Democratic Senator Harry Reid has apologized to President Barack Obama, the American people in general and African Americans in particular. His offense? Aggravated Public Honesty. It seems that in 2008 Reid predicted that Obama could very well become the first African-American president of America because he was “light-skinned” and “had no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one.” The prediction came true, and Obama is our president, and the reasons Reid cited were major factors in Obama’s election.
Let’s not kid ourselves here that America suddenly and completely lost it’s racism because of Obama’s undeniable charm. Charm is not enough, and we’ve elected some decidedly unchaming men to the presidency. Lyndon Johnson springs to mind. While Reid may have ben alarmingly honest and less than walking-on-eggshells politically correct in his assessment of Obama’s chances, he was right on the money. Can’t a senator express reality once in a while? White men can comment on racial relations in America as well as anyone. They’re half the equation, no? And Reid had it right, if Barack Obama was dark skinned with a heavy accent he would never even have won the Democratic Party’s nomination, never mind the general election. Pointing out the obvious is no sin.
In a nation with our troubled racial history, our first black president had to be Caesar’s wife, a Mr. Perfect Goody-Two-Shoes of a candidate with few skeletons in his closet, and a man held to a greater degree of accountability than his white counterparts. While openly attacking the man for his skin color was out of the question, don’t forget how much political mileage was gotten out of the question of his birth certificate and the bogus claims that he was a practicing Muslim (our new niggers), a “sleeper” programmed to destroy America from within. None of that went on with any white candidate, not ever.
Obama was also campaigning against the Republican Party after the most completely failed presidency ever. The Republicans were exposed as betrayers of America and incompetent thieves who used a severe crisis to turn on the American people, stripping their Bill of Rights protections, their hard-earned wealth and their trust in the government. The political party that gave us our worst presidency ever, featuring America’s first puppet leader, Bush The Younger, and our only dictator ever, Shotgun Dick Cheney, was almost certain to be voted out of office. It was only under these dire circumstances that a black man was elected president.
The fact that Obama is a non-threatening figure, articulate, intelligent, smooth and untainted by scandal or corruption weighed heavily in his favor, but none of these attributes were anywhere near as decisive as his light skin. His mother, after all, was a white woman from Kansas, making him only half black. In an ideal world none of that would matter, only the smart and articulate parts. But this is not an ideal world and a great many Americans still view life and politics through the narrow prism of skin color.
To many of them, Obama was only acceptable because he had a white mother and light skin. Getting rid of the worst political charlatans America had ever seen was no sure thing, and a black man with less political and personal skills than Obama, with darker skin and a less homogenous Midwestern accent would not have won this crucial election, even if he was the smartest guy since Einstein. Why make believe this isn’t the case? This nation has shot itself in the foot over race too many times to ignore reality.
So Harry Reid, whatever else he is or isn’t, is an honest assessor of a presidential candidate’s chances. And as a ranking Democrat who is now the Senate Majority Leader, that’s exactly what he is supposed to be. The business of political parties is to pursue their policies for their nation, and to do so they need to be elected. Those on the inside need to be brutally honest about their prospects of success, and to present the strongest possible candidate to the electorate. There were no inherently bigoted remarks made my Senator Reid, only honest, and perhaps a bit cynical, remarks.
To ignore the forest would mean getting lost in the trees. Don’t hang Harry Reid from one of those trees for seeing what is, not what ought to be. He is a leader of the party most responsible for changing America for the better and creating an atmosphere in which a black man could become president. Those battles were fought by clear-eyed warriors who could not afford to let wishful thinking get in the way of solid accomplishment. Reality dictated their strategy and reality was taken into account when assessing their chances of success. Reality told Senator Reid that Obama had a chance, and if in the process he articulated some regrettable truths some people would rather not hear, how about some more of that? Pretending never changed reality, and not mentioning unpleasant facts never made them go away. Pointing out the obvious is no sin.