which they themselves have spent 2001-2008 doing and fully intend to continue doing if they are successful in defeating our president.

    They repeat the lie that taxing the 'job creators' costs jobs when the decade of unquestioning rule by the Right saw flat or declining incomes in the middle class along with spectacular gains among the wealthy. The so-called 'job creators' flourished BECAUSE they were decimating the middle class. This went according to their intended plan.

    And they get away with it simply by pointing to the BLACK man in the WHITE House and saying "Don't look at us: it's the muslin black guy who wants to 'spread the wealth around a little' who's causing all the problems..."

    It's brilliant and it's despicable. Damn their eyes, the rat bastards....

  54. Anonymous11:04 AM

    Nicely put, Gryphen. Bravo!

  55. 1st Af-Am 211:28 AM

    This is clearest analysis of Obama's situation I've ever read.

    It will also be virtually impossible for most white Americans to understand or accept it.

    But look at what every other "First African-American To (fill in the blank)" has had to endure -- pioneers like Jesse Owens, Jackie Robinson, Sidney Poitier, etc.

    Each of these "Firsts" understood that they could ONLY respond to the most painful & degrading racist insults with silent dignity or else risk "proving" the racist accusation that they were "uppity."

    Combine this analysis with an HONEST and UNBIASED appraisal of what Obama HAS managed to accomplish despite the vast and blatant obstructionism he's faced every step of the way, and it should cause any progressive whose support of him has flagged to carefully reassess that opinion.

  56. TO Anon @ 8:47

    May I suggest that you learn the meaning and history of Keynesian Economics? You will see that this is NOT the philosophy of the GOP AT ALL!!! Keynes was a British econonist and some of his ideas supplied the foundation for the New Deal under FDR.

  57. The progressive left forgets that it's a minority in the US and in Congress. It's nuts to think Pres. Obama would be able to push their agenda through Congress. They also forget what a mess he inherited and how much he's accomplished in spite of ridiculously crazy opposition. Our country needs him for a second term; it's always been about needing him to be a 2-term president. And we need to get the far right out of Congress and state legislatures.

    Thanks for a great post, G!

  58. Anonymous1:37 PM

    During the election, I wanted him to call Sarah Palin a cunt, which is what I always screamed at the TV when she'd appear, but he didn't do what I thought he should. He got elected anyway. I think he knows what he is doing. I don't agree with him 100%, but I support him. During the election, some republicans were saying there would be a "silver lining" if he got elected--that they could blame everything on him. All of Bush's shit. And they have. I give Obama room for error because I remember what they were saying then, and I know what they are doing now. They are making it easier on him, for people to say he is being blamed unfairly. I think the critics and the elected obstructionists will help him in the long run.

    I signed his birthday card the other day, and said I was looking forward to voting for him again. I hope other people did the same. He is human, he is not an unfeeling robot.

  59. Anonymous1:43 PM

    The press seems to drive this disappointment in Obama. He is very smart and really has taken the Republicans out. All people do is listen to the sound bites and let the press drive the debate.

    The press and the republicans are going to make Americans slip back in time and turn this country over to the rich. Pundits are just earning money, they are no better than a lobbiest and none of them have any ideas. They are pathetic.

    And progressives, really, the president is the president of all people and he should be a centrist to accomodate everyone. He should not push one's agenda more than another just do what's right.

    And people, please stop listening to the stupid cable press and pundits they are incompetent and pushing an agenda. They helped bring the rating down as well.

    Obama is smart and he is a black man up against two hundred hateful white men and as president, he can't do anything until Congress gets him something to sign, but the press won't tell you that. Congress can go on vacation for 5 weeks but the press only brings up the president taking vacation. See the pattern??????

  60. Anonymous1:44 PM

    Everyone says stand up to Repubicans, his own democratic congress if a flake. If he had let the country slip by standing by his principles, everyone would be complaining because he let it happen. America is on steriods.

    Start digesting, analyzing because that's what he does. The best he can do now is destroy the reputation of the republican party and he's doing that.

  61. That was a great comment. Yes we should have his back. He is a very
    intelligent man.

  62. fromthediagonal2:36 PM

    This is the most brilliantly reasoned assessment I have encountered! Thank you, Gryphen.

  63. Anonymous3:02 PM

    Spot on. And as the first A/A president, he cannot be faulted for the fact that previous presidents operated under a different dynamic because of their skin color.

  64. Thank you so much for posting the clip from W.E.E. See You. Have no idea who they are or who wrote this, but clearly they, and s/he. understand quite well exactly the way in which Obama dominates the current political scene.

    Thank you for posting it.

  65. GBIllinois3:36 PM

    Branch Rickey signed Jackie Robinson to be the first negro player in major league baseball.

    At their first meeting he told him:

    "Robinson, I'm looking for a ballplayer with guts enough not to fight back!"

    Jackie Robinson endured taunts and racist slurs from opposing players and fans, and even some of his own team's fans. He quietly went about his business and at the end of the year was voted Rookie of the Year. He was eventaully elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame.

    The parallels between Barak Obama and Jackie Robinson should be obvious.

