(ReBlogged) Obama and Clinton Made History, No Matter How You Feel About Either One

obama_clintonReblogged from Roll Call columnist Mary C. Curtis. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

Yes, I hear it. Barack Obama, with roots in Kansas and Kenya, Hawaii and Indonesia, was not really like most African Americans, so he didn’t count. (This year, Republican presidential hopeful Ben Carson, backed by Rupert Murdoch, claimed the authentic black “experience” for himself, dismissing Obama altogether.) And Hillary Clinton , as the wife of a former president, with a lengthy political resume and a reputation for bare-knuckled dealings, is not your average female candidate, whatever that means, so she doesn’t count. (Young women who felt disconnected from her because “she’s a woman, big deal” were the go-to subject of endless think pieces this primary season.)

Why, after all the white male candidates who have lived in the White House and sat in the Oval Office, are so many Americans trying to pretend it’s nothing to see here when it comes to acknowledging history, or to dismiss those who admit to basking in a moment they thought they would never live to see?

On Thursday, the first African American president of the United States endorsed the woman he wants to succeed him, the woman he once battled and debated, then worked alongside when she was his secretary of State. President Obama said, “She’s got the courage, the compassion, and the heart to get the job done,” talking about the job he has had for eight years.

In the same way that Obama’s presidency didn’t shift the still very white overall power balance in America, Clinton’s candidacy won’t translate into women ruling the world. You only have to look at the current headlines, from fallout over the sentencing in a rape case at Stanford to discussion of the ethnicity of an American judge whose parents emigrated from Mexico, to know that sexism and racism are challenges this country has yet to overcome. The young age of the white man accused of shooting up a Charleston, South Carolina, church and killing nine black parishioners is a reminder that the country’s problems won’t disappear with new generations.

Yet symbols do mean something. Young children under 10 will know only the reality of Barack Obama followed by Hillary Clinton (on the Democratic Party ticket if not yet in the White House). In America, when women could not even vote and blacks were property and both were second-class citizens for most of its history, it’s worth pausing to acknowledge the message no matter how imperfect or not fitting the mold we judge the messengers to be.

There are reasons that make this year different from others, and the main ones are named Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump, wild cards who, in the case of the first, gave Clinton a serious run for the nomination, and in the case of the second, sucked up all the oxygen in the room, every room. So it’s understandable that the conversation immediately turned to how Clinton will woo Sanders’ supporters and how Republicans will control their presumptive nominee.

But it’s also true that people have a tendency to set impossible standards for pioneers and look for flaws, real and perceived. With Hillary Clinton, we will be hearing a litany, as well as attacks on her husband, former president Bill Clinton, who is not on the ticket but is another of those big personalities she has been accused of not being. That is politics, of course, though it is ironic that one of the knocks against her has been that she is a scripted, nose-to-the-grindstone worker as opposed to her GOP opponent, Donald Trump, part of whose charm is said to be that he says whatever comes into his head. Would such off-the-cuff spontaneity work for the first woman heading a major political party ticket?

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Remember that Obama, with the picture perfect and perfectly behaved family, is still criticized when, for instance, wife Michelle Obama truthfully and poignantly, as proof of the endurance of the American Dream, tells college graduates how inspiring it is “when I wake up in a house that was built by slaves, and I watch my daughters — two beautiful black young women — head off to school, waving goodbye to their father, the president of the United States.”

With poise and the podium, she is not the first first lady who could have said that, but she is the first one who actually did.

So before the immediate admonition of how wrong it would be for African Americans to vote for Obama or women to do the same for Clinton in part to feel a teeny bit of a rush they have never before been able to experience, everyone needs to think about this moment and the positive things it says about America.

Almost all of the choices for leader of the free world have consisted of “do I vote for one white guy or the other white guy?” In the past two elections and the one coming up, that’s not so. It’s no longer the American way.

