The Democratic Convention is kicking off in Denver today (wish I could be there).
Since the Beijing Olympic Games just ended, I'm still in a sports oriented frame of mind. I tend to focus on baseball after the All-Star break but with the Olympics happening, my sporting attention has been devoted to that quadrennial sports festival.
I was watching a forum on C-SPAN this morning sponsored by Politico and The Denver Post, which had as participants Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr (D-IL) Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-SC) Dr. Cornel West, Tavis Smiley and former Virginia governor L. Douglas Wilder, the first African-American elected governor since Reconstruction.
During the commentary, Rep. Jackson said something that Rep. Clyburn cosigned on that I totally agree with.
Barack needs a Pee Wee Reese.
Pee Wee Reese, for those of you not familiar with the Jackie Robinson story, was his roommate and team captain of the Brooklyn Dodgers when he broke into the major leagues in 1947. Reese refused to sign a petition that would have led to a threatened Dodger player boycott if Robinson joined the team. His friendship helped Robinson not only ease the transition with his Dodger teammates, but eventually the entire National League. They also became one of the most potent double play combination in the sport during the 40's and 50's.
One of the restrictions that Jackie was under when he became the first African-American major league player was that for three years he couldn't fight back or lose his temper, no matter what was done or said to him.
During his first road trip to play the Cincinnati Reds, the fans there taunted him unmercifully with racist slurs during pre-game warm-ups. Pee Wee walked up to him, engaged Robinson in conversation and put his arm around his shoulder, a gesture that silenced the ignorant fans. During that difficult three years as their friendship grew, Reese helped keep Robinson's spirits up as Jackie's brilliant play began to speak for him.
As a matter of fact, outside Louisville Slugger Field, the minor league ballpark here, there's a bronze statue of Robinson and the Louisville native at the entrance to the stadium capturing that moment.
What we are witnessing right now is a remix of the Jackie Robinson situation played out in this presidential political campaign, but substitute Sen. Barack Obama for Jackie Robinson.
He is trying to break the color line at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. He's capable of running a negative campaign, but has to run a positive one because an "angry" Black man won't get elected president. He also has to walk a political tightrope that John McCain doesn't. He can't appear to be "too Black" for the white and Latino/a electorate or "too White" to the African-American community. He can't make mistakes because as a "First Black" he gets judged far more harshly than a white person in the same position. He also doesn't get the luxury of responding angrily to obviously stupid, racist or asinine MSM questions.
We have already heard the idiocy expressed by some disgruntled Hillary supporters that they will vote for McCain since Hillary wasn't the primary winner or chosen as his running mate. We haven't even begun to see the worst of the racist rhetoric that will be thrown at him by the right wing and the GOP even though they're already slinging their code worded racist slogans courtesy of Faux News and the Right Wing Noise Machine.
- "Presumptuous," "arrogant" or "elitist" (think 'uppity n****r)
- "Not ready to lead" (the same coded rap on our intelligence they used to say about African-American quarterbacks, coaches, managers or CEO's)
- "Lacks experience" (so did the resident-in-thief, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter before they won the presidency)
What is needed at this juncture is a Pee Wee Reese to step up in the Democratic Party, put their arm around Barack's (and Michelle's) shoulders and say emphatically this man is alright and he'll make an excellent president. That alone will help allay the fears of all the (mostly white) people who want to do the right thing and vote for Obama but need that reassurance.and validation from another white person that this man is okay.
It's probably one of the reasons why Sen. Joe Biden is now the VP nominee instead of Sen. Clinton or some other Democratic woman like Governor Sebelius. Sen. Biden can do what Barack can't in this campaign - be the attack dog trashing the so-called "maverick" at every opportunity.
But Sen. Biden can't be the only one. If the Democratic Party is serious about having the Obama family move into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue on January 20, then we will need multiple Pee Wee Reeses to step up. The bottom line is that, as an African-American, I'd like to remind you that we are the most loyal constituency in the Democratic party over the last 40 years. We have voted for Democrats of all ethnicities during that time period, even for people we weren't all that enthused about.
And as part of that loyal constituency, we expect the same or greater level of reciprocal support for Sen. Obama from you as white Democrats that we African-American Democrats have shown for Lyndon Johnson, Hubert Humphrey, George McGovern, Jimmy Carter, Walter Mondale, Michael Dukakis, Bill Clinton, Al Gore and John Kerry.
I not only see the big picture in terms of Supreme Court judges, whether a Democrat or Republican is sitting in the most powerful office in the country directly affects the quality of my life and how much cash ends up in my wallet .
It also speaks to something I've said for quite some time now. If you want progressive policies, you have to elect progressive politicians to enact those policies.
John McCain is NOT a "maverick"; he's a committed conservative. Anybody that thinks that he'll change or is friendly to GLBT issues is making the same mistake they did eight years ago by allowing themselves to be hoodwinked by George W. Bush and his compassionate conservatism snake oil.
There's no doubt that Barack Obama has the education, the talent, the judgment, charisma and the temperament to lead this country. He is already respected by many world leaders and would do much to restore our tarnished standing in the world.
He is one of our best as African-Americans and the best candidate we've set forth as a party for the office in probably a generation. I'd hate to think that Sen. Obama could possibly lose because of petty jealousies, lack of vision or people still hung up on harboring centuries-old prejudices against African-Americans and not get a chance to show, like Jackie Robinson did a half century earlier, he's got the talent to excel in the presidential game..