My wife exclaimed this morning “not that Obama speech again? Can’t they let it go?”, as we watched the Sunday morning talk-fest. But as I watched “Meet the Press”, something that had been rattling around the back of my brain was pulled to the front. Peggy Noonan, in New York City, was talking about how Reverend Jeremiah Wright’s sermons, or at least the snippet’s shown on youtube and news programs, are far outside “the mainstream”. The rest of the panel included the editor of Newsweek Jon Meechem, NBC’s chief political correspondent Chuck Todd and the columnist Eugene Robinson.
Now, I don’t know Peggy Noonan’s background, but given the fact that she is now a reporter of sorts, doesn’t she know the terrible poverty that many, I believe most, Afican Americans live in today? Or that that poverty is a direct result of the centuries of racism in the county? We may be to the point where white suburbanites claim not to be racist, where business people actually want to hire African Americans because it would demonstrate their company’s commitment to diversification, where Universities also want to admit minority students for the same reason. But the poverty that has been created in the inner cities and in poor rural communities has become self sustaining. Poor parents can’t get jobs because they aren’t qualified and don’t have needed experience. So the neighborhoods they live in have a lousy tax base and the schools suffer. The kids don’t get educated and see their parents not working, and so do not believe they will get hired anywhere. And they are right, no one will hire minority kids fresh out of school who can’t read well. And the cycle perpetuates itself. It surprised me that Eugene Robinson (the token African American) didn’t point this out, but maybe he knew no one would hear him.
Not to say things haven’t gotten better, there are now African American millionaires and an African American middle class (although there was some of that even in the heyday of segregation). But, as the line goes, the poor still can’t buy a job. Somewhere I heard a number that 30% of African Americans agree with Rev Wright, and believe there is a white conspiracy to keep them down. Listening to Peggy Noonan, I don’t blame them.
Of course, as Mr. Obama says, for African Americans to point at whites and say, ‘You deserve 9/11 for all the bad things you have done’, that is not productive. It is no more productive for whites to tell African Americans that all their problems are their own fault. But that doesn’t mean I know anything more about it than that. Peggy Noonan did say one somewhat intelligent thing; that in making his speech Mr. Obama had moved into uncharted territory. Indeed, if we do try to start a dialogue base on Mr. Obama’s speech, we will be also be in uncharted territory.
I also saw Heather Arnet and the Rev Ricky Burgess on the KP/PG thing, with Ken Rice (with a deep, worried looking furrow on his brow) and Dennis Roddy. They were speaking as Clinton and Obama supporters respectively. Arnet was first out of the gate (so to speak), she talked for quite a while, about healthcare and how good Hillary is. Ricky Burgess tried to get a word in edgewise a few times, and when he finally did get a chance to speak he also went on for a while. His focus was a bit more abstract, about how Obama could be the leader who could unite the country. Although I don’t remember him mentioning race specifically, that was certainly the subtext.
As surrogates for their candidates, Arnet and Burgess bore an eerie verbal resemblance to them. Arnet was somewhat more practical and specific, and Burgess more theoretical and global. Disappointingly, though, I didn’t feel any issues were resolved. Burgess did bring up the Obama campaign argument that if Obama has the lead in pledged delegates, he should be declared the winner. Arnet countered that Hillary had won “must-win” states for democrats, and the super delegates should take that into account. Dennis Roddy pointed out that the contests so far have been (largely) limited to democratic voters. So Obama’s lead is in democratic voters, and Clinton has won contests in important states only in voting with other democrats. Since all these contests have so far involved only democrat party voters, they really say nothing about the electibility of the candidates at all. Again, I don’t know what should happen, but it is possible (if dangerous) that the only fair thing is to let this go to the convention with two candidates.