We live in a time when the state of California , usually a preview of what’s to come, is officially majority-minority and about to choose between two women of color when it votes in its next senator. Our Founding Fathers are wearing long hair not powdered wigs and are rapping in “Hamilton,” hardly the stately tableau of “1776” and the hottest ticket on Broadway.

A shift is happening, too slowly for some and too quickly for others. But whatever you think about it, it is history.

Roll Call columnist Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun and The Charlotte Observer. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3 .

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The Inclusive Conservative Long Game

the long gameSen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has released a memoir entitled “The Long Game” where he recalls his life in politics and rise Senate Majority Leader. But there is another long game and its called inclusive conservative within the Republican Party. In a recent interview, Sen. McConnell expressed concern about Donald Trump:

Asked on CNN whether he feared that the presumptive GOP nominee would have the same chilling effect on Latinos that conservative Barry Goldwater — who strongly opposed the Civil Rights Act and who became the GOP nominee in 1964 — had on African American voters, the Kentucky senator answered in the affirmative.

“I do. I do,” McConnell said in the Thursday interview. “And I think the attacks that he’s routinely engaged in — for example, going after Susana Martinez, the Republican governor of New Mexico, the chairman of the Republican Governors’ Association — I think, was a big mistake.”

McConnell pointed to Goldwater’s vote against the Civil Rights Act, which Democratic president Lyndon Johnson signed into law in 1964, as a moment that “did define our party, for at least African American voters.”

“And it still does today,” he added. “That was a complete shift that occurred that year and we’ve never be able to get them back.”

Donald Trump has turned a long game into a much longer game than I thought following the 2012 presidential race and the GOP autopsy report in response to Mitt Romney’s loss – where the report encouraged minority outreach. However, the real problem is a lack of visionary leadership. Speaker Paul Ryan, Chairman Reince Priebus and Leader Mitch McConnell are all fixated on 2016 and the short game of a Pyrrhic victory – a victory that inflicts such a devastating toll on the victor that it is tantamount to defeat. All these men have painfully twisted themselves into defending Trump but life is not always about going along to get along.

Conservative Leader Erick Erickson captures it best:


The Resurgent | Erick Erickson’s Home for Conservative Activists

I have met the proverbial bridge too far with Donald Trump and I am ashamed and horrified at friends of mine and party leaders who will look the other way to justify Donald Trump. I am talking about Donald Trump trying to get a federal judge to recuse himself from a legal case by attacking his Mexican heritage. To claim that someone is unable to objectively and professional perform his job because of his race is racism. And damn the GOP for its unwillingness to speak up on this. The leaders of the party, confronted by Todd Akin, abandoned ship for his stupid statements on rape and abortion. But the Party of Lincoln intends to circle the wagons around a racist. Damn them for that.

The Chinese proverbs says ‘if [indeed] it is a journey of a thousand miles, then take the first step’. Trump has made inclusive conservatism a journey of a thousand miles and more; while Party leaders can’t be counted on to take the first step. Grassroots folks like Erickson have stepped up and I hope more will follow his lead. I have.


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What is inclusive conservatism?

That a minority group represents a numerically small portion of the society is not the issue when it comes to diversity within an organization or institution. A lack of diversity is only a problem when the minority group’s interests are disrespect, ignored, marginalized or subjected to any other form of dehumanization such as ‘wedge politics’– i.e. when one group is alienated to ingratiate the support of another group.

Its important to understand that minorities who consider themselves conservative do not do so out of an affinity for the Republican Party for why would they considering modern political history? They are conservative because they find appealing the ideas of limited government, low taxes, a strong national defense, free market principles and life. Yet because the Republican Party ignores and at times engages in ‘wedge politics’ the party too often stands in the way of attracting minorities to the conservative message. A lot of good people have left the party over the years and I suspect more will follow considering how 2016 is unfolding. However, we need people in the party who are willing to challenge and change the diversity problem within the Republican Party and by extension the conservative movement by simply lending their voice and activism. This is just my small part at advocating for inclusive conservatism.



