To the Contrary

August 1, 2008

This may not be history America wants to make

Much has been made of the idea that if Barack Obama is elected this November, he will become the first black man ever to reach our nation's highest office.

At first glance, this seems like a beautiful idea: Obama is accomplished professionally and a talented orator. He is handsome and appears optimistic. And he has a lovely, outspoken African-American wife and two adorable daughters. They even look like what the first black First Family should look like. Yes, this is it -- America is finally going to elect a black president. It's time. This is history happening before our eyes, and we get to be part of it.


That's the narrative we have been fed, anyway. All across America, people in the black community are fired up about voting with a fervor that has never been seen before. I have heard stories about third cousins who have not spoken in years calling to remind family members to get out and vote for Obama. This is history, after all. This is our guy. Finally, this is our chance.

Even conservatives like J.C. Watts and Armstrong Williams have gotten into the act. A few weeks ago, Watts said he's considering voting for Obama. Williams went even further, saying: "I don't necessarily like his policies; I don't like much that he advocates, but for the first time in my life, history thrusts me to really seriously think about it. I can honestly say I have no idea who I'm going to pull that lever for in November. And to me, that's incredible."

Darn right it's incredible.

Williams went on to say that other black conservatives have privately expressed that they are torn by Obama's candidacy as well.

"Among black conservatives," Williams said, "they tell me privately, it would be very hard to vote against him in November."

As someone who for years has admired and respected both Watts and Williams, I find this incredibly disheartening. Both of these men have made careers of making the case that it is time stop practicing identity politics and judge people based on their character and their ideology. And yet the first time a black man gets close to the presidency, ideology goes out the window.

Issues matter

The reason this is so damaging is that when black conservative leaders like Watts and Williams say they are willing to vote for Obama because he's black, even though they disagree with him on 99 percent of the issues that matter, they are telling us that ideas do not matter. They are saying policy does not matter. And that is wrong.

Lost amid all the messianic rhetoric and talk of making history are Obama's beliefs and his voting record.

Consider: At a time when the black middle class is growing faster than ever, Barack Obama is pushing a plan to raise taxes on anyone in this country making as little as $35,000.

Since Roe v. Wade was legalized in 1973, the majority of the children aborted have been African-American. And yet Barack Obama has the most extreme pro-abortion position of any major party nominee ever. Not only does he support the barbarous practice of partial-birth abortion, he actually voted against the Born Alive Infant Protection Act that required medical personnel to provide emergency medical care for babies who survive abortions and actually are born. Most Senate liberals (including Sen. Barbara Boxer of California) voted for this bill. Obama voted no, allowing abortionists to let babies die on the table.

And at a time when America faces an improving but still unstable situation in Iraq, a nuclear Iran, a nuclear North Korea, and uncertainty in a nuclear Pakistan with Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto having been assassinated just six months ago, Obama is the least experienced nominee this country has ever seen in a general election.

Foreign policy novice

Worse yet, Obama has consistently demonstrated that while he knows nothing of foreign policy, he believes he knows just enough to be dangerous. Back in the primaries, Obama came out in favor of changing long-standing policy and sitting down with enemies of America like Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad -- whose country is a known supporter of terrorist groups across the Middle East -- as soon as possible so that they'll ... what? Like us more? We still have not heard a coherent answer to this one from Obama.

Finally, Obama continues to dismiss the success the troop surge has had in Iraq, while repeating the same defeatist rhetoric that the Democrats have been pushing since 2006 and ignoring the facts on the ground. He is nothing short of dismissive of U.S. commander in Iraq Gen. David Petraus' positive report detailing American progress in bringing stability to Iraq.

As a black man who has seen racism in its ugliest forms growing up in the South, I would be lying to say that on some level my heart would not swell with pride to see Obama elected. The idea that our country has come far enough in civil rights relations to be able to elect a black man should be a source of tremendous pride for us as a people.

By the same token, I know that for better or worse, the first black president will be held to a higher standard than any other first-term president ever has been before. If Barack Obama drives our economy into the ground with out-of-control tax-and-spend policies while weakening our security abroad, he will be the second coming of Jimmy Carter, and he will not be re-elected. But worse yet, if he fails as president, it will be a very long time before another African-American ever gets near the Oval Office.

Be careful what you wish for, folks. I am not sure an Obama presidency is the kind of history we want to make.

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