Independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader accused Sen. Barack Obama, the presumed Democratic Party nominee, of downplaying poverty issues, trying to "talk white" and appealing to "white guilt" during his run for the White House.There's a lot of stuff there, and I'm not sure exactly where to begin, but let me start with Obama's platform. He has not spoken as vociferously about poverty as I would have liked; one of the primary reasons I was drawn to John Edwards is because poverty was central to his campaign, especially the relationship between poverty and corporatization. But, Nader's claim that Obama doesn't have a detailed platform addressing issues of poverty is flatly wrong—and he has entire sections specifically dedicated to Urban and Rural policy at his website.
…"There's only one thing different about Barack Obama when it comes to being a Democratic presidential candidate. He's half African-American," Nader said. "Whether that will make any difference, I don't know. I haven't heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos. Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What's keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white? He doesn't want to appear like Jesse Jackson? We'll see all that play out in the next few months and if he gets elected afterwards."
…Asked to clarify whether he thought Obama does try to "talk white," Nader said: "Of course."
"I mean, first of all, the number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be is to candidly describe the plight of the poor, especially in the inner cities and the rural areas, and have a very detailed platform about how the poor is going to be defended by the law, is going to be protected by the law, and is going to be liberated by the law," Nader said. "Haven't heard a thing."
"We are obviously disappointed with these very backward-looking remarks," Obama campaign spokeswoman Shannon Gilson said.
Similarly, his positions on Civil Rights are easily located—and one of the areas in which I feel he was stronger than any of the other candidates in the race is on drug sentencing and prison reform and programs to reduce recidivism via access to opportunity. That he had (IMO) the most developed and progressive policy on this subject might have been a zany coincidence, but, more likely, it's because he is a black man, part of the demographic most disproportionately affected by sentencing minimums and long-term incarcerations lacking educational and vocational rehabilitative opportunities.
Suffice it to say, Ralph necessarily had to leave a few things out to make his point, such as it is.
Now, all that said, I want to quote Shaker JMonkey, who gets the hat tip for sending this via email (along with Shaker Misiale, in comments):
It's pretty rich, I think, that Nader believes "the number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be is to candidly describe the plight of the poor ...."Indeed. Or any other group, for that matter. If nothing else, it's indicative of limited thinking about the scope of diversity in America and wholly ignores intersectionality. What would Nader say if Obama were also gay? Would marriage equality then trump poverty? Or perhaps the passage of ENDA should be priority #1? Or maybe he'd have to give equal time to gay rights and poverty? What if we were talking about Barbara Obama, black lesbian, instead? (Hold your snorts that this country's ready for a black lesbian president and just go with me here.) How could Barbara Obama give equal time to poverty, marriage equality, and reproductive freedom…?
So black candidates must have poverty as their No. 1 issue? Really? No choice in the matter? And white candidates, they have free range to choose their political priorities?
Good thing we've got Nader around to tell African American politicians what their priorities should be.
(I care a lot about poverty as an issue, but I do bristle at any ethnic group being told what their political issues should be.)
I suppose Ralph Nader would helpfully tell her what her priority should be.
There's this weird notion among some self-identified progressives that people of color, women, LGBTQs, the disabled, etc. (and all people reflecting intersectionalities thereof) should live up to some particular ideal, without a trace of irony that the ideal is as much a stereotype as its pernicious opposite. (Not to mention just as arbitrary.)
A few times lately, I've seen (very legitimate) complaints about Nancy Pelosi's leadership contain sore-thumb phrases about her being a woman, that, rather than attributing her failures to her womanhood, express dismay that a woman would fail in such a way. Well, duh. She's a human being. It was all men who had expressed this notion, almost as if they felt hornswaggled, like they'd been promised better from women.
That, like Nader's horseshit, is just demonstrative of a fundamental lack of understanding and belief in actual equality. Actual equality means that, despite the real and tangible benefits of diversity (some of which are symbolic and inspirational and some of which are associated with people generally being more inclined to champion issues personal to them), we aren't meant to hold individual people crashing the gates to some arbitrary construction of what People Who Look Like Them Are Supposed To Be.
Actual equality means recognizing and respecting that Barack Obama is prioritizing what Barack Obama, the autonomous person, wants to prioritize.
Obama Racism/Muslim/Unpatriotic/Scary Black Dude Watch: Parts One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Eleven, Twelve, Thirteen, Fourteen, Fifteen, Sixteen, Seventeen, Eighteen, Nineteen, Twenty, Twenty-One, Twenty-Two, Twenty-Three, Twenty-Four, Twenty-Five, Twenty-Six, Twenty-Seven, Twenty-Eight, Twenty-Nine, Thirty, Thirty-One, Thirty-Two, Thirty-Three, Thirty-Four, Thirty-Five, Thirty-Six, Thirty-Seven, Thirty-Eight, Thirty-Nine, Forty, Forty-One, Forty-Two, Forty-Three, Forty-Four, Forty-Five, Forty-Six, Forty-Seven, Forty-Eight, Forty-Nine, Fifty, Fifty-One, Fifty-Two, Fifty-Three, Fifty-Four, Fifty-Five, Fifty-Six, Fifty-Seven, Fifty-Eight, Fifty-Nine, Sixty.