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The Campaign of Anxieties

anxiety cartoonEconomic anxiety has energized both the republican and democratic primary this year. We often hear about economic inequality, people at the very top doing very well in comparison to working class families. Lots of data on this.

Security anxiety amongst citizens around the world has persisted. With every terrorist infused occurrence the public’s fear will ebb as the candidates proffer their approach to addressing the issue comes into focus.

Cultural anxiety is becoming real as the drumbeat of LGBT rights continues at a faster pace than most Americans can keep up with. In response both sides are overreaching: Liberals on the bathroom issue seemed to lack common sense concerns about males of nefarious intentions who may seek to exploit the long held social standards about which bathroom to use. Conservatives are overreaching whereby the state legislature of Oklahoma’s Senate Bill #stupid apparently has the authority to overturn Roe v. Wade.

There is also racial anxiety coursing through the nation. You wouldn’t know it by watching a republican primary debate because they shamefully never gave it any mention but it is real and we must talk about it. This anxiety is triggered by both technology and truth. I don’t think the scourge of police brutality is any different than it was before the cell phone camera but with this new technology has come transparency. Likewise, some folks like to perpetuate the ‘hands up, don’t shot’ slogan in defense of the Michael Brown shooting, yet based on the Justice Department’s investigation Brown never surrendered with his hands up. The report also concluded that officer Wilson was justified in shooting him. The biggest irony and societal hazard in this situation is that the false narrative of the Brown shooting got more attention than the incredible degree of institutional racism, unearthed by the report, the police department inflicted on the people of Ferguson. From the Wells Fargo financial settlement with the Justice Department as a result of steering black and Latino borrowers into high cost loans with excessive fees to this weeks news regarding the Government Accountability Office’s report on the alarming trend of re-segregation in public schools we’ve got work to do. We must have the discussion and we must have it with honesty.

hello anxietyI don’t believe Trump or Clinton is well positioned to address our anxieties and unite Americans of all backgrounds. They both have record high unfavorables–many people just don’t like them and for good reasons.

Where there anxieties in 2008? Sure. Even Republicans will admit that those last few years of the Bush Administration where atrocious… an economy shedding 800k jobs a month, an epic hurricane Katrina response fail, a military and foreign policy establishments mired in Iraq/Afghanistan (still not sure we have a grasp on what ‘success’ means) and corporate bailouts. Yet the anxieties following Bush were soothed by a gimmicky but effective futuristic vision of ‘hope and change’, which at least made people feel good- in other words it was the anecdote to the anxiety Americans where feeling and it was this sentiment that ushered Obama into the Whitehouse. The slogan ‘Make America Great Again’ comes close but its central premise is negative, its solutions are controversial and its messenger is toxic.

I’m not sure what the solution is but we can start with educating ourselves, seeking the truth and holding our respective candidates accountable.


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Why #NeverTrump is Important


Sen. Ben Sasse (R-NEB)

This week Sen. Ben Sasse came under fire and activists participating in state conventions across the country were crushed for their #NeverTrump position.

Non-cooperation with political malfeasance is as much a duty as cooperation with political morals. This adapted Ghandian precept forms the essential framework of the #NeverTrump argument and its importance to our democracy.

For a refresher consider the below Trumpisms:

The Birther Movement,

Personally stopping a company from moving locations overseas,

Ordering the military to kill the family members of terrorists,

Bringing back water boarding and beyond,

Equivocating disavowment of the KKK’s support two days before Super Tuesday,

A ban on Muslims coming into the country,

Rant on characterizing Mexicans as rapists,

John McCain is a loser,

The panoply of offense comments about women.

Of course the list could go…

The #NeverTrump framework is an important narrative for our democracy because it exposes Trump’s X-factor, as Mark Ploking from thehill.com describes it, which is, “people are for him, defying logic and reason. They have chosen to suppress every ugly, crude and bigoted remark he has made. In their heart of hearts, and in their brain, they should not conceive of him being president of this country, but they still want to vote for him.” Here Mr. Ploking diagnosis the present condition.

