The Price of the Ticket

The Price of the Ticket

Barack Obama and the Rise and Decline of Black Politics

Book - 2012
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The historical significance of Barack Obama's triumph in the presidential election of 2008 scarcely requires comment. Yet it contains an irony: he won a victory as an African American only by denying that he was the candidate of African Americans. Obama's very success, writes Fredrick Harris,exacted a heavy cost on black politics.In The Price of the Ticket, Harris puts Obama's career in the context of decades of black activism, showing how his election undermined the very movement that made it possible. The path to his presidency began just before passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, when black leaders began to discussstrategies to make the most of their new access to the ballot. Some argued that black voters should organize into a cohesive, independent bloc; others urged a more race-neutral approach, working together with other racial minorities as well as like-minded whites. This has been the fundamental dividewithin black politics ever since. At first, the gap did not seem serious. But the post-civil-rights era has accelerated a shift towards race-neutral politics. Obama made a point of distancing himself from older race-conscious black leaders, such as Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson - even though, asHarris shows, he owes much to Jackson's earlier campaigns for the White House. Unquestionably Obama's approach won support among whites, but Harris finds the results troublesome. The social problems targeted by an earlier generation of black politicians - racial disparities in income and education,stratospheric incarceration and unemployment rates, rampant HIV in black communities - all persist, yet Obama's election, ironically, marginalized them. Meanwhile, the civil-rights movement's militancy is fading from memory.Written by one of America's leading scholars of race and politics, The Price of the Ticket will reshape our understanding of the rise of Barack Obama and the decline of a politics dedicated to challenging racial inequality head on.
Publisher: Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, c2012.
ISBN: 9780199739677
0199739676
Branch Call Number: 323.1196 HARRIS F
Characteristics: xviii, 210 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm.

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oldhag Jul 25, 2012

Obama has spent the majority of his time as President chasing after white Republicans begging them to "friend" him. A fool's errand as any drunk-on-the-corner could have told him on Inauguration Day. Maybe, having gotten by on his grin and his charm all his life, Obama thought if he was just persistent enough the same tactics would work on racist Republicans. Obama is reported to have said recently, "My mistake was believing that their [Republicans] love of country was greater than their hatred of me". When power, money, and priviledge are at stake: charisma, meet implacable foe. Fredrick Harris's book does an excellent job explicating the treachery, and tragedy of Obama. Having used black financial, and electoral support, to vault past the 43% of the white vote that he garnered "...Obama---the nation's first black president - [is] - a "hollow prize" for black America. So while Obama has "...met several times...with Jewish leaders to clarify his positions on Middle East policy"; has used executive priviledge to address Latino voters' concerns about immigration policy; has reassured feminist groups about "...protecting abortion rights...", has impressive accomplishments on behalf of the LGBT community", black America waits. " ' Just wait until Obama gets elected, then he can focus on black issues, ' many said during the 2008 campaign'." " 'Just wait until after the midterm,' many said after he was elected'." " 'Just wait until after he wins a second term,' many now say. Just wait'."
Worse than failing to focus on the bleeding wounds of black America, Obama has been only too willing to appease the white side of his existence at the expense of his black side. The Republicans did not make Obama reward a rogue cop with beer and a photo op for falsely arresting Henry Louis Gates, Jr. as the black community is terrorized by NYPD breaking into our homes, and gunning down our unarmed sons; Mitch McConnell did not make Obama fire Shirley Sherrod as black unemployment is well above the national average; John Boehner didn't write the hurtful "personal responsibility" speeches that Obama has delivered at NAACP gatherings, as the black middle-class struggles to hold on economically . Those things came from the contents of Obama's character.
It is a testament to just how much racism exists in America that a black politician must run a "race-neutral" (that is, white-race affirmed, black-race neutralized) campaign in order to win. The jacket of this book has photos of Malcolm X and Barack Obama. These two men should never be on the same page. Malcolm X gave his life for black America.

f
floy
Jul 08, 2012

In my personal opinion, the world really didn't need this book. The author puts forth his thesis at the beginning and then repeats it throughout the book.

The main point is that some black politicians (including Obama, in the author's opinion) are more symbol than substance and thus don't necessarily advance the causes of the black community. This is actually a variation of the thesis that Obama's election did not and will not eliminate racism and discrimination in America. (A book that says it better is "Between Barack and a Hard Place - Racism and White Denial in the Age of Obama" by Tim Wise. When you read that book you'll understand that it's unrealistic to think Obama can eliminate racism for us; that's something that requires all of us to participate.)

However, in this book, the author is severely disgruntled that Obama hasn't eliminated racial inequity. He explores why black voters elect symbol politicians anyway and decides it's because African Americans are proud of the high achievers and want good role models. The black community supposedly understands that African American politicians running for state or federal office need white votes and can't appear to favor the black community. And thus, according to the author, the black voters appear to accept the lack of attention given by black politicians to the black community's issues during their campaigns and their terms in office. This is unacceptable to the author. While he believes Obama's election is the pinnacle achievement of black political power, he maintains it is only a symbolic success because President Obama "distances himself from issues and policies targeted at eradicating racial inequality". Therefore, the "price of the ticket" is that the issues the black community cares about are ignored once again, only this time by a black president.

I heartily disagree. Obama has been hampered by the miserable economy and by the Republicans and Tea Partiers but he has accomplished many good things. Read "The Promise: President Obama, Year One" by Jonathan Alter to remind yourself and convince others.

The author also writes at length about the difference between Christian social/liberation theology and Christian prosperity gospel, about the history of black political power and about various figures in African American history. Much of it will be familiar to many readers and some of the rest was not terribly relevant, in my opinion.

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oldhag Jul 26, 2012

Cornel West: " Mitt Romney is a catastrophe; Barack Obama is a disaster".

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