Saturday, March 15, 2008

Preachers with attitude

Andrew Sullivan --

I know it's a stretch, but picture, if you will, Barack Obama* at a Louis Farrakhan event. Farrakhan isn't there, but his acolytes are. Obama -- stay with me a minute -- is shoring up support among blacks in a hard-fought election. His speech is campaign boilerplate, emphasizing themes of black self-reliance, the persistence of white racism and so on, but nowhere does he mention the Nation of Islam's anti-Semitic, anti-gay, racist ideology, let alone condemn it. He is mobbed. The crowds love him. His poll numbers among blacks, already strong, firm up.

This image is a stretch because not even Al Sharpton would be loopy enough to recommend such an event. Within seconds of even the idea of it leaking, Obama's campaign, indeed his political career, would be virtually over. Whoever recommended the speech would be fired; Obama would apologize; the Democratic Party establishment, once it had gotten over the shock, would essentially excommunicate him. For all these reasons, the event is literally unthinkable -- and not least because Barack Obama himself would feel nothing but revulsion at the idea.

*No, wait. That's not Andrew Sullivan writing about such an event -- it's Andrew Sullivan writing about how loony it would be for Al Gore, in 2000, to be (hypothetically) in the vicinity of Afrocentric demagoguery and not condemn it.

But fast forward to 2008, and when it's Barack Obama's pastor of 20 years, Jeremiah Wright, with the dodgy quotes --

I don't think it's racist to understand that the black church has a different cultural style in its preaching and activism style that helps add some dimension to Wright's record. If you read Obama's books and listen to him speak about his church, it's clear that he was not drawn by Wright's more inflammatory and offensive language. His engagement with the Church was an attempt to connect with the life and feelings of a black urban class he had never truly belonged to and whom he intended to represent. We can forget what an outsider Obama was when he first came to Chicago.

Does that mean that in his 2000 example, his Gore scenario would be OK once allowance was made for the "cultural style" of a black event and Gore's attempts to connect with the "black urban class"? Or is it different because, accusations of a double-standard bedamned, Obama is black?

No comments: