Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Can We Talk?

Now that the most historic election in American history has ended, can I speak honestly about the campaign? Even though I was able to recognize early on that this campaign was going to end the way it did (link) I have always been concerned about the makeup of the Obama campaign as well as some of the tactics that were employed at the state and local levels. I allowed myself to believe that because Obama had to rise above the race issue he surrounded himself with a staff that was primarily white not only at the national level but at the lower staff levels as well. I remember telling my parents that the reason I thought Obama was going to win was because the staff he employed at least the ones that I had met were whites that were non-traditional politicos. Many had not taken part in an election in many years, if ever.

Let me state that I believe the Obama campaign ran a near flawless campaign and have rewritten how national campaigns will be ran in the future. They have destroyed the old model and created a new model. They have with the help of George W. Bush and the economic crisis taken the cultural war off the table as a way to divide the electorate. They have built on the Howard Dean electronic campaign model as well as and the 50 state model. I don’t think every candidate will be able to use this campaign model we have to remember that Obama was a unique candidate who was able through his oracle skills to be able to allow many Americans who had given up on the political process to once again hope and believe.

Now with that being said here are my concerns from the campaign. The first was the lack of blacks on the staff of Senator Obama. All of the major policymakers and spokespersons were white. What I am about to say will cause many blacks to go up in arms, but I have never been the type of person to bite my tongue. The heavy lifting in this campaign for the first black President in America was done primarily by whites. Black folks while they supported Senator Obama at the polls in unprecedented numbers over 98% according to many polls, the leg work was organized and done mostly by whites. Anyone who volunteered locally for Obama’s campaign can attest to this fact. I bring this up not to offend or to drive a wedge between the two groups, but many of us are familiar with black candidates who have been surrounded by white handlers who were not as sensitive to the issues facing black America as maybe they should. I am not saying this will happen with Obama but I am saying this is a concern that troubles me. This is not an indictment of Senator Obama’s blackness and I have never felt like blacks had to pass a litmus
test to be black as many old guard civil rights era people seem to do.

What Senator Obama recognized was that in order to win he had to run a different type of campaign. Unlike Jesse Jackson he did not run as the President of black America, but the President of the United States of America. By the way was I the only person who’s skinned crawled when they showed Jesse Jackson at the Grant Park victory celebration crying? What a hypocrite. Many of the whites who voted for Jesse Jackson were voting for him because he was black not because they felt him qualified. I use Jesse Jackson because he is the person many people compared Senator Obama’s campaign to, unfairly I believe. Rather than advance the issue of race as a qualifier Obama transcended the issue.

The second concern that I have is the local and state tactics that were employed by the Obama campaign during the registration, contact, and get out to vote efforts used. Many times the Obama staff ignored the local officials who had been past warriors of previous Democratic campaigns and created their own networks to bypass these officials. Many of these officials have expressed concern and dismay at what they considered to be a slight by the Obama campaign. I remember reading an article about local officials who were not overly enthusiastic about how they were being marginalized by younger and whiter Obama staff members. Now while this may be sour grapes it could have a lingering effect on the next electoral cycle when maybe the Obamania may not be as strong as it is today and the Dems will have to once again rely on those offended officials.

I hope now that the campaign is over President Obama’s team will reflect a more diverse population. It would be a shame if the first black President doesn’t include blacks in leadership positions and that the worst President in history had more blacks in his administration in positions of leadership than he does. It is said that winning heals all wounds and this resounding win will dismiss a lot of the old notions concerning not only campaigns but the country as a whole.

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