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December 14, 2003

Dean's Rhetorical Patronage

I've written here in Cobb that there is a dirty little secret in black politics. Perhaps some of Dean's campaign team has taken an object lesson. Those African Americans who hold out for hope in the world of politics of all places have apparently been placated by Mr. Dean's clever rhetoric.

What is astounding about this sleight of hand is that Dean has gotten away with getting endorsements without having made one documentable campaign promise. Sensible people expect politicians to dissemble, and those things that are sacrificed first are campaign promises. So what kind of fool gives the benefit of the doubt to a politician whose not even willing to make a promise? There is nothing so irresponsible as a man who makes no promises and states no case, something most of us recognized when pressing Clarence Thomas. But if there is, then it is the voter who trusts such a man. Fools following liars.

Let us start with the gushing of the Black Commentator.

Howard Deans December 7 speech is the most important statement on race in American politics by a mainstream white politician in nearly 40 years. Nothing remotely comparable has been said by anyone who might become or who has been President of the United States since Lyndon Johnsons June 4, 1965 affirmative action address to the graduating class at Howard University.

BC seems to desire nothing more than acceptance of Dean as a mainstream candidate so that his vague histrionics can give air to BC's studied radical notions. BC is clearly anti-corporate, but do they actually expect Dean to endorse that form of economic strategy?

The core of BC's economic mythology is plain.

Negro poverty is not white poverty. Many of its causes and many of its cures are the same. But there are differences deep, corrosive, obstinate differences radiating painful roots into the community, and into the family, and the nature of the individual.

These differences are not racial differences. They are solely and simply the consequence of ancient brutality, past injustice, and present prejudice. They are anguishing to observe. For the Negro they are a constant reminder of oppression.

If there is some sense of special failure blacks might have in their poverty, then the Black Commentator would have one believe that some measure of dignity could be recovered in the knowledge that the President 'feels you'. In this way, the black man who gets the 50k job is only half a black man when the president is a [racist, divisive] Republican, but is made whole by the [warm fuzzy Democrat] president who is sympathetic to a radical interpretation of racial history.

This is the farce at the heart of Dean's legitimacy in the eyes of the Black Commentator. They refuse to separate economics from racial politics, therefore it is not sufficient that African Americans themselves know the facts of history. There has to be a Great White Father who also sees it that way. Blacks don't recover themselves, they do so under the aegis of a friendly politically revisionist history. This is all Dean delivers: talk and promises to talk.

I said it once, and I'll say it again:

I challenge anyone to show exactly what it is that the Democrats have done for African Americans that they haven't done for everyone else. Whatever you find, I will bet my nickel that it doesn't get any larger than a quarter of a billion in any one program out of the Federal budget. But what the Democrats do that the Republicans don't is insure that they say a lot of nice things about blackfolks. The dirty little secret is that this covers a lot of what the black electorate will settle for. If you ask someone who hates the idea of Black Republicans what it is that the Democrats will give blacks that the Republicans won't, it will all come down to warm and fuzzies. Try it. Get them to name programs when they disagree. Materially, most folks are hard pressed to talk about black patronage in dollars and cents. But they know what kind of rhetoric they like. Ask how much federal money goes to support HBCUs. Nobody knows. Ask what kind of support Affirmative Action should get and you'll hear a litany of legalese words, qualifications, provisos, tests, and other verbal requirements. What a twist of fate! It's not all about the Benjamins.

Check out his speech yourself. At least six paragraphs begin "We're going to talk about..". That wouldn't be so bad if the paragraphs weren't so damned thin. But then again, Dean has to prove himself mainstream, otherwise the formula doesn't work. That means he has to sell out principles for the sake of wide acceptability. I keep telling blackfolks that this is the fundamental problem.

Yet the BC keeps hope alive:

Where does this leave Al Sharpton and Dennis Kucinich? Exactly as they are, preaching the same social democratic, anti-racist, pro-peace message as before, for as long as their energies can sustain them. Deans political leap would not have been possible in the absence of Sharptons energetic Black candidacy and Kucinichs principled, progressive white voice from the Left. At this historic juncture they dare not go anywhere. Dean has picked up the torch that Sharpton and Kucinich have been carrying and they must stay in the race to make sure he doesnt set it down.

If there is any mark of delusion, there it is plainly and simply. To imagine that Dean couldn't survive without Sharpton and Kucinich makes about as much sense, as my old feminist buddies used to say, as a fish without a bicycle.

I am willing to bet money that this infatuation will be short-lived. It's too bad that the Black Commentator and those who follow this rationale are so soft-headed and willing to compromise. But that is their fate, tied as they are to the ritual of hope and disappointment which is the standard fare of the African American voters and the Democratic Party.

I know George W. Bush's weaknesses, and as a hard headed Republican, I'm not afraid to call him on them because I am vested in his practical success. Practical success is the difference between Cobb and the dreamers over on the Left. Apparently everybody can have a dream. It's just a matter of time before Dean reveals his dreams to America. "I too have a dream", he'll say. I'll hold back my puke until that moment. But it's coming.

I have one last barb to pitch. Where is the Congressional Black Caucus in all this? I haven't been looking, but if their opinion mattered enough, it would make news loud enough to hear. Considering small incidents that make enough news for Jesse Jackson to be mentioned, I'm sure I hear quite enough. And my ears are telling me that the CBC's opinion doesn't matter.

Posted by mbowen at December 14, 2003 01:06 PM

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Posted by: George at December 15, 2003 08:11 AM