I recently read a fascinating article in "The Atlantic Magazine" about the recent elections and how the Obama team used (or didn't use) race to win the elections. It was quite an interesting insight into what the Obama team was thinking at various times during the campaign about the delicate issue of race.
I found the following parts of the article to be the most interesting:
"Obama refused to accept this late-20th-century model of racial politics, and he had no intention of fighting the general election with the same bolo punches and taunts that had stopped working decades ago. He had written a memoir about the labyrinthine complexities of racial difference. He wasn’t afraid to acknowledge the psychological effects of, say, race-based affirmative action on poorer whites. He had an exotic name. He was new. He was young. Most of his advisers weren’t black.
'There was a period when it was not at all clear that Obama would be able to win the vast majority of the African American vote,, David Binder, Obama’s focus-group guru, told me after the election. 'The biggest problem we had with African Americans would be that they didn’t think he could ever win.' In the focus groups, black voters told Binder that they didn’t believe whites would ever vote for Obama. 'That all changed with Iowa,' he said. 'The Iowa results proved to many African Americans that Obama had broader-based appeal and was not just someone who was going to be a token African American candidate.'
Last February, the black journalist Tavis Smiley held his annual State of the Black Union forum in New Orleans. For the second year in a row, Obama declined to attend. (The 2007 forum took place on the day he launched his campaign.) Smiley was angry about the slight and criticized Obama openly. The backlash against Smiley was intense. This was just after Obama had won the South Carolina primary, after African Americans had united around Obama in part because the Clinton campaign seemed to be writing him—and them—off. Smiley quit The Tom Joyner Morning Show, one of the country’s most popular radio programs among African Americans, because, as Joyner explained to his audience, 'He can’t take the hate he’s taken over Barack Obama. He’s always busting Barack Obama’s chops.'
The Smiley backlash was evidence to Obama’s inner circle that, in the words of one adviser, “Barack became untouchable in the community,” in much the same way that civil-rights heroes such as John Lewis had earned a lifetime’s worth of goodwill and benefit of the doubt. “Tavis Smiley was the object lesson for everyone,” says Anita Dunn, a senior campaign strategist.
'We came to realize that the black community, politically, had moved into a different era,' another senior Obama adviser told me shortly after the election. 'You could get intensity in the African American community by giving them a candidate they could see as being able to win. You didn’t have to speak to them in a way that would make white people nervous.' Obama shared the antipathy of liberal whites and younger blacks toward the hand-to-hand, transactional politics that had characterized the relationship between the Democratic Party and many African American leaders.
It took the campaign a while to figure out the right course. 'We did not have an organized strategy around this,' says Michael Strautmanis, a counselor to Obama. “It was like a series of constant recalibrations.”
In the winter of 2007, the campaign entered a bidding war with the Clinton campaign over the endorsement of State Senator Darrell Jackson, the pastor of one of the largest congregations in South Carolina. The Obama campaign offered him a $5,000-per-month retainer, and Jackson said he would soon endorse him. But then he sent word that the Clinton campaign was offering a more lucrative contract, implying, at least to the Obama team, that he would endorse Obama only if they would tender a more generous offer. Through his deputy campaign manager, Obama refused. It would be the last time that Obama negotiated with black pastors this way. (Jackson endorsed Clinton.)
A few weeks before the general election, aides to a pastor contacted the Obama campaign and laid out a political battle plan. The pastor would mobilize 300,000 volunteers and dispatch 72 church vans to battleground states on Election Day. He would touch more than 2 million voters. All he needed was $5 million to pay for it. The Obama campaign thanked him and said no. The pastor threatened to go public with the refusal. The Obama campaign pointed to examples of other black leaders who had confronted Obama in public, and invited the pastor, in essence, to bring it on. (The pastor apologized the day after the election.)"
Noooooo, you mean to tell me that preachers wanted $$$$$ from his O ness for their endorsement? I am shocked, shocked I tell ya.
Anyway, I knew how Tavis felt about his O ness all along, but now I know how the Obama folks felt about him. Must be nice to be able to just read the black community like you would a play book. Looks like his O ness had some Black Community Experts in his inner circle. (Do they study that shit in college?) I guess if you are a politician in A-merry-ca you are going to need a few things: A good fundraiser, a good grass roots organizer, great pollsters, and last but not least; a Black Community Expert.
Interesting. Poor old Tavis I guess he wont be doing any sit downs with our new president elect anytime soon. And no wonder the O man had Rick Warren pray at his inauguration, if he had asked some of these black preachers they would have wanted to get paid. (It doesn't take a Black Community Expert to figure out that preachers like $$$.) And we couldn't have that now could we, not when the country is so broke.