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The International Writers Magazine: US Politics

Obama in Chinese Handcuffs
Dean Borok

It’s obvious after the South Carolina primary that Chicago politician Barack Obama has the lock on the African-American vote. They now have a national leader that they are comfortable with.That’s as it should be. Every group needs to coalesce around a core leadership to represent its interests at the table. That way you know whom to negotiate with.

This brings to mind the ascendancy of the Parti Quebecois in Canada of the 1970’s, when French Quebeckers split off from the Liberal Party and formed into a national bloc. Canada benefited from the leadership of Prime Minister Pierre Eliot Trudeau, who, being half-French and half-English himself, managed to balance national interests and keep Quebec as part of the Canadian confederation.

The more-or-less even dispersal of African Americans throughout the U.S. precludes any move for black separatism, but this writer believes that Obama will serve as the instrument that irredeemably fractures the fragile Democratic coalition the same as one blow of a chisel can shatter a carefully sculpted marble statue. It’s obvious that black political aspirations cannot be contained within the current structure of the Democratic Party.

The big winner of the South Carolina primary is New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg, whose presidential ambitions have been resuscitated by hopes that enough disenchanted Democrats will flee into his waiting arms. This calculation may be realized if Obama’s strength continues to snowball going into Super Tuesday.

While a Bloomberg third party candidacy may siphon off considerable support from the Democrats, it will probably not have any effect upon Republican voters, who have got to be figuratively dancing in the streets. They can probably be counted upon to maintain unity around a McCain candidacy.

The latest news now is that in a suicidal paroxysm in total conformity with past Democratic behavior, Sen. Edward Kennedy has thrown his support behind Obama. A few weeks ago the Democrats seemed to have a sure winner against a fragmented Republican field. But like a Super Bowl game, the dynamics have shifted in midfield to the other team. The Republicans have a new dynamism with McCain, while the Democrats are fighting among themselves.

The damage has been done. Regardless of the results of Super Tuesday, the Democrats will never be able to put themselves back together again. If Clinton wins, the black vote will never support her in the general election. If Obama manages to attain the nomination, enough Democrats will flee, either to the Republicans or to Bloomberg, to ensure a Republican victory.

The country seems to be entering a new phase of smaller parties that will form coalitions around issues of mutual interest and will only work together as long as those interests are served, similar to Europe or – Africa.
(Kenya is not a good example of that working- Ed)

Jan 29th Update:
Let’s go back to this Barack Obama situation.  It keeps eating away at my mind like battery acid.  When I was a child I had a toy called “Chinese handcuffs.”  It was a tube of woven straw.  You put one finger of each hand in the ends of the tube and pulled.  The more you pulled, the tighter the tube squeezed your fingers.
The Republicans are habitually complaining about the Clintons’ dirty tactics, and with good reason, because they have always been at the losing of the end of their Machiavellian scheming.  They fear and loathe the Clintons for always being several steps ahead of them, like a chess game. 
I am prepared to concede the devilish cleverness of the Clintons, who map out their coordinated strategies with a meticulous attention to detail heretofore unprecedented in the sloppy world of American politics.  They live in a Chinatown of the mind that would do credit to Bobby Fisher.  They are a Forbidden City of the spirit, a Byzantine court of intrigue that ensnares and ultimately destroys the unwary courtier.
At first consideration, Hillary Clinton’s ungracious remarks about how president Lyndon Johnson deserved credit for the civil rights legislation of the sixties seemed to be a major political blunder of gross insensitivity, coming as it did over the weekend of Martin Luther King Day.  How could she be so maladroit, it was thought.  Additionally, Johnson has gone down in history as one of the most reviled presidents, presiding as he did over a nation wracked by assassination, conflict and riots, whose expansion of the Vietnam war began the long decline of American power, in relative terms, that continues to this day.  She must be out of her mind, I resolved.
I should have realized that the Johnson statement was a carefully calibrated lure extended by the Clintons to provoke Obama and his organization to scream bloody murder and define him as the “Black Candidate.”  Which just shows that my original assessment about him was right.  Obama fell into the trap just as he was supposed to.  All week long, goaded by the Johanson statement, his campaign issued rebuttals about the Clinton’s racial insensitivity, culminating in a landslide Obama primary victory in South Carolina owing to the monolithic black vote in that state.  Obama is now perceived by the mass electorate, the resounding majority of whom are white, as a strident, vociferous spearhead of black political ascendancy.  Never mind that Clinton did not even attempt to campaign in South Carolina (they didn’t even have one telephone line in the whole state), and that the Obama organization’s superb organization was punching against thin air.
Obama’s strident reaction to the dig by Hillary Clinton seeming to give Johnson credit for King’s accomplishments, combined with Obama’s massive win in South Carolina, have actually put him behind the eight ball with the mass electorate going into Super Tuesday.  Even I fell for it.
This is where the Chinese handcuffs come in.  The more strength Obama demonstrates with the black electorate, the more he is hamstrung.  He might be a slick dude on the South Side of Chicago (where I was born, incidentally), but the Clintons have demonstrated how far he has to go before he can be ready to deal with such smooth operators as themselves, Vladimir Putin or Nicholas Sarkozy.
The Clintons are additionally helped by the Kennedy family’s endorsement of Obama, an extra little bonus for them.  Most Democrats, this one included, long ago discounted the Kennedys as an eccentric, tragedy-prone family not to be taken seriously.  They are actually digging Obama deeper into his hole.
For the Clintons to engage in such short-term destructive tactics demonstrates how seriously they take Obama as a threat, and who can blame them?  When he started his campaign, as a constructive player in strengthening the Democratic coalition, they surely welcomed his presence.  But as he became more personally aggressive and abusive, they decided that he had to be shut down.
The Clintons obviously determined that this is a poison pill they have to swallow, that they stand to hemorrhage black votes in November.  But getting the nomination is right now Job One, and later there will be time to manage the fallout.

© Dean Borok Jan 29th

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