Last Sunday night, one of my parishioners emphatically made the statement that President Obama was “not just another black man with bad credit.” She felt that class warfare and ancient racial wounds had not so subtly become part of the national debate over our financial strategies and debt. Similar to unruly marital arguments, many of our political leaders have stopped attacking our problems and have begun attacking each other. Liberals are attempting to characterize conservatives as uncaring and racist. The fear mongering on the left becomes very personal to large numbers of both the elderly and minorities.
I was personally deeply offended by the fact that many well intentioned clergy met with President Obama two weeks ago and began to repeat the administration's partisan rhetoric about the debt. These men and women of the cloth were manipulated into saying, “Don’t balance the budget on the back of the poor and elderly.” In an attempt to save face for their lack of leadership, the White House is actually “attacking” the conservative messengers instead of the problem.
The fact that we cannot continue to spend the way that we currently do is obvious. Our national need to re-craft our entitlement programs is also clear. Servant leaders would feverishly look at protecting the long term interests of the entire nation. Instead, many liberal legislators continue to repeat ideological mantras like: “don't support tax breaks for the rich” or “everyone should pay their fair share of taxes.” These slogans sound good to the average person but they presuppose that an equitable national tax structure is in place.
They also assume a nationally agreed upon set of spending priorities. In reality, both liberal and conservative leaders in DC are guilty of the same poor communications practices we find in troubled marriages. Our political leaders are focusing solely on what they want while demonizing the other side.
The title of this article describes my parishioner’s (a black woman with a PHD in counseling) anger at the way the president allows himself to be pigeonholed. Many intelligent Americans of all ethnicities believe sound bites and superficial stereotypes are dominating and confusing our nation's most important discussions. As a political independent and a former Obama supporter, my PHD friend feels the president has failed her through lack of positive, assertive leadership in this national crisis.
It seems ironic to my friends and myself that this presidency that was supposed to usher the US into a post racial era, is actually being used to promote a resurgence of racism and ethnic division. This is not to imply that the administration is doing this intentionally. It is, however, an unfortunate fact many people who disagree with this administration have been vilified as racists (if they are white) and sell outs (if they are black). Fortunately for the nation, things are changing. More and more Americans are demanding results from our leaders. Even blacks and Hispanics from both sides of the political aisles are demanding more than personality and posturing.
Surprisingly, the president's latest critics are black intellectuals, who typically walk in “lemming like” fashion to the tune of Democratic Party talking points. Not surprisingly, Mr. Obama's first intellectual critics were black conservatives. Over a year ago (June 2010) a well-known conservative, Dr. Walter Williams, asked the question, “Can Black Americans Afford Obama?” Next, from a decidedly liberal perspective, Dr. Cornell West and Rev. Al Sharpton had a heated public argument this spring. West called the president “another black mascot” of “Wall Street oligarchs.”
Dr. West's campaign against President Obama's policies did not stop with the spring diatribe. This month Dr. West and veteran broadcaster, Tavist Smiley, have begun a national “Poverty Tour” which has been labeled as an anti-Obama tour. In a DC interview this week Smiley said, “(Americans) want the President to focus on jobs, they want to know he’s going to fight for them. The new poor are the former middle class. It breaks your heart to hear, to see former middle class people talking about losing their jobs.” At this same event Dr. West made the following statement, “There is a moral and spiritual as well as political and economic dimension in this...When you hit that moral and spiritual dimension you’re talking more than Democrat and Republican Parties; we’re talking something deep within the American people.”
The fact that the criticism of the president is coming from both the left and right is not proof that he has become a centrist or a consensus builder. The criticism from black intellectuals is rooted in their desire to see results. People from every ideological perspective simply want the president and our legislators to lead. There is a message here for conservatives. Our fellow citizens want a clear, practical vision that works and they want long standing problems solved.
It is time for all conservatives to take up Herman Cain’s mantra to “be a problem solver” and promote proven solutions, if we are going to win in 2012. In addition, we need to stay away from any slanderous comments that can be misconstrued as racial epithets. This is especially important in light of the downgrading of our international credit rating. It almost goes without saying we shouldn’t be running around the nation saying that President Obama’s just another a black man with bad credit!