By Ron Walters
This is not an endorsement, it is an analysis. At the end of the three presidential debates featuring Sen, Barack Obama and Sen. John McCain, the judgment of the American people was that Sen. Obama had won all three.
Thinking about it, I must admit that I missed the significance of that conclusion on their part, but it says something profound that has not been fully grasped.
Americans are saying that they need Sen. Barack Obama at this point in their history, and not just because he represents their desire for change. It was apparent in the debates that he also has the stature and intelligence to lead the country, if there was even any doubt.
I did hear some criticism from a few well placed observers that Barack was too “cool” that he didn’t show emotion, that it seemed to be business as usual.
My first thought was that this was a racial stereotype which suggested that a Black man could not possibly think his way through the this crisis represented by the morass of complex issues that were put to him without going off the deep end and cussing somebody out. Yes, Barack was cool, but that was not the cool of a cultural style, it was the cool of deep reflection, a necessary ingredient to conceptualizing a problem and coming up with a substantive conclusion.
By contrast, Sen. John McCain was undisciplined, emotion showed in his face revealing an inner turmoil and inability to add subtlety to his thoughts, but to rely on well-worked clichÃ¨s and ideology as the stuff of his substance.
For example, I listened to Sen. McCain’s tired attempt to paint Sen. Obama as a “big-spending Liberal” at a time when it seems that a majority of the American people are saying they are not afraid of the “L” word any more, that they care more about current circumstances rather than ideology. So, he continued to drive them toward the past, not the future.
The debates are a forum where the candidates are tested to put forth their ideas in a manner that is not only measured by the stylistic competence of verbal combat, but by how the ideas are formulated and delivered and what those ideas contain.
Hands down, Sen. Barack Obama demonstrated, in effect, that he was–and is–head and shoulders intellectually superior to Sen. John McCain. This was true, even though it was difficult for the media to acknowledge the overwhelming decision of the American people.
It is time that those who voted twice for George W. Bush link his competence to the problems they face. We should be tired of that. You cannot lead where you are unable to go.
In 2000, the political system pushed George W. Bush into the limelight and justified the choice of his lack of intellectual achievement by creating a “down-home” caricature, privileging him as “somebody you would want to have a beer with.”
Right about now in the election of 2008 as people formulate their choice, they should choose someone who can think, who can lead.
But like you, I have watched this time with some understanding of the fact that brilliance in this election has been down-played once again.
As a country, we should understand the derision in which George W. Bush was discussed by his European counterparts when the most powerful country in the world selected someone to lead it who was demonstrably an intellectual light weight.
America needs Sen. Barack Obama for what he has demonstrated: His ability to organize and run a large complex organization and raise hundreds of millions of dollars, to formulate commonsense solutions to extremely difficult problems that do not lend themselves to simple answers, to have an image of openness and personality of someone who is confident enough to invite people with disparate views into the inner sanctum of his decision-making, and to re-emphasize the core Democratic values of the country and not a narrow nationalism.
So, Sen. Barack Obama is not only the right political choice, he is objectively the right person who matches the problems and the future of the country.
The only issue here is whether the American people, especially Whites, are ready to acknowledge this fact as a key ingredient to governing, or want to fall back to the racial comfort of having a White person in the White House at all cost.
(Dr. Ron Walters is the Distinguished Leadership Scholar, Director of the African American Leadership Center and Professor of Government and Politics at the University of Maryland College Park. His latest book is: The Price of Racial Reconciliation. This column was distributed by the NNPA.)
The 2008 Election: Historic, Whether Obama Wins or Loses (FCN, 10-31-2008)