Armstrong Williams

That's why most leaders "have no personal values," says psychohistorian Lloyd deMause. "They just follow whatever irrational wishes we want to pour in them. So you'll get a wide range of personalities who will become these delegates or toadies of the people when the country is in the mood for irrational activities."

Though this is a longstanding criticism of democratic politics, the problem is perhaps more pronounced in the minority community. Part of the reason is that one of the catalyzing ideas of the civil rights movement was the theory that American society was primarily characterized by racism and that American institutions were grounded in the maintenance of racial privilege. Many of the black politicians who swept into office on the heels of the movement consciously embodied this organizing principle. They wed their legitimacy to the belief that all the problems confronting blacks were rooted in racism. To this day, many black officeholders depend on the perception of ongoing, widespread racism in order to remain competitive. They underplay the dramatic economic and social improvements experienced by blacks over the last 40 years. They know that the easiest way to win re-election is to make the voters believe that the problems confronting the black lower class continue to stem primarily from racism. Continuing to cling to the idea of race-based solutions has now isolated the black community and led it down a dead-end street. Instead of acknowledging this fact by re-evaluating the tenets of liberalism, our leaders just tout the same racially divisive rhetoric that solicits knee-jerk reactions. And they continue to win, because at least one sad political reality is that emotional arguments often trump sensible discussion of policy reform.

Barry knows this. He understands that distilling complex policy issues into images and sound bites gets you elected. He also understands that in order to get elected in a democracy, you must seem like a majority of the electorate. So he hangs out in the community, he eats at the corner diner, he pops into the barber shop, and for most people that is enough.

For those still on the fence, Barry stumbles to the stage and mutters something about how the people of ward 8 are victims, but how he's going to change that? And the crowd pumps its fists in support. A star is reborn.

Armstrong Williams

Armstrong Williams is a widely-syndicated columnist, CEO of the Graham Williams Group, and hosts the Armstrong Williams Show. He is the author of Reawakening Virtues.
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