  66. eclecticsandra3:54 PM

    Tiger Woods never got much credit for being first. He was always so good. But I knew he made a difference when I first saw some toy golf clubs and ball with the model being an African-American boy.

  67. Anonymous4:09 PM

    I disagree with a lot of the presumptions in the article.

    We should not forget that Obama is not the great grand son of slavery, having grown up impoverished in the rural south or a northern ghetto.

    He grew up comfortably middle class in situations in which he was not considered a subordinate to a dominant white population

    And so his view of his place in the black white schism in this country is not likely to be the view of most of the American born population descended from African slaves. And he probably has no inkling what it is like in the impoverished rural south to be Black.

    In fact he may not understand on any level the subservience that many racists whites expect from Blacks. He certainly has been in this country long enough to hear the racism, but what it does to him inside is unlikely to be what it does to a descendant of slavery who's ancestors have, even since the falsely named "Reconstruction," been kept in virtual slavery by poor job opportunities, poor education, and the impact of generations of grinding poverty and political abuse.

    He likely does not realize what many of the Republicans see when they look at him. They see a N. He sees himself as being just like them, a person. That is a big big problem for him relative to how he approaches dealing with that kind of attitude.

    I don't think he will be able to deal with the TeePee dominated Republican party unless he realizes that they do not see him as an equal to be bargained with, they see him as a second class human who has somehow cheated his way into a position more powerful than their own, and they despise him for that and will whip him till he drops on his knees to them and effectively says "Yes, Master."

    He has to realize that the TeePeers, are not well intentioned people whose primary interest is the welfare of the US. And that the Repocons want to own the US lock stock and barrel and he is just the bell boy in their private club.

    I really don't think he understands why they are treating him and his willlingness to meet them half way with such total disrespect and dismissal.

    I think he needs to spend some major quality time with successful Black leaders in this country and have some teaching moments. If he doesn't figure out how to dominate the Republican leadership this country will have to endure 6 more years of what we have seen for the last two, and this country can't survive that.

    There is a wonderful duet in the musical “Big River” as Huck Finn and Jim float down the Mississippi:
    Jim sings, “ I see the same world through brown eyes that you see through blue,
    But we are worlds apart.
    Worlds apart.”

    Obama doesn’t see through the modern day Jim’s eyes. He is after all essentially international and without race in his background and outlook.
    But the modern day Huck still sees the Black man that the slave era Huck saw. And Obama just doesn’t get it.

  68. Anonymous5:26 PM

    @conscious at last -

    I am 8:47 anon...and yes, you are correct. What I had in my head at the time I wrote it was stagflation, which is associated with Keynesian economics and currently what is happening. But you are correct, that as a whole, Republicans do not adopt Keynesian policies. However, what the president DOES agree with Repubs about is budget cuts, and he has said that ever since he was campaigning to be president.

    I think others on here who say that the President does not have all the power, that there are three branches of gov't, etc. are forgetting that democrats DID HAVE control of all three prior to the midterm elections, and I don't see any real change in the President's public positions before and after that. He has been remarkably consistent, as I have been consistently disappointed. That does not mean that I will vote republican or that I hate the president or that I am not equally disappointed in congress or anything like that. What it does mean is that I have the same beliefs regardless of who is president.

    I like Matt Taibbi's take on the debt ceiling debacle: "The Democrats aren't failing to stand up to Republicans and failing to enact sensible reforms that benefit the middle class because they genuinely believe there's political hay to be made moving to the right. They're doing it because they do not represent any actual voters. I know I've said this before, but they are not a progressive political party, not even secretly, deep inside. They just play one on television."

  69. @ 4:09pm....S T F U!! I can see your white robe from here!

    Re-read the post and then educate yourself asshole!!

    And then you got the fucking nerve to quote some bull shit racist ass Huck Finn and Jim singing a fucking racist ass song!

    You Teabagging, racist, sorry excuse asshole can kiss PRESIDENT BARACK HUSSEIN OBAMA ass and mine too!!

    And you are the one "who doesn't get it".

    Fucking racist ass trolls get on my damn nerves!

  70. Anonymous5:50 PM

    All I have to say is:
    Hang on's not over yet!

  71. Anonymous6:58 PM

    I'm a white woman in her fifties and always thought I knew what racism is and how it affects people's views and perceptions. When Obama did his speech about race during the election, it opened my eyes to what this man stood for, the experiences that shaped is view, and the education he valued that gave him the wisdom I do admired in him.

    There were times where I was raving against him, wishing he'd grow a spine and stand up to these Republicons and their bullshit. Reading this made me realize I've been standing too close to a work of art, focusing on the mastery of the brushstrokes and hues.
    But stepping back and seeing the big picture made me realize that he understands, much better than I do, what the big picture is and that it's more than the sum of it's parts.

    I had his back before, advocated and worked hard to get him elected, and I have his back now and will do the same with renewed vigor and strength, we're up against some wicked opposition backed by big oil, big pharma, and big corporate monies. We need him now even more than before.

    Thanks for an eye opening and informative article.

