This is not Obamageddon
At first I felt distinctly uncomfortable about it all. Then I started to realize that the liberal orgasm—“Oh, oh, oh, it’s so amazing, how can this be, just 50 years ago we had separate water fountains, oh, oh, oh, for the rest of their lives everyone will remember where they were at this moment, oh, oh, oh, when Theodore Roosevelt invited Booker T. Washington to the White House for dinner there were people who didn’t like this, the prideful bigotry of it all, and now we have an African American president, oh, oh, oh, a remarkable night, an amazing night…”—cannot go on forever. It will inevitably wear off, because it’s simply impossible to go on having orgasms about the fact that a person in a particular office is of a certain race. How long can the David Gergens of this world keep preening themselves about the amazing, wonderful fact that a “black” man is president?
Thus the net result may be that Obama’s presidency removes a good deal of the liberal race mania from America by allowing it to be expressed so much that it wears itself out. [Clarification in response to comments: I did not mean that the general liberal program to dispossess white America would wear itself out. That is of course a constant of liberal society. I meant that the particular mania about the election of a black man transforming America would wear itself out.] Another benefit of his election is that the left is too happy to be hateful against America and Republicans any more.
By the same token, for race-conscious white conservatives, the strangeness, newness, and discomfort of having a nonwhite in that symbolic position—a strangeness that seems to betoken the mutation of America from a basically white country into something else, and thus, some fear, a loss of our very identity and being as Americans—will also wear off. Obama is simply one man who will occupy that office for four or eight years. After a while, he will just start to seem like the man who happens to be president. We won’t be having mental ripples—whether celebratory or angst-ridden—over the fact that a nonwhite person is in that position. His election (pace the repellent Thomas Friedman) does not signal the transformation of America into a different country.
There are various reasons for this. One is that Obama is half white, he was raised by whites, he has a “white” personality, and he is not an “American black” in the usual sense, including the sense of having a racial chip on his shoulder. He is sui generis.
Another is that his mere election is not that big a deal. America has always had different kinds of people. Blacks have been a part of America from the first, There has been no legal discrimination against blacks anywhere in this county for over 40 years. We have had blacks in every kind of political office and in other prominent positions. We’ve had fictional black presidents regularly since the 1960s. In a country with (1) no formal racial discrimination (except against whites) and (2) lots of black people, there is a reasonable likelihood of a black being elected president at some point. Also, I personally always thought that there would be a black president one day—I just thought he would be a Republican. Alan Keyes was very impressive in the 2000 primaries and I sent him money and I would have voted for him if he were the nominee (though as it became clear there is an instability in Keyes that would disqualify him from high office). But Keyes, like Obama, is atypical in the extreme. If there were a brilliant and non-nutty Alan Keyes who became president, it would not change America into a different country. The fundamental racial and cultural realities of America would not be altered. What alters those realities are mass nonwhite immigration and other profound changes in our culture and our moral code, not the election of a single individual to an office.
Just as liberals are speaking a vicious falsity when they say that the election of a black changes America into a different country, they are speaking a vicious falsity when they say that there has been something stopping a black from becoming president until now. In reality, the only thing stopping the election of a black president was the absence of a black candidate with the qualities that made him acceptable to enough people. And now a “black” has come along—a highly unusual and atypical “black”—who has those qualities, and so he’s been elected. But the liberal celebrators have to make it seem that blacks somehow had a barrier against them until this moment. Meaning that they have to deny the fact that blacks work and are accepted at every level of private and public life in America, that anti-black discrimination has been illegal in this country for a long time, and that blacks have been the recipients of vast unearned favors for a long time, including the shielding of them from negative truthful statements about their abilities, behaviors, racial attitudes, and so on. The New York Times this morning announces: “Obama Elected President as Racial Barrier Falls.” But there was no racial barrier, and thus no barrier that fell. That’s the lie by which the more America includes nonwhites, the more guilty America becomes, because each new inclusion signifies that ONLY AT THIS MOMENT did we stop discriminating, and that UNTIL THIS MOMENT we lived in moral darkness, and only with THIS event—the nomination of a woman to be vice president, the selection of a female speaker, the election of a “black” as president—have we broken the barriers of prejudice. Which means that the liberals are diminishing their own proudest achievement, the civil rights movement. The true achievement from a liberal perspective was when discrimination was removed from all people, so that all people could pursue opportunities. But now the liberals are acting as though the civil rights movement meant nothing, and that the true liberal achievement only happens when one individual gets elected president! Liberalism thus reveals its nihilism. Since it defines the good, not as anything substantial, but as the perpetual process of breaking down barriers, liberals are compelled continually to devalue the previous attainment of their own highest values. If we only reached the “good” at this moment, then all our previous liberal “goods” were really bad.
