What does it mean that Barack Obama, a black man, has won his party’s nomination? One story is that Obama is the Jackie Robinson of politics. He has broken a color barrier (nowadays called a glass ceiling) and entered the big leagues. Other men and women of color will now enter the lists for the presidency.
But the fact is that our society is not now more color-blind than ever before. This cannot be so when it is apparently a highly successful American social policy to imprison as many black men as possible on drug offenses. If others do follow in Obama’s footsteps, that means only that there is an up-and-coming crop of people like him who have learned the same lessons as he has in the nation’s law schools and other statist incubators.
Another story is that the Obama moment is a special moment for black people (now often called African-Americans). The idea is that it is a "notable marker on the long road to freedom, justice, equality and shared power in spite of the ruts and road blocks in the way…" I contest this story too, which is the kind of tale we expect to hear from self-anointed black leaders who claim to speak for the street and don’t. I would be truly shocked if very many black people get off on Obama’s nomination (for more than a few seconds) and feel a profound sense of satisfaction that now freedom, justice, equality, and shared power are at hand or even a wee bit closer. I’d be shocked because nothing essential has changed in their lives and nothing will because of him. Symbols of power do not fill the gas tank, and if they claim to or do, there is a hidden price tag.
There are many more such stories, but let these two stories suffice because the meaning that I see in his nomination is vastly different. Obama has won a competition, but this does not mean he is "the best man." It comes closer to meaning that he is the worst man, just as McCain is in his party.
Competition for producing disk storage gives us more and better storage at lower prices. There is even a law, called Moore’s law, that predicts the course of this progress over time. But competition for the presidency follows a different law, which is that candidates are ever more deceitful, cunning, crafty, two-faced, and power-hungry. They are more and more criminal in their endeavors. Among Democrats, we retrogress, if that is possible, from Franklin Delano Roosevelt to Harry Truman to Lyndon Johnson to Bill Clinton. Republicans should not be left out of this retrogression. Clearly, George W. Bush marks a new low.
In politics, there is a race to the bottom. Rozeff’s law is that the number and severity of presidential acts that reduce social welfare follow an upward time trend. Whether it is a square root function, linear, or exponential is left for future research.
Obama’s nomination merely means that a black man has won the race to the bottom in securing his party’s nomination. This means that a black man has been found who has mastered the trade of delivering criminal actions suavely while conning enough of his victims so that he does not rend the State over which he presides. It means that a black man can lie as smoothly as a white man or woman, that he can switch positions as easily as a candidate of another race, and that he is equally adept at punching and counterpunching at his opponents.
As far as its meaning goes concerning my voting neighbors, it appears that Obama has successfully peddled a politics of hope. I am certain that he could demolish me in an instant in the eyes of his followers by calling me a cynic. He is explicitly trying to overcome what he calls cynicism. That’s a clever ruse — a campaign ploy. Cynicism is a belief that selfishness dominates human action. Obviously, Obama is calling for selflessness. When a politician does that, watch out. The con-man wants you to smile as he impales you. Selfishness has nothing to do with how Americans feel. Perhaps helplessness and frustration do. Having been manipulated into an increasingly helpless and deteriorating condition by their own governments, it is no wonder that Americans should voice despair. Despair is not cynicism either. Despair is a rather realistic reaction to being tied up, bound and gagged, and rendered helpless by the State. One cannot expect a man of the State like Obama to do what needs to be done to alter that condition significantly. One can expect him to play upon the emotions generated by such conditions to his own and his party’s advantage.
Race is not much of an overt issue in this campaign. For me it is no issue at all because I won’t vote. I do not vote. I don’t believe that politics and voting are a viable means to demolish the State, which is what I think needs to be done if we are to make serious headway against its crimes against humanity.
Voting, in my opinion, merely endorses and prolongs the agony. But even if I did vote, race would still be a non-issue for me. The choice is between two men who both want power and relish power. Either one will use it to the fullest in the blind and arrogant belief that he is a savior. It is a case of Tweedledum and Tweedledee. I would not indulge in voting based on the fantasy that I actually could predict what these men would do once they become criminal-in-chief. Either one will surely surprise us in many dreadful ways, and that will be that. I am sure that those who are following the campaigns up to now have already detected some rather shocking backtracking if not about-faces.
In the end, the nomination of Obama has, I believe, very little meaning in terms of race. It is not terribly unusual for candidates to elicit a degree of enthusiasm among his followers, as he has. It is not unusual for candidates to offer grand agendas and promises, as he has. The metal tarnishes rather quickly.
Obama’s time arrived. A black man’s time arrived. No year between 1944 and 1970 was the right time for Adam Clayton Powell, Jr., a charismatic and likeable figure, to seek much less secure a presidential nomination. What does it now mean except that any person, regardless of color, racial background, looks, religion, or sex, can win the race to the bottom, that any person (who passes certain minimal requirements) can win the nomination for the presidency? That any person can achieve the inglorious and criminal end of one day becoming President of these United States.
Michael S. Rozeff [send him mail] is a retired Professor of Finance living in East Amherst, New York.