Obama Aces Russert's Farrakhan Test
Wed Feb 27, 3:26 PM ET
The Nation -- In 1998, Grove Press published a nonfiction book, The Farrakhan Factor: African-American Writers on Leadership, Nationhood, and Minister Louis Farrakhan.
I edited the collection of fifteen essays by prominent black writers, academics, economists and historians because I felt that members of the mainstream press had hijacked the conversation about Farrakhan and black leadership in America. My goal at that time was two-fold: To allow blacks to define the meaning of political and social leadership, and to place Louis Farrakhan into historical context, in terms of the long line of blacks in the US who have been considered leaders over the decades.
Watching the Democratic presidential candidate's debate last night, the moment I've been dreading since Senator Barack Obama first announced his candidacy finally arrived: The Farrakhan Litmust Test, served up by a white male member of the establishment press, before an audience of millions.
I was watching the debate last night, and I saw this sort of question. To me, politics is very dirty. Minister Farrakhan, although a controversial figure in American politics and religion, has much standing among African-Americans, and to attempt to trap Obama in this fashion was very underhanded, as was the recent distribution of him in traditional East African [read 'Muslim'] clothing.
By renouncing Farrakhan's endorsement, Obama risks alienating many people who would otherwise cast a vote in his favor. It is not because the voters like Minister Farrakhan and his 1960's rhetoric and advocacy of an unorthodox 'Islamic' ideology, but because they will view him as a coward, unable or unwilling to make the "change" his campaign ads speak about.
On the other hand, had he not disassociated himself from Farrakhan's comments about him, he would have certainly risked the entire campaign, as the Jewish community are indeed very powerful, he would have been seen as an anti-Semite, or guilt by association.
Politics is indeed dirty, and while this post should not be seen as an endorsement of Obama [or any other figure for that matter], I would like to see our leaders stand for what is right and what they believe to be right. It cannot always be an issue of catering to voters, saying what we want to hear. If the Economic situation requires raising taxes, so be it. Do it and do not apologize.
Those are the sort of leaders we need. People who will stand for what is right and what is in the best interests of America's most disadvantaged and disillusioned citizens.