But now that the ultimate barrier has fallen and the ultimate symbolic liberal prize of a “black” presidency has been won, where can the liberals go next? As I said, the liberal ecstasy cannot continue in perpetuity. Obama will be a president dealing with pressing problems. His actions as president will be the focus, not his race. And when he leaves office, he will be succeeded by whites. Britain had an ethnic Jew as prime minister in the 19th century. A most unusual figure Disraeli was, an exotic, just as Obama is an unusual figure, an exotic. And Britain has not had a Jewish prime minister since Disraeli.
When David Dinkins was elected mayor of New York City, it was said there would never be another white mayor, yet Dinkins served one troubled term and New York has had white mayors for the sixteen years since then.
A further factor makes Obama’s election less damaging from a white conservative perspective than it may initially appear. Our current white Republican president and his just-defeated would-be Republican successor had no loyalty or attachment to whiteness; just the opposite. By contrast, Obama may feel constrained to avoid certain extravagant pro-minority actions that a white president, particularly a white Republican president, feels compelled to perform. Obama could thus turn out to be less anti-white and less pro-minority than your typical, desperate-to-please, white Republican. Also, the Obama campaign has been sending signals that Obama is not going to be overreaching the way Clinton disastrously did in his first two years. This could mean that Obama will not seek amnesty. He wants to be a unifying figure, to have the support of the country, which means the support of whites. He may realize that he will lose that support if he pushes legalization of illegal aliens or large increases in legal immigration.
Obama, the man whose main instinct as a politician is not to make sudden moves that alarm people, will want to show that he’s not a danger to whites, whereas if McCain had been elected, he would have kept attacking white America. With McCain, there would have been an endless bath of white guilt. With Obama, the white-racism song gets much harder to sing. Thus when McCain in his otherwise graceful concession speech reverted to his gratuitous attack on the “prideful bigotry” of whites 100 years ago because of the opposition of some whites to a black having dinner a the White House, I thought, my gosh, if McCain is this anti-white in defeat, what he would have been like in victory? He wouldn’t have stopped talking about how terrible it was that he had deprived Obama and black America of their great day of glory.
So there are reasons to think that the race situation from a white perspective will be far better under Obama than under McCain. Just as McCain would have felt compelled to placate blacks, Obama will feel compelled to demonstrate that he is not a threat to whites. As the anti-Communist Nixon went to China, the nonwhite Obama may go out of his way not to disturb white America.
In Obama’s speech last night there was no race message other than the inevitable and obligatory one. I was also relieved not to see something else I had feared, an ego inflation in Obama that would lead to an unleashing of his messiah-hood. He is keeping his ego in check. Also, he dropped hints that he is not going to govern as a radical. Far from talking about making the oceans recede, he said that the problems facing us could not be solved in a month or a year or even in four years.
At the same time, I found the speech oddly off-putting and off key. It was not tuned properly to the occasion. It was too stentorian. He was shouting. It was as though he was giving another campaign speech instead of greeting his election as president of the United States.
Having Obama as president will be interesting and energizing. Having McCain as president would have been depressing and demoralizing beyond belief.
While I find much to admire in your well-reasoned election postmortem, I am nonetheless reminded that you yourself mentioned the likelihood of this result triggering a black triumphalism reminiscent of the post-OJ verdict. Indeed, this morning I passed a black street vendor still hawking Obama paraphernalia who, in response to my (admittedly jaundiced) glance, shouted after me, “History! And there aint nothin’ you can do about it!” So I’m not sure that the “mere election” of Obama isn’t a very big deal, in and of itself. As Jared Taylor remarked in a recent essay, many (of all races) are likely to view Obama’s election as a powerful, inescapable symbol of white dispossession. My teeshirt-wielding friend certainly seemed to see it that way.LA replies:
Obamageddon! That’s perfect. As you point out, it may not be literally true, but it conveys the way many feel.Dimitri K. writes:
You presented some reasons why having a black president is not a big deal. Among them, that it would stop “liberal orgasm.” I don’t agree. The liberal orgasm can’t be stopped. They don’t care a bit about what people think of them. And if at some point they are caught at lie or inconsistency, that will not change a bit. Because deeply in their hearts they know that they are inconsistent. They have a “mission,” and that mission is to destroy America, and for that they will pretend, deceive, and do everything, to the end.LA replies:
I did not say that the liberal mission to destroy America had ended. That is the constant with which we must deal. I was talking about the impact of Obama’s election. My point is that Obama’s election is not the Obamageddon that many anti-Americans and pro-Americans think. The battle will go on.Karen writes from England:
