Is Obama the End of Black Politics?

Written By: Charles - Aug• 14•08

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A fascinating article in the NYT magazine, Is Barack Obama the end of black politics?

One of the more interesting ideas, which comes from the new generation of black leadership–more Obama than John Lewis–that an Obama presidency might find itself hampered when trying to deal with black issues.  How can you present your community as victimized if Michelle, Barrack and the kids are in the Whitehouse?  A speculation, in my opinion, that reveals the extreme naivete of American politics.

That there are issues in the train of identity politics goes without saying.  Women earn less than men.  Still.  Blacks still end up in jail disproportionately to whites.  Gays do not have the right to marry or have partner benefits.  All these are true.  But.  The big divider is not identity, not gender, race, or sex.

No.  It is, as it always has been, class.  While identity plays a role, class determines.  If you do not have adequate cash, you do not live in the good neighborhood where your kid goes to the good school, learns dominant class cultural mores.  This whole argument goes back to the rise of the new left.  The new left did not pick up socialism as its banner, but struck out for analysis of the “system.”  Was there an oppressive overclass that manipulated power to the disadvantage of the poor, women, blacks? Of course.  It was then as it is now the capitalist elite, the ruling class.

I know what you’re thinking.  This train left the station a long time ago and never arrived at its destination.  Look at Eastern Europe, the Soviet Union, even the People’s Republic of China.  None of them are poster children for socialism.  Correct.  They illustrate the bankruptcy of Marxist-Leninism, a system in which even communism did not have a fair chance.

The failure of early 20th century Marxist-Leninism is not a critique of socialism.  It is a critique of a unique experiment in totalitarian government and a corrupted revolution.  Furthermore, it does not dismantle the critique of capitalism made by socialists.  It only highlights the genuine difficulty of changing the course of a behemoth long underway.

Obama does not need to deal with black or Latino issues.  He needs to deal with poverty.  We need a government which allows no child and no adult to go without housing, food or health care.  We need a political system which ensures the equal education of all its children and full employment for its adults.  As the rise of the black middle-class has shown, if the issue of poverty is dealt with the dynamics change forever.  Has this rise eliminated racism?  No.  Has Hilary Clinton’s run for the presidency eliminated sexism? No.  Will these pathologies of a traditional society still remain and need amelioration?  Yes.

Economic empowerment increases the capacity of these groups to fight for themselves and to find their natural allies in our political system.

So, no.  An Obama white house will not weaken the ability of advocates to make their case, because the first case to be made is against poverty, against class bias.

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