I was going to post about the Quadra byelection today (I’d even written something so will post tomorrow) but yesterday afternoon I started getting emails from friends in the US asking me if I’d seen “the speech.” I’d locked myself away for much of the day and was trying to avoid the great distraction that is the internet, so… I hadn’t. I finally loaded it up on YouTube and figured I watch a few minutes.
37 minutes later, and now a night’s sleep, and I’m still feeling pretty stunned.
I thought Obama displayed courage when he gave his speech on homophobia within the African American church at MLK’s church on MLK day. This speech takes that courage to a whole new level. What made it work – for me at least – was how he seemed to serve as a conduit, a translator, for African-American and white communities. Breaking down the stalemated debate between them and trying to offer a path out.
Most impressively, he did this while trying to bring complexity and nuance back into political discourse. I don’t know if he’ll succeed but I’m glad someone is finally trying.
Finally, the comparison to Hillary is again, quite stark. When the controversy over Geraldine Ferraro’s remarks spun out of control Hillary threw her under the bus. Did she use the opportunity to talk about the glass ceiling for women? The subtle and pervasive effects of sexism? No. This would not have been politically expedient. And yet, to paraphrase Obama, Ferraro’s frustration and anger was real, legitimate, and powerful. And to simply wish it away and to condemn it without understand its roots only served to widen the chasm along both racial and gender lines.
And yet this is what Hillary did. She wished it away and condemned it, instead of using it as an opportunity to elevate the debate and actually try to address a serious and legitimate problem.
But then that sums up the campaign in a nutshell:
Hillary is playing to win – and her supporters believe she can better manage Washington. Obama is playing to make change – and his supporters believe he can remake Washington like Reagan or FDR did. So today they are reveling, as their candidate has again demonstrated his willingness to take on a dangerous issue – like race – that no other politician can or will touch.
Here’s a youtube clip of the speech: