Jackson vs Obama


Yesterday, after sitting through a tedious speech by Barack Obama on tax policy, I noted:

If Obama gets no further than his current rut (I suspect he'll surpass it later in the fall), he will nonetheless have achieved something remarkable. Here is a credible, serious African-American candidate for president boring an audience on tax reform. The days of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton dominating African-American politics and visibility are gone.

I guess Jesse Jackson agrees. Jackson's "acting white" remark is a sign of desperation - of failure, of the bankruptcy of pure victim politics. It's racist; and it's offensive. But it's also an extremely encouraging sign. It could help illustrate one of the game-changing features of the Obama candidacy and open more eyes to the potential in the Illinois senator; and it could jump-start up a real debate among African-Americans about what their future politics should look like and express. Both are very healthy developments.

Obama, after all, is not only running against Clinton and her well-oiled machine. He's also running against the failed past in racial politics. But part of his candidacy is about not explicitly returning to these tired and divisive racial themes, while articulating policies that he believes benefits whites and blacks in an interconnected America. Yhe Obama campaign should thank Jesse Jackson for making the newness of Obama's racial message clear in a way that leaves the race-consciousness to others. It's the first lucky break Obama's had in a while.

Obama in the end didn't need a Sistah Souljah moment. He needed a Jesse Jackson moment. And he just got one.

(Photo: Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty.)