  72. Punkinbugg7:16 PM

    From this article about Barack (Barry at the time) Obama's mother,

    I remember this passage:

    "After lunch, the group took a walk, with Barry running ahead. A flock of Indonesian children began lobbing rocks in his direction. They ducked behind a wall and shouted racial epithets. He seemed unfazed, dancing around as though playing dodge ball “with unseen players,” Bryant said. Ann did not react. Assuming she must not have understood the words, Bryant offered to intervene. “No, he’s O.K.,” Ann said. “He’s used to it.”

    Until I read this, I always assumed his upbringing in Hawaii sort of insulated him from the hateful South, where I was from.

    Turns out there is hate everywhere.

    Now when he is the adult in the room, the R's look more and more and more extreme every day.

    You're threatening to default on the country's debt?

    You are THAT crazy?

    Yes! They chirp in unison. Yes! We are all that crazy!! Want some tea?!

  73. Anonymous11:33 PM

    Anon @7:51 I am with you. We asked for Change...but seems in our resistance we are now demading more of the same. I see something very different than those that suggest he is weak, naive, out of his league. I hope those that are disenfranchised wake up and catch on....before it is to late. This is not just about Obama it is about all of us. Stop making perfection the enemy of the good. And for the record IMO, President Obama is well beyond good.Give him Congressional support and we will have an opportunity to exceed the successes of his first 2 years....check the congressional record if you need to have your memory refreshed, and a little dose of reality for your delusion.

    I also want to add that extremism is not limited to the right. The left is capable of some pretty strident and uncompromising positions. What they have to explain to me is how they would have gotten their policy ideas legislated and signed into law, in this less than perfect world.

    I also would like to challenge those that hold President Obama accountable for the actions or inactions of the Senators and Representatives. Just because it is easy to make one person your whipping boy, doesn't make it responsible, reasonable or right. Start holding our elected officials accountable, and quit rewarding bad behavior by refusing to properly assign blame, or worse ignoring it.

  74. @4:09 PM - 5 minutes after his arrival in this country, he knew what was up. Ask a few African immigrants if they experience racism. Or if it just those who lived here, and are descended from slaves.

    You are a complete, unaware moron.

  75. This is an excellent article. You are absolutely right.

    In the late '60s I helped arrange a series of interracial adoptions - black/multiracial children by white families. I saw some pretty horrid behavior towards these children on the part of adults. These children were threats to nobody. The responses to Obama's election were sooo familiar.
    Seeing what happened to Obama was like living those old experiences all over again. Racism is alive and well here. In spades.

    I quickly learned to avoid any family who took a militant approach, who wanted to use the child for political points. The families who did well with these adoptions took the high road approach. Now such adoptions are no longer viewed as anything out of the ordinary.

    My Obama 2012 bumper sticker is already on. I will send money if I have any. Any progressive who sits out this election or who actively opposes Obama next time around risks putting the crazies more firmly in control. It's said the Rs got the power they have because so many of us (not me) stayed home in 2010. That election handed over power to those who would destroy this country as we know it. Do we want to give them more power? I sure don't. We need to get some sane people back in office and vote out the crazies. If we don't, we will all regret the consequences.

    Considering the intransigent opposition Obama has experienced, it's amazing he's accomplished everything he has. If we want to keep those advances, we cannot let the Rs win next time. March. Speak. Vote. Do whatever it takes to get this country moving again. Voting in Obama's opposition will sink us.

  76. Questionin­g A.A patriotism is goes back to the first person _killed in the Revolution­ary War, Crispus Attucks. It's so easy, and so _racist.

    Tuskegee Airmen, Lt. Col. Benjamin O. Davis (Andre Baugher) defends his squadron, which was treated very different than white squadrons of the time. He argues that his "colored pilots" have "carried not only the burden of their dreams of becoming American military aviators but the hopes of an entire people." This is an excellent illustrati­on of Du Bois' concepts of the veil and double consciousn­ess.

    Looking at his white military superiors through the veil, Davis asks "how do I feel about my country ... and how does my country feel about me?" The veil not only refers to their skin color and seeing themselves through the eyes of others but also features a dimension of citizenshi­p where some do not see Blacks as “true” Americans

  77. Randall2:01 PM

    Thank you for that.

    I may have just grown a bit in my own understanding of President Obama as well as race relations in this country.

    I'm a bit ashamed that I didn't give Mr. Obama more credit.

    And I'm very ashamed for my white brethren as I recall the horrible inhumanity my race has shown towards our fellow human beings so many times, in so many ways.

    Yes; the moral high ground is the way to go. It's always the way to go. To do otherwise is to lose our own dignity in the process.

    We need to VOTE for our principles and against the lack of same.

  78. Anonymous8:58 PM

    4:09,I don't care where any person of color in this country originated. Fairly quickly, they ALL recognize racism. One need not have shared in the collective memory of slavery to feel the sting of that type of hatred.

  79. Anonymous9:03 PM

    Even before the 2010 elections, Obama did not have the support of both the Senate and the House. Remember the pins and needles cloture votes during the health care debates? The Blue Dogs made it impossible to be confident of the necessary 60 votes to move forward with any debate.

    Obama can't do it alone, nor did he promise to do so. WE need to be the change we want to see.


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