It’s election day and the wind is at Barack Obama’s back. Yes, I voted to re-elect the President and I am happy that he is poised to win.
Yet, I find myself wistful. Obama’s campaign has had the feel of a slog, rather than a victory tour. I am particularly annoyed by how he almost genuflected before Michael Bloomberg, saying that he was “honored to have Mayor Bloomberg’s endorsement.” That endorsement arrived so barbed. If those are Obama’s friends, he definitely doesn’t need any enemies.
Too often Obama acts like he needs help from people when he doesn’t. With his infallible politeness and natural class leads him to ignore the people who insult him. This is a fine quality in a person, but in a public figure the upshot is that he allows himself to be disrespected.
Pardon my armchair psychoanalyzing here but as a black (and Filipino) person who has struggled with self-doubt I identify with this side of Obama. Calling people out is risky. It imperils all the hard work Obama has done throughout his life to make it easy for people to accept him, trust him, to see him as the upstanding, brilliant person that he is.
Ta-nahesi Coates wrote a brilliant essay in The Atlantic that elaborated on how race affected Obama’s presidency and how his treatment of race while in office affected the black community emotionally and intellectually. Ultimately, Coates makes a point that Obama succeeded by being someone “who happens to be black” and who does not overtly use race in any way. This worked for him but it’s not a fun way to live, Coates concludes, and it is not an example that young African-Americans should follow.
Our goal should be to be black and proud, able to stand up for what we believe in, respectfully, but without fear. Isn’t that what we all want. To be secure enough to speak our minds without fear of endangering our livelihood or the respect of others. If someone contradicts us to our face (“you lie!”) we want a presidency who is able to shut that down.
But Obama can’t solve all our problems now can he. He’s done a lot already. Let’s go out and be proud of and for him.
*I almost called this post The Making of A President, the classic book of that name by Theodore White. I found my father’s copy while staying at my mother’s due to Hurricane Sandy and just finished the first chapter.