The Era Of Us Is Just Beginning

By Jesse Taylor
Monday, October 20, 2008 2:00 EDT
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imageAlthough this George Will quote is getting a bunch of attention because it joins the ever-expanding train of comments theorizing that the only reason one black person supports another is because of race, while white people join together in book clubs and farmer’s markets and whatever else it is white people do because white people simply share interests, like being white and having money and stuff.

But this is the part that leapt out at me:

And I think this adds to my calculation — this is very hard to measure — but it seems to me if we had the tools to measure we’d find that Barack Obama gets two votes because he’s black for every one he loses because he’s black because so much of this country is so eager, a, to feel good about itself by doing this, but more than that to put paid to the whole Al Sharpton/Jesse Jackson game of political rhetoric.

Up until a few years ago, the entire volume and content of black political rhetoric in the Beltway media was dictated by Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton. It wasn’t really until Obama got into the presidential race that cable news channels started hiring every black person who’d ever made a Republican campaign payroll to sit in as Republican strategists (the Joe Watkins experiment worked, MSNBC!), but it’s not like black political issues really got any more play – they simply morphed into this periodic recurrence of whether or not the political views of thirteen percent of the American public were going to be dictated by the same two go-to men that the media knew or if Obama would make a break from them and dictate the new course of the U.S.S. Black America.

I guarantee you every news channel will have a version of this conversation after Obama’s victory on November 4th. CNN will ask Donna Brazille and Amy Holmes to talk about if it’s gonna be Jesse or Barack, MSNBC will have Pat Buchanan crustily rail at how they’re all a part of the same corrupt Negro establishment and Rachel Maddow will thankfully step in before he starts talking about how the blue gums are gonna fuck everything up, and Fox News will have Sean Hannity talking to members of Neo-Nazi groups about how real Americans better stock up on guns and start growing poison watermelons.

What the media is lacking, and I really don’t know if any group of people who think that David Broder adds a valuable analytical voice to our discourse can grasp this, is a Cosby Show moment. What the Cosby Show taught America is that there were a lot of different black people – both in terms of shades of skin and types of personalities. There were neurotic intellectual black people and wandering soul black people and goodhearted screwup black people and serious black people. But we’re still stuck thinking that the only way to talk about race in politics is with Jesse and Al, and November 4th is going to provide what hopefully becomes a longform teaching moment where the black voice the media has created is debated to its long-awaited death, and something more representative than 1988′s most prominent black men gains some credence in discussions of black politics.

Of course, they’re still hung up on 1980′s Reagan Democrats, 1967′s Vietnam War and 1930′s Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act. How many times can you condemn Reed Smoot, David Gregory? How many times?

Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor
Jesse Taylor is an attorney and blogger from the great state of Ohio. He founded Pandagon in July, 2002, and has also served on the campaign and in the administration of former Ohio Governor Ted Strickland. He focuses on politics, race, law and pop culture, as well as the odd personal digression when the mood strikes.
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