Dennis Jones is a Jamaican-born international economist, who has lived most of the time in the UK and USA, and latterly in Guinea, west Africa. He moved back to the Caribbean in 2007. This blog contains his observations on life on this small eastern Caribbean island, as well as views on life and issues on a broader landscape, especially the Caribbean and Africa.







**You may contact me by e-mail at livinginbarbados[at]gmail[dot]com**

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Can Barack Obama become US President?

It is still a long way from nomination day for the major parties in the US presidential elections; it is an even longer way to the elections themselves. But the Democratic and Republican candidate races are already getting exciting after the first major event, the Iowa Caucuses. Barack Obama won the Democratic Caucus by a huge margin. As the candidates move to the New Hampshire Primaries he has surged into a large lead ahead of Hillary Rodham Clinton (see CNN report). I will admit that I am not very interested in the Republican possibilities; none of the candidates inspires me. I am very interested in the choice the Democrats will make.

I will make no bones about being very impressed with Barack Obama from a long time ago. His background and rise in politics says so much about the "American dream" and that anyone can make it. He also attracted me because he was not a typical black man in America and was facing what many of us who are black but not "African American" face, which is a certain resentment because we were not products of America's strained racial history. It is sometimes incomprehensible to African Americans that other black people have a history different to theirs with different problems; with no connection to civil rights marches in the 1960s; with no need to rise from segregation over the past 100 years, yet with a bag full of racial struggles of our own. We often do not latch onto discrimination as the reason for our problems in America; we see failings of our own and perhaps some difficulties in making the cultural transition to American life. But we do not have a crutch that is all about racism. We, especially if from the Caribbean, also see that without a solid education we can make no progress.

Barack Obama shows what can happen if you make it through "the system". Go to Harvard; get MBA; become Senator; become presidential candidate; become very good positive role model. Not become a thug. Not become a criminal. Not become marginalized. Not feel sorry for yourself.

I am not going to get into the debate about whether Americans will vote for a black man, or prefer a white woman as a presidential candidate. I personally believe that many voters have been longing for a choice such as they now have: a candidate who is really worth voting for, and whose personal characteristics are not really the issue. I also think that voters will consider seriously an intelligent candidate of any colour, and certain not reject on just on racial characteristics if he/she does not look or sound threatening.

I am in at least two minds about wanting to see Barack Obama succeed. I have a four year old, born in the US, and I envisaged that she would become president of the USA: she could be the first black woman to hold that post. Whether Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton win either would open the door for my daughter. I am putting my money on Barack Obama because I think his message of "change" is real and can be seen to be real, if only for the obvious reason that America has never had a president who looks remotely like him.


Esteban Agosto Reid said...

President Barack Obama sounds very wonderful. It certainly does.Yes,Barack Obama can become the President of the United States,but at this stage it is relatively early in the elections/primaries,irrespective of his resounding and stellar victory in Iowa and his current standing in the polls in New Hampshire.Interestingly,these two states are basically caucasian demographically and they are endorsing Obama.Things will definitely get better for Obama in some of the more diverse states. But please do not rule Mrs. Clinton or Edwards out as yet.The postbellum south will be interesting for Obama.He may want to let his wife do a lot of the campaigning in the South since she is from the South,South Carolina to be specific.As Obama becomes nore viable and popular as the definite candidate for the Demacratic party, more African Americans will be supportive.Interestingly, there are considerable number of African Americans who do not support Obama and are pro Hilary as a consequence of her husband President Bill Clinton who many African Americans consider the first black president.The interesting fight will be the fight between Obama and the Republican nominee if Obama becomes the Democratic candidate.Indeed, the Republicans will be very dity and will be throwing everything including the kitchen sink at Obama.Hopefully,he will be able to survive such an onslaught.America definitely needs change.The neo-cons have messed up America in terms of the two wars, the economy,etc.So,many Americans are interested in the politics of change and hope, as opposed to the status quo ante promulgated by the neo-cons.It is extremely critical that Obama concretizes this politics of change with respect to policies in various issue areas such as the economy,health care,foreign affairs,the Iraq war, inter alia.Yes,I think Obama's chances are pretty good. Many people do not want to see the Bush-Clinton dynasty that has monopolized American presidential politics for almost twenty years continue.Some people are of the opinion that it could be a Obama/Edwards ticket.How interesting?A caveat to Obama and his handlers.Please increase security presence.America has a considerable number of crazy individuals,and we are all familiar with the role of assassination in the American political culture.Also, be prepared for the dirt that will be coming your way from the right wing of the Republican party.Go Obama!Go Obama!

