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May 10, 2012

Pandering President Obama

Patricia A. Kelly

Barack Obama, our president, half-black, half-Caucasian, with a half-Asian half-sister, is running for re-election. His apparently well funded campaign includes many websites and support groups.


The first I noticed is African Americans for Obama. Check out the website and the You Tube video of our president announcing the creation of this group. He urges African Americans to continue the change begun by people such as Martin Luther King, Jr., the change he says is responsible for his being president. He reports on all he has done as president for African Americans. He requests that people become community activists or pastoral point persons in their churches to help him get re-elected.


Next there is Pacific Islanders and Asian Americans for Obama. On this site a very cute Asian girl states that, when our president (the one with the half-Asian half-sister that I had forgotten about since she is never in a family photo) considers the needs of Asian Americans, he really understands because he is thinking of his sister. She says Asian Americans are family to him.


Seeing this, along with multiple websites full of supposed truth bites, gets me really choked up. I can’t help but find myself wondering what his mother would say. Is she turning over in her grave?


Our president seems to have forgotten about another large group of potential supporters, European-Americans, as there is no group website for us. Has he forgotten that he is half European-American himself? What if I, also a European-American with a touch of Native American blood, wanted to support him and vote for – or even work for – him? Where would I find a group to belong to? Maybe he’ll soon start Native Americans for Obama.


Is President Obama’s approach of separating supporters into racial groups, racist? Is it appropriate for a president? Isn’t the president supposed to lead all of the people? Is he just so eager to be re-elected that he is willing to create more divisiveness in our society? Does he think the European-American vote is a slam dunk, and that he doesn’t need to court us? After all, when he thinks of us, I am sure he thinks of family.


We’ve watched a lot of ugly political maneuvering recently during the Republican campaign for the 2012 presidential nomination. Many of us were offended. Now we are watching all the Republican candidates put their support behind the winner, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney. Sometimes people sneer at this support, asking where the approval of Mr. Romney was a few months ago when the now supportive former candidates were doing everything in their power to discredit him.


That’s because people running for office often cross the line between legitimate campaign differences and lies, or between legitimate differences and personal attacks.


Of course, there is still some racism in this country. It doesn’t come only from European-Americans, although, historically, they were quite sure they were superior to people of color. Most of us presently alive have done nothing overtly racist, and most accept that diversity doesn’t imply inferiority.


President Obama grew up in a white household as a person of color because he inherited a dark complexion from his father. According to his book, he noticed in his youth that white people were afraid of him because of his color and his male gender. Perhaps it is understandable that he would find it difficult to trust individuals to do the right thing if not forced. He could be more inclined to trust government than people.


He should get, though, that prejudice based on race or gender is harmful, and, especially as president, work against it. As a true leader, he would work for inclusion not pander to distrust among races, even to help himself get re-elected.


Last week, President Obama received a letter from 68 congressmen, most of them Democrats, asking him to refrain from giving up “Buy American” in his negotiation of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement. In the past, preferential treatment in bidding has been given to American corporations who actually manufacture in the United States. The president, the same one who is promising to promote American manufacturing, is ready to give this up. This would allow a Chinese corporation with a factory in Vietnam to negotiate from an equal position with an American corporation.


As Martha Stewart would not say, “That’s not a good thing.”


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