Are White Liberals Ever Satisfied?

I’ve been reading some of the analysis of the debate last night and have come to a conclusion: Barack Obama is always going to be in a Catch-22 with white liberals.

Last night Barack was who he was: cordial and smart and funny. For that he is being eviscerated by white liberals because he didn’t show enough “fire”.  If, one the other hand, he had shown any more fire than he did, he would have been called an “angry black man”. Can’t the brotha catch a break? Are white liberals ever satisfied? If you truly believe in Barack’s change argument, why would you ask him to change how he behaves?

Be thrilled that Barack showed the millions who watched the debate just how much he has thought about foreign policy issues and the intersection of foreign policy–economic policy–national security.


5 thoughts on “Are White Liberals Ever Satisfied?

  1. Sigh.

    I don’t think that it’s white liberals and a black man.

    I think that it’s an issue of style–and Americans. We–as a culture–want our blood sports. Want to see the foe crushed. And after the last eight years… liberals are really feeling that.

    I don’t think that many get the risk, the danger of Barack being portrayed as Angry Black Man. Some simply don’t really see the race issue, and don’t get it.

    It’s not an issue of being satisfied. It’s an issue of being oblivious.

    Speaking on behalf of white liberals (cough), I was just fine with his performance in the debate. It wasn’t perfect, but it was more than acceptable. Much more.

    So… some people wanted him to be a bit angry and on fire. And… so what? Armchair quarterbacks. Who gives a damn?

  2. Kim,

    You may want to check out Andrew Sullivan’s analysis of Senator Obama’s debate performance here:

    Here is Sullivan’s description of the delicate dance that Senator Obama had to do on Friday night:

    The one aspect of these events that many seem to ignore is the racial and gender dynamics. Obama’s style against McCain was much tougher and crisper and more forceful than with Clinton. The reason, I think, is that Obama was canny enough not to fall into the Lazio trap with Clinton – with his only slip-up being the “you’re likable enough” quip. With McCain, he could be more alpha male, as he was. But Obama is also a black man against a white man. So he must also be very careful not to get angry and to stay cool and calm. He has to do that to avoid the “angry black man” trap. But then he cannot afford to seem weak either. You realize how hard a balance that is for ninety minutes?

    Obama has to walk through a racial minefield all the time.

    No one in American political history has ever managed to pull it off as smoothly as he has so far. I know what it’s like in a tiny way having a stereotype hang over you – hence my acceptance that the word “hysterical”, for example, will always be more consistently deployed against a gay man than a straight man. But I’m not a pol and don’t mind being defined that way by those more interested in identity than argument. Obama has no such luxury. He needs the votes.

    He was respectful to McCain but also more confident looking him in the eye. He was forceful without appearing angry. He was calm without seeming professorial. Because he makes it look relatively easy doesn’t mean it isn’t actually extremely hard.

    The other thing that liberal critics don’t recognize is they are not the intended audience for Senator Obama’s debate comments.

    Senator Obama’s intended audience that he was trying to reach was undecided voters.

    Based on the polling data, he succeeded and I’m glad.

  3. Eh, I thought he was good. McCain was good too, unfortunately.

    My take on the “Anger” issue is that I didn’t want him to get angry, I wanted him to be slightly annoyed because about 2/3 of the way in he got slightly annoyed and IMHO his debating improved. He was faster and more on point with his answers and he was sharper with McCain. To me it felt like the Law professor coming out.

    McCain didn’t like mildly annoyed Obama one bit and to me it felt like he was losing his cool. His answers got LESS coherant and more crazy-old-guy-sounding.

    Do I wonder if McCain would have kept repeating himself or ideally lost his temper and looked even more crazy-old-guy if Obama had turned up the heat slightly more or started slightly earlier? Sure. And I think McCain is damn lucky the debate ended when it did.

    But this white chick thinks Obama did a great job and don’t let anybody tell you differently.


  4. While the other posters (maybe even CC) have a point here, I get what you are saying. I think you are right in terms of the political landscape in our country: black leaders who are angry or firery are only appreciated for it when they are safely dead and Obama knows this and must walk a fine line.

    There are other images he must be careful of…he must be wary of any image of him around attractive white women, because the wrong one would destroy him (hence his quick distance from ScarJo). He has to refute rappers that are too edgy and support him, also denying them their financial support. He must always be wary of this country’s hatred of and fetishing of black men, while never so acclimating that his ethnic group considers him a Clarance Thomas. Also he is in some ways an icon of the next generation. A person of mixed race he is more the generation of the children of Gen X who marry irregardles of color than he is the Icon of the trailing end of the Boomers or the leading edge of Gen X.

    It is a difficult balance, but it is the balance of black leaders who are the children of the MLK generation.

    I wonder what the Corbin Blues and black scifi-nerds, RPG players, computer geeks and skatepunks think of him?

  5. Even me. Goodness, Chuck, make me blush.

    FWIW, I thought Obama hit just the right balance last night in his second debate. He was aggressive when he needed to be but mostly just watched John McCain get himself more and more upset. Obama knew when to get a little tough and even a little snarky, but also knew when to pull back as to never appear to bully McCain. It was fun to watch.

    IMHO, McCain’s losses of cool are going to cost him, while Obama was cool epitomized.

    And VERY presidential.


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