The Incomparable Baratunde Thurston on Obama’s Release of His Birth Certificate

So many people I work with in D.C. weren't as upset by Barack Obama's release of his long-form birth certificate and the press conference about it as I was.  My twitter timeline was filled with "oooh, Barry delivers another smackdown." Liberal writers and bloggers all talked about the "political calculation" of it all.

That just wasn't what I was feeling. I was feeling this:


On Politics and the Sorry State of Affairs (or, you know, the Democrats)

(x-posted at Forbes Avenue)

I’ve been having a hard time figuring out what to say about politics of late.

Part of it is that life gets in the way and a brotha ain’t always got time to sit down and take stock of everything that is happening. And part of it is that I’m losing faith that we liberals always taking to the innanets is even effective.

But this was a big week, folks. Big education speech. Big health care speech. White folks still freakin’ out about the fact that the president got some melanin. And one of the tried and true liberal visionaries lost his job, leaving Obama with pretty much no one on the Left with which to work.

Time to say something.

But what do I say that I haven’t said already? I wrote a few months ago about my frustration with the Democrats? But I wanna take it a step further:

I do not believe there is a progressive movement in this country, which is why I think the Democrats are so ineffectual.

To wit: Brilliant reporting on how the Democrats fucked up health care from jump.

To wit:

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What’s Wrong with Obama’s Speeches on Race

(cross posted at Forbes Avenue)

Well, first. There are so few.

No, seriously — let me start by saying that the fact that we have a president who talks about race seriously at all is a huge step in the right direction.

That said, I am frequently distressed by what the president actually says when he does speak about race. Because I think he is (perhaps unintentionally) intellectually dishonest about how race truly operates, what life is actually like as a Black person, and what it will take to really create equality of opportunity and an equitable division of resources (which are two very different things that require two separate, but specific, approaches).

Unlike most people, I thought the Philadelphia speech was terrible, ahistorical, and dangerous. I thought in his attempt to appeal to both White and Black, he made a crucial mistake that many people make when discussing race — equating Black and White feelings about, and experiences with, race symmetrically. Meaning White people’s resentment at Black progress was the same as Black frustration with being oppressed.

Simply – though both are legitimate, they are not equal.

To suggest, as he did, that they are, I think is dangerous. I think it contributes to a feeling of fatigue in America. Fatigue with remedies for past wrongs. Fatigue with talking about Black people when we can talk about White people. Fatigue fatigue fatigue.

This is perhaps unavoidable. He is a politician and there are many more White people than there are Black people. He must say what will allow him to stay in power and do what he wants to do to help everyone. I get that.

But because race operates the way it does, what any prominent Black person says carries enormous weight. In this case, what he’s saying is incredibly detrimental to a concerted, real fight to end racism (it’s great, if you’re goal is bettering race relations…but yea, that’s a different goal).

We’ve got to find language that talks honestly, directly, and passionately to the specific and unique experience of being Black in America without it being assumed that, by doing so, we ignore everyone else.

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More on Bill Maher’s Obama Critique

Bill explains what he means:

“If not now, when?”

I think this is the major point that Bill Maher has buried in his critique of Obama.  His comment that even his own audience, which suffered few jokes or critiques of Obama in the past, applauded that critique is instructive.

I think that is saying something.

This is sort of what I wanted to get at yesterday in my post. The Democrats have two out of three branches of government and, mostly, the other team is on the ropes.  Now might be a good time to do what you said you would do when you got elected, Democrats.

I think the challenge for them is figuring out what the hell it is they want to do and then figure out how to bring the entire party along.  The Blue Dogs are Democrats in name only. And despite what the Right will tell you, the rest of the party ain’t all that liberal.  Especially not the leadership.

Of course anyone who watches Bill regularly knows that he knows that the Democrats have no idea what they really want to do, mostly because there is no Democratic ideology (I’m coming to believe this more and more).  So rhetorically, he’s conflating what Obama should/would/could do with what is really the role of Congress.  This works because, as you see, it gets him interviewed on MSNBC.  And there should be criticism of Obama.  But I don’t think it is translating to people demanding what they want from Congress.

Bill has to get that applauding audience of his to transfer that frustration from Obama to Congress.

Congress v. Obama: We’re Kinda Screwed
Bill Maher Goes Hard at Obama

Congress v. Obama: We’re Kinda Screwed

There's this whole meme out there in the blogosphere — Jamelle rounds all the recent stuff up nicely – around the notion that the real problem with our federal government is that Congress abdicates its duty to be a check on the executive branch — even in the age of Obama.

And I largely agree with this, but with a twist:  I think the problem with Congress is the Democrats.

I think they are weak and rarely if ever use the rules and strategies of Congress to their advantage.  Sure Republicans rammed through all the stuff they wanted pre-2006, but Dems didn't do what they should have done by blocking any of it. 

In fact, I think the Republicans, even in their crazy current state (perhaps even because of it), are a better minority party than the Dems were from 1994 to 2006.  This year alone, Republicans have already blocked a D.C. voting rights bill, the bankruptcy bill that would have fixed a lot of the mortgage problem at no cost to taxpayers, and will probably ruin the health care bill. But that's their job.  They don't think those bills are the right thing to do, so they stop them. 

Democrats have controlled Congress for 3 and a half years and they just aren't getting the job done.  I don't know that they need to be as obstructionist and as partisan as the Republicans, but sometimes you gotta take the hard vote and I just don't think they do nearly as much as they should.

Stephen Suh goes a step further in his disdain of Democrats:

There's been quite a bit of discussion about how the Senate is institutionally designed to impede progress. But the plain fact is that Harry Reid has a lot of power – and the knowledge and skills – to move legislation forward when he wants to. It's just what when it comes to truly progressive legislation, he doesn't want to, and few members of the Democratic Caucus care enough about progressive policies to put any pressure on him. So we can go two ways: transform the Senate's rules, procedures and most imporantly, its privileges, or transform the Democrats in the Senate.


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