Anonymous said...

I second your opinion on Barak being the top choice for America. However, unfortunately I am hit again by your negative view of African-Americans. (See previous posts) Your assertion that Barak is not a "typicall black american male" stings. Are most typical black americans thugs and marginalized criminals?? America is not made up of only New York or Compton LA. Barak was raised in Hawaii (an American state) by his absent mothers’ parents. And also spent several years in Asia as a small boy. His African father was completely absent from his life except for one visit to Hawaii. While I agree that Barak’s years in Hawaii (which is an American state, with racial realities) give him a broad perspective, I think you are deceiving yourself if you think Barak does not see himself as classically African-American. One of the things that I enjoy about Barak is that he does show a different side of Black American men, and believe me there are many that are his "type". But unfortunately black American stigmatism is so global that anyone good we produce is seen as an anomaly or different.

My high school teacher tried to tell me that I was just that “different”. When I graduated from California State University at the top of my class, this slogan was, again repeated. I was blessed to be the Golden Key Scholar of the year. My university was not an ivy league school, but my success was noted. My success as an African American in college was not because of racism nor in spite of it, but due to focus and diligence. Yet it still aided to kill the myth and stigmatism that pervades the world in regards to my part of this black family tree. I encourage you to read both of Baraks books. I believe Barak disagree on your assesment of the influences that lead to his astuteness. Please take heart with me that most Black American men are not criminals and thugs, it’s unfortunate that the media portrays the sickest parts of our community as “typical”…and you’ve believed it.

Dennis Jones said...

Anonymous, very pertinent observations. However, I did not define a typical black man, but said that Barack was not typical. Perhaps I should have added that he needs to be atypical to be president; it is logical because so few can or do aspire to the highest political office.

But if one looks at available statistics, and makes no value judgement, Barack is far from typical of African American males. He perhaps also reinforces some of your points especially the need to be exceptional to rise above negative stereotyping.

The media always focuses on negatives; good news does not sell. My views are not shaped much by the media, however, and I try to make my assessments more from my own observations and experiences.

Jdid said...

Barack is different from the average black male if only for the fact that somehow he is less threatening to white america. This comment has nothing to do with blacks being criminals or thugs its just a perception that white america has of black folks. You can be corporate, and or educated and still b threatening. Obama isnt.

Somehow Obama like his backer Oprah have somehow transcended this which is great.

I also like the fact that Obama just seems fresh. He gives hope in that he isnt as tied to the soundbites and the what does the media want me to say realities that some of the other candidates live by. That type of campaign just wears down the electorate. So boring, so predictable. I predict if Obama gets the nomination we'll see a rather high voting turn out this year.

Mama C said...

I always appreciate your discussions, and enjoy the debates. Barak's setback in tonights New Hampshire returns, in no way dampens my optimism, and I'll have my 6 year old son keep his eyes open for your little Ms' campaign as well...

Esteban Agosto Reid said...

The polls regarding Obama winning New Hampshire were totally outrageous and inordinately skewed.Apparently,whenever there are elections that/which involve a black and a white contestant/candidate for the same political position, polls are at times highly skewed with respect to the black candidate, in terms of an overwhelimngly,strong and solid white support.But the private reality of whites when they are in the voting booths generally suggests otherwise.The very whites that answer positively in these polls hregarding a black candidate,when it comes to voting in the election booth, they generally reconsider and invariably vote for the white candidate.Because many whites are still not able to concretely support a black candidate with respect to casting their franchises accordingly,although at political rallies and other public events the support for Obama is enthusiastically strong and vociferous.Hence,the confusing,baffling and perplexing nature of the New Hampshire polls,and one of the reason for the strong surge of Hilary Clinton accompanied with the support of female voters.The race will become much more interesting in the medium term with larger, more populous,and demographically diverse states coming into the picture.Admittedly,and quite understandably,the media and the electorate are placing great emphasis and attention on Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama,the so-called front runners,but John Edwards should not be dismissed this early in the game, specifically in the South.Interesting times are ahead.RESPECT!!