We should realize that the source of the problem is steeped in the American cultural deference to celebrity and its accompanying cult of personality that is eroding our sense of politically acceptable behavior from Donald Trump, the celebrity.

Trump has tapped into a legitimate sense of economic anxiety among affected Americans, anxiety exacerbated by the issues of trade and immigration. He’s been able to use the resultant galvanizing sentiment as a destructive rather than constructive vision for America. His vision is destructive because it has created division along racial lines and because it seeks to violate the US Constitution (see the list above).

The #NeverTrump framework is an important narrative for our democracy because it forces us to reconcile if we would have defied logic, reason and heart in accepting Trumpism from a non-celebrity making a reality tv show out of running for president.

The #NeverTrump framework is an important narrative for our democracy because it allows us to reject Trump and Trumpism.


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How Bobby Jindal’s Islam Rhetoric is a Turnoff to Millennial Voters

130124_bobby_jindal_ap_605There was a time when I looked forward to Bobby Jindal running for president, until he started running for president. Back when he was a whip smart man of ideas that laminated the GOP not be the party of stupid, but then he starting talking stupid. I met Gov Jindal about a year ago at which time he seemed hopeful and fresh but today his recent comments about Muslims seem hateful and fear mongering.

Arif Rafiq from Politico recaps:

The Louisiana governor and potential 2016 Republican presidential candidate has been repeating a lie that even Fox News was forced to apologize for. In an address before the neoconservative Henry Jackson Society in London last week, Jindal warned of so-called Muslim “no-go zones” in the West—areas in which “non-assimilationist Muslims establish enclaves and carry out as much of Sharia law as they can.”

He has since doubled down on the claim, even after being pressed for evidence by a British journalist and failing to provide it. Instead, Jindal asserted that no-go zones “absolutely is an issue for the UK [and] absolutely is an issue for America and other European [or] Western nations.”

I, like a lot of people, wish our national leaders would accurately describe the current purveyors of international conflict what it is: radical Islamic terrorism. But Gov Jindal’s rhetoric might be a case in point for why some refuse to attach Islam to the phenomenon of terrorism done in the name of Islam; out of concern that doing so might incite an unfair backlash against all Muslims.

As Gov Jindal gets closer to a decision to run for president it appears he’ll be running and leaving the millennial cohort behind. Not just because he’s rhetoric is designed to stoke the fears of evangelical Christian voters into a divisive Christian vs. Islam fight; but because in doing so he is invariable alienating the most pluralistic, diverse and open-minded of the national electorate: millennials – which also happens to be the biggest slice of the electoral pie in 2016. In other words, millennials are the kind of voters that would hear the story about how “a major mosque in northern Virginia rents space for Friday prayers at a Jewish temple that shares a parking lot with a Catholic Church” and feel good about the state and direction of America.

In primary elections you can’t have it both ways and this is even truer in what looks to be the most intense GOP primary in modern history. Not only is the GOP primary electorate splintered like never before between the business/economy class, the evangelical/social conservatives and now the tea party/constitutionalist voters but the contenders within each subset are numerous and compelling.

Gov Jindal knows this and he knows that in order to win his sought after slice he’ll have to fight hard for it even if it means employing harsh rhetoric. Consider his competition: Santorum and Huckabee both former Iowa Caucus winners, 2012 and 2008, respectively are beloved figures amongst evangelical/social conservatives.

Yet it’s not evident that millennials fall entirely within anyone segment of the GOP primary electorate. Yet, I don’t think the most pluralistic, diverse and open-minded will fall for religious fear mongering rhetoric.


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Why John Phillip Sousa IV, Chairman of the Ben Carson for President Draft Movement, is off-base about Black Support for Mr. Carson

John Phillip Sousa IV

John Phillip Sousa IV

In a recent CNN interview Mr. Sousa participated in the following exchange:

CNN: If Ben Carson can win and Ted Cruz can’t, what are the differences?

