December 16th, 2007
In the close 2000 Presidential race between Gore and Bush, many Democrats blamed Ralph Nader for throwing the election to the Republicans. Hanging chads and other voting anomalies aside, Nader’s Green Party collection of 2.74% of the vote was seen as a slap in the face to millions of Democrats who wanted a government that would represent their views.
Those Americans ended up getting George W. Bush by the thinnest of all margins. Adding insult to injury, Bush did not win the popular vote, and ran to the U.S. Supreme Court for relief against a recount that Florida’s own Supreme Court deemed proper. While Bush’s political cronies did their best to make Gore seem like a sore loser for daring to challenge a close and problem-riddled count, many Americans instead focused on the 2.74% of the vote that was “wasted” on Nader, who didn’t have any real chance of winning the election, never mind ever being any sort of valid contender.
Now we have Barack Hussein Obama.
It is politically incorrect — probably even politically suicidal — to mention the obvious in a climate where the slightest hint of an offense turns into a month of volleying soundbites, but I am not a politician, and I’m not particularly good at pretending reality doesn’t exist, so let me say what many millions of other Americans are no doubt thinking: Obama doesn’t stand a chance in hell of becoming our next President.
No, it’s not because he’s a person of color. I think most of America is moving beyond race, and Colin Powell would certainly be a popular choice for many. It’s also not about the teen drug use Obama wrote about in his very moving autobiography, Dreams from My Father. Most Americans, I think, are forgiving of teenage transgressions.
It’s not because Obama doesn’t have a stellar resume — because he certainly does, and Obama has been far more places, and done far more in his relatively young life, than many of his fellow Ivy Leaguers. After attending Harvard Law School, Obama became the first African-American president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review. His credentials would have welcomed him into many circles, but Obama chose instead to practice civil rights law in Chicago, and to teach law at the University of Chicago Law School. In 1996, he was elected to the Illinois Senate, where he served until 2004, when he was elected to the U.S. Senate by a very enthusiastic and hopeful constituency.
At the 2004 National Democratic Convention, the charismatic and youthful-looking Senator gave an enormously powerful keynote speech that brought the crowd to its feet, and that thrust his name into the public consciousness.
John Kerry believes in America. And he knows that it’s not enough for just some of us to prosper — for alongside our famous individualism, there’s another ingredient in the American saga, a belief that we’re all connected as one people. If there is a child on the south side of Chicago who can’t read, that matters to me, even if it’s not my child. If there is a senior citizen somewhere who can’t pay for their prescription drugs, and having to choose between medicine and the rent, that makes my life poorer, even if it’s not my grandparent. If there’s an Arab American family being rounded up without benefit of an attorney or due process, that threatens my civil liberties.
2004 was just yesterday in the national political sphere, and Obama’s lack of experience would be a major stumbling block for voters, even his name were not.
Much (but very quiet) ado has been made about Obama’s name and his Muslim roots. Obama was born in 1961 to an American mother and a Kenyan father who met while students at the University of Hawaii. They separated when Obama was two, and Obama went with his mother and her new husband Lolo Soetoro to Indonesia, where he attended school from the ages of 6-10. An article by Insight that described one of the schools Obama attended as a madrassa was heatedly denied. Obama’s own biography states he attended a Muslim school for two years, and a Catholic one for the same amount of time. Thereafter, he returned to Honolulu, where he was largely raised by his mother’s parents.
Obama barely knew his father and only recalls one visit from him, at the age of ten years old. Barack Obama, Sr. died in a car crash when Obama was twenty-one years old. While raised a Muslim in Kenya, it is said that the senior Obama eschewed religion as an adult and was an atheist.
At 26, Barack Obama joined the Trinity United Church of Christ which, along with other UCC branches, preaches inclusiveness, community service and oneness with God.
Still, the Islamic roots remain, if not within Barack Obama himself, than certainly for many in the public who have an alarmist, kneejerk reaction to anything sounding like, close to, or resembling Islam. A Washington Post article, “Foes Use Obama’s Muslim Ties to Fuel Rumors About Him”, points out that rumors about Obama have run rampant on Internet message boards and in chain e-mails. Ibraham Hooper, communications director of the Council on Islamic-American Relations says, “The underlying point is that if you can somehow pin Islam on him, that would be a fatal blow,” Hooper said. “It’s offensive. It speaks to the rising level of anti-Muslim feeling in our society.”
Hooper, I think, is correct. About the fatal blow, the offensiveness, and the level of anti-Muslim feelings in America right now. It may not be fair, or right, or logical — but Obama’s roots will very much be at play in the coming election. The fact that his father was raised Muslim, and that his stepfather is a “non-practicing” Muslim, will not sit well with many Americans, despite Obama’s own professed Christian faith.
Then there is what the Muslims think. Would they consider Obama’s Christian faith a genuine choice — following the Koranic line of “religion is not compulsion” or would they believe instead the Shar’ia law that would make Barack Obama an apostate who, guilty of abandoning the faith of his fathers, should be put to death?
This is the command of the Prophet: Any person (i.e., Muslim) who has changed his religion, kill him. (Hadith, see “apostate” link above).
It is not a good time in history to be Barack Obama. It is not a good time for moderate and liberal Democrats to choose a nominee they admire on so many fronts, even while they understand that he ultimately has no chance of winning the Presidency of the United States.
It’s a terrible choice that Obama supporters are left with — do they nominate a largely inexperienced candidate, and then attempt the almost impossible task of removing cultural brick walls and barricades of prejudice in order to win votes? Or do they give up someone they thoroughly admire and believe in, in order to nominate the Democratic candidate that stands the best chance of winning the White House, and changing the course of this country?
It really seems to be a Ralph Nader question all over again, except this time the stakes are much, much higher.