Anye Collins Ngomanji said...

Barack Obama has proven by all means possible that he is able and capable of being not only a president but revolutionist. The revolution of "change" and unity is real, so real that it threatens even front runners across the isle on the republican party like Sen. Mccain and Gov. M. Romney who all asserted the need to elect a republican powerful enough to challenge Obama.My friends this is history in the making and I'm very proud to be part of it.As far as race is concerned,If Obama is able to accept and be proud of his heritage,it makes me believe in him even more and view him more as a uniter. Obama is a black man, and it is absolutely possible for a black man or woman to become a United States president.He is very expressive of who he is an nobody should say other wise.Let's all pray for his success so that one day when the course of history finally change we will all know that Martin Luther King's dream was real. it will serve as a spring board for all black kids and that is where the "hope" comes in.

Esteban Agosto Reid said...

As indicated in an earlier piece/comment,this Presidential contest will get or become very dirty, and inded it has.Already,race has reared its ugly head in this campaign and has become a significant or salient issue.The Clintons have injected race in the campaign by slighting and undermining the vanguard role and achievements of Dr. Martin Luther King in the Civil Rights Movement, while giving considerable credit to President Lyndon Johnson in terms of the sundry legislation passed during his tenure relative to civil rights.Also,the attack and characterization of the Obama campaign of hope as nothing more than a fairy tale by former President Bill Clinton has incensed and perturbed many African Americans,who are now questioning the loyalty and solidarity of the Clintons vis-a-vis blacks.Indeed, the African American perception, position,perspective on this issue or fallout is not a homogenous or monolithiic one.It is rather heterogenous with respect to competing views and perspectives.Many African Americans consider the Clintons desperate in their quest for political power and the White House,and are of the opinion that they have been faulted or wronged, and are now questioning their support for the Clintons,while many do not subscribe to the aforementioned perspective and are adamantly supportive of the Clintons,because of their close ties historically with the black communities nationally,specifically,during the tenure of President Bill Clinton.Interestingly,the Obama handlers have not responded formally to the racial issues/charges that have preoccupied the campaign over the last several days.For Ms.Hilary Clinton,the African American vote is extremely crucial and essential in becoming the Democratic nominee,so playing the race card will only alienate more African American voters to Mr. Barack Obama's camp.Hence,it is imperative that the Clinton handlers retreat from this supposed strategy of utiliziing race to score political points and continue addressing the real issues affecting and impacting on the American body politic and political culture.Irrespective of which candidate wins the Democratic nomination,i.e.,Mr. Obama or Mrs. Clinton, the campaign for the Presidency will definitely become much more dirty when either of these two candidates engage the Republican nominee.Race or gender will certainly manifest and materialize themselves as salient issues when the Republican handlers take on the Democratic nominee.Indeed,this election campaign will be extremely DIRTY.With respct to the current racial fallout dogging the Clinton campaign,South Carolina will be an interesting state in terms of how African American voters will respond to both Mr.Obama and Mrs.Clinton.Interesting times lie ahead,politically.

Dennis Jones said...

The USA's racial history both in its nature and its recentness is such that it would be impossible for race not to rear its head in politics. I dont see its arrival in the latest presidential campaign as "dirty". Politics is not about love between candidates and the nature especially in the US is to have lots of "they said", "we said", "I was misqouted" and other games around statements, real or not; public or private.

The current Democratic nomination race is the most fascinating in much of US politics because it pits representatives of two greatly disadvantaged groups (women and blacks) at logger heads when in reality they should probably be seeking a joint nomination. We saw what was amazing in Iowa and New Hampshire, where both candidates had substantial support from their electorates. Voters rejected the status quo in the sense of the "white male" candidate. So the Democrats seem destined to vote for a major change.

We are going to see a lot of people sitting on the coat tails of great people when it suits them, and being accused of tarnishing the image of the greats, when it suits the purpose. I would not get too perturbed by that. What I would be disturbed by is if the candidates get polarized around their prime representative groups (women and blacks). That has not happened so far and it will be interesting to see how long that can last.