Mr. Sousa: Big differences. I like what Ted Cruz says about the issues, but I think he’s a bull in a china shop. He’s too polarizing. The media will absolutely fry him every time he opens his mouth—not that they won’t go after Carson—but Carson is not loud. He’s not forceful. Ted Cruz will go on for hours about a given subject jumping up and down—again, I like his positions—I just don’t think his methods can get him elected. The other difference is that we believe Carson will get at least 17 percent of the black vote.

CNN: What do you base that on?

Mr. Sousa: He’s black.

CNN: I mean, what data have you seen that shows that?

Mr. Sousa: Herman Cain’s campaign polled it and showed that 17 percent at a minimum would support him. If Carson gets 17 percent of the black vote, he wins. He can’t take 17 percent of the black vote away from the Democrat and have the Democrat win on a national basis. It just won’t happen.

Why Mr. Sousa is off base –

  1. It’s Offensive. To say that black people will vote him simply because he is black is to suggest that black people can’t stand on their individual two feet and chose a candidate, no matter the skin color, that best reflects one’s values and shared view of society and the world. Do white people only vote for white candidates? Of course not: Barak Obama wouldn’t be in the Whitehouse without the support of white America. So why not afford the same deference and respect to black voters? We must stop insulting the intelligence of any voter black, white or yellow by robbing them of their ability to think and reason about choosing a candidate to represent them. Ultimately, no citizen of a democracy should be robbed of the spirit of self-determination of which their voting preference is emblematic.

2. Democratic Party’s Playbook. Call it watermelon politics, identity politics or whatever you wish but leave it to the democrats.

First lady Michelle Obama has a message to black voters: Don’t worry about what candidates have done or said– just vote for the Democrats.

On TV One, a network operating under the motto “Where Black Life Unfolds,” the first lady told “News One Daily” host Roland Martin, “And that’s my message to voters, this isn’t about Barack, it’s not about person on that ballot– its about you. And for most of the people we are talking to, a Democratic ticket is the clear ticket that we should be voting on, regardless of who said what or did this– that shouldn’t even come into the equation.”

In the full audio of the interview, Michelle Obama gives everyone who votes permission to eat fried chicken.

Martin asked (at 7:15), “So can we, if we go out to the polls, can we, say, we have a souls to polls on Sunday, can we do soul food after we vote?”

Obama responded, “Absolutely. I give everyone full permission to eat some fried chicken after they vote. Only after, if you haven’t voted… You make a good point. Because I am, I do talk about health. But I think that a good victory for Democrats on Tuesday, you know, should be rewarded with some fried chicken.”

  1. Herman Cain, Seriously? He proved to be just another clown in the 2012 GOP herman_cain_pizzasideshow; a flavor of the week candidate and nowhere near the caliber of Mr. Carson. From his entirely unworkable 9-9-9 economic plan to his complete disregard to international affairs why would anybody vote for him to be America’s President? I don’t care how black his skin color is I wouldn’t vote for him to be Under Secretary of the Whitehouse Pizza Delivery Agency. Enough said.

In conclusion,

I like Mr. Carson because unlike the others he has limited baggage (his slavery and Nazi analogy comments are grossly out of context) which gives him the strongest chance of creating a 21st century GOP voting coalition that is demographically diverse and ideologically compelling, he’s background positions him to be an honest broker against the excess of Wall Street, he’s a passionate constitutionalist, and I believe he’ll be guided his apparent strong relationship with God.

I was born in this country being subconsciously and overtly told that because I’m black I have to vote democrat, I hope to die in this country where the moral bankruptcy of that notion is as old and out of touch as my timely death.

The contribution to the Ben Carson movement Mr. Sousa has made and will continue to make is undeniable, significant and will be the first sentence in the improbable story of President Carson. But we can’t be afraid, from time to time, to pause and be willing rewrite a page or two as we go.



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