I read your long blog entry today. It is optimistic but don’t you think somewhat unrealistic? The comparison with Disraeli is not apt. Disraeli was a one off, perhaps exotic but he was leading a population which like him, had an assured identity. Contrast the USA in 2008. At a time of severe economic and military peril, the American people have demonstrated the attributes of a cult, electing a leader of elusive identity, no experience and very disturbing connections. In reality Obama is more like a dodgy tell-evangelist than a President elect. This says more about the American population than it does about him. Obama is an opportunist. America is a sick society. The First Family is certainly very different from the American ideal: A First Lady who has outspoken Anti—American sentiment, an illegal immigrant aunt and a President who has recently supported the Muslim Prime Minister of Kenya.LA replies:
My comment about Disraeli was relative to the larger cultural issues you raise. I brought up Disraeli to make the limited point that Obama will not be succeeded by other blacks.Robert Locke writes:
You’re dreaming if you imagine this somehow will exhaust the liberal impulse, make that impulse “wear itself out.”LA replies:
Yes, good point. I’ve added this to the second paragraph of the article:Mack writes:
Nice analysis—very circumspect. The comparison to Disraeli is apt I believe as well. Rabid Liberals may well be disappointed with an Obama presidency insofar as, as you put it, he may not govern as a radical (and I don’t believe, could afford to).Jack M. writes:
Your site is invaluable to the conservative world.LA replies:
Thank you.James P. writes:
Another benefit of his election is that the left is too happy to be hateful against America and Republicans any more.Mack writes:
I suppose I’m not surprised that you’re taking some heat but I still think your position is pretty sound or at the very least worthy of contemplation. I’m sure you knew that your comment would be unpopular with some readers at VFR but for a “first take” you have brought up some important considerations that those who saw a potential Obama presidency as tantamount to, as you say, Armageddon—seem hesitant to consider.Andrea writes:
I agree with what you wrote in “Obamageddon” completely.Ken Hechtman writes from Canada:
Re your comment that the liberal ecstasy cannot go on forever, you’re right. It won’t last forever. It can’t last forever. On the other hand, you can’t really begrudge them one night of it.Philip M. writes from England:
Ken Hechtman says:George L. writes:
I have a question:LA replies:
Well, there’s still a lot to take in regarding Obama that will be unfolding in the months to come. Will he govern as a moderate? As a radical? How racial will he be? What will be the psychological impact of his presidency on America?N. writes:
First, the Obama transition team just announced today that Rahm Emmanuel will be the chief of staff. “Personnel is policy.” Emmanuel was at the Clinton White House. He is abrasive, sometimes abusive, crude and very confrontational towards anyone who opposes his boss. [LA replies: I several times said of Emmanuel after seeing him on TV interview programs that he was like something scraped off the bottom of a shoe.] This appointment should put paid to any notions that the administration will move towards the center in order to govern. It will not, rather it will move to the left, although possibly in small steps rather than large ones. [LA replies: The Clintonites are shoe-scrapings, but not necessarily on the left in the sense you mean. Remember that the Hillary camp, including über sleazemen Carville and Begala, were the relative moderates in the contest against Obama. I even described them as rational as compared with the Obamabots.]Gintas writes:
“This is not Obamageddon.”Ray G. from Dearbornistan writes:
I freely admit that I’m having trouble accepting that Barry Hussein Obama is going to be our next President. I of course, oppose most of his positions and his worldview, but I can’t take the 24/7 “race adulation” of how historic and how wonderful this is. People say how great he is but based on what? What in his past record confirms that he’s great? I just don’t get it.LA replies:
I’m protected from that 24/7 attack, because I almost never watch TV (except occasionally at a friend’s house who has full cable). The way to avoid feeling surrounded and battered by the constant mind-controlling lies and evil of the MSM is simply to avoid exposing yourself to it.LA continues:
I went through an interesting experience last night, as I alluded to in the Obamageddon thread. At first, I felt somehow attacked and disempowered in the core of my being. I saw and felt what it was like to be part of a defeated people. I felt whites were finished in America. So maybe I had been wrong in my expectation that Obama would not cause “existential harm.” I hung out with these feelings, feelings of weakness, defeat, shame, even despair, for maybe an hour, realizing a little bit of what it might be like to be a white in South Africa, while also watching the election coverage on TV, the McCain speech, more talking heads, then the Obama speech, and talking about it all. While this was going on, the situation began to appear to me under a different aspect, as I describe in my article. America was still America. It was a big change, a bit challenge. But it was not the end. I stopped feeling threatened and depressed.
Posted by Lawrence Auster at November 05, 2008 12:10 PM | Send