January 14, 2007

"They are basically jealous. They’ve been toiling in the trenches for decades, and along comes this son of a Kenyan farmer..."

"... suddenly he’s measuring the drapes in the Oval Office," says a "Democratic strategist," who doesn't want to be named but does have an explanation for why various black leaders have so far declined to embrace Barack Obama.

Here's a quote with a name -- Harry Belafonte -- to go with it: "He’s a young man in many ways to be admired. Obviously very bright, speaks very well, cuts a handsome figure. But all of that is just the king’s clothes. Who’s the king?"

And Al Sharpton attaches his name to a quote: "Right now we’re hearing a lot of media razzle-dazzle. I’m not hearing a lot of meat, or a lot of content. I think when the meat hits the fire, we’ll find out if it’s just fat, or if there’s some real meat there."

• • •

I love the way Sharpton speaks in phrases that sound like existing expressions. "When the meat hits the fire." Google it, and you'll see that the hits are all this very quote from Sharpton. It meshes well with "hearing a lot of meat," and "hearing meat" isn't an expression -- how noisy is meat? -- and it's sort of a mixed metaphor. There's a faint echo of "Where's the beef?," the classic political catchphrase.... based on this commercial:



"When the meat hits the fire" sounds vaguely like other phrases: "Where the rubber meets the road," "When the sh*t hits the fan".... But "when the meat hits the fire" is a Sharpton original, I think. He concludes the thought with "we’ll find out if it’s just fat, or if there’s some real meat there," which seems to me to refer to the common expression "all sizzle and no steak." But in the case of a candidate who's "all sizzle and no steak," hitting the fire would be the point at which you'd get the most sizzle, based on the presence of fat, and you still wouldn't "hear the meat."

• • •

But back to the meat of this post. Sharpton -- and others -- must be profoundly jealous and resentful -- and with good reason. In a political culture in which the media have long consulted them and preserved a place for them in the debate, now it seems that Obama will be given that place, and Obama is likely to say things that are far more mellow and conciliatory to the majority of Americans. They have to be asking -- and we should ask too -- whether that is why Americans like Obama so much. Looking at the problem from this angle, we should see that it's not simply a matter of personal jealousy, it is a real fear that their message is being effectively excised from the national debate.

18 comments:

Gahrie said...

I'm no fabn of Obama, but if he can consign Jackson, Sharpton, and Farrakhan to the ash heap of history...where do I sign up?

peter hoh said...

You can see some of this play out in the documentary film, STREET FIGHT, which looks at one young man's attempt to take on the entrenched black establishment.

ShadyCharacter said...

"it is a real fear that their message is being effectively excised from the national debate"

Is it a fear that a message will be overlooked or that self-annointed "messengers" will be overlooked?

Ann can you please articulate the message of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson? We hear all the time about the message they're trying to get out, but darn it if all I can come up with is hucksterism. Not just Tawana and Crystal, but any time there's an event with a racial angle (THAT WILL GET MEDIA TIME) both of these bozos show up and posture and lead rallies and, if a corporation is in any way involved, pocket cash. That's it.

If Americans recoil from that "message" that's to the good.

Anonymous said...

Here's a quote with a name -- Harry Belafonte -- to go with it: "He’s a young man in many ways to be admired. Obviously very bright, speaks very well, cuts a handsome figure. But all of that is just the king’s clothes. Who’s the king?"

You are correct! Belafonte concern is absurd! And his quote just drips with jealousy.

What I find is that it's not simply a matter of personal appreciation for Obama's politics on your part, it is a deep appreciation of his beach photos.

Anonymous said...

Sharpton and Belafonte are like a couple of tired TV shows that the American people are tuning out. Move along, nothing to see here.

Ann Althouse said...

Shady: "Ann can you please articulate the message of Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson?"

They simply have a left-liberal position that is tied to race. By tying the left-liberal message to race, they have successfully over many years gotten more attention to it that it would have had otherwise. I haven't made a close study of this, but I would say that they tend to support redistribution of weath and various measures that would take account of the disparate impact on racial minorities (regardless of whether there is a specific intent to discriminate).

Meade said...

"In one interview last week, Sharpton warned that Obama could not take the black vote for granted."

No, especially not in the same way Sharpton, Jackson, and the Democratic party have for decades taken the black vote for granted.

Interesting food, barbeque, skin ("the king’s clothes") metaphors. I'm slightly surprised that two preachers and a singer wouldn't instead be alluding to breath, inspiration, and soul.

SteveR said...

One can hope that Obama can smash the stereotype. He really is an "african-american" after all yet is much more than being about civil rights exclusively.

ShadyCharacter said...

Thank you for responding Ann. I wasn't asking what their personal ideologies might be, I was asking what their "message" is. When we hear these two guys speak in public (and nary a week goes by when one or the other isn't on TV) we don't hear about income redistribution or disparate impact. We hear that this police officer is racist, that school board is racist, that black republican is inauthentically black, etc... Won't you please make a donation to our little organization (that's not the public message, but that's the message given to corporations whenever one of the PR events emerge). That is, it's race (pro-black, anti-white, anti-asian, anti-jew, anti-hispanic).

So again, what "message" is being drowned out? I think if there's any, it's a general message of black helplessness, powerlessness and victimization in the face of white/jewish/asian power and hispanic numbers.

If Obama gives a straight up leftist message without this racialist baggage, is that really bad for black america or america in general? Is it really bad for anyone but the Sharptons, Jacksons and other parasitic "spokesmen" of the black community?

Dave said...

Gee, I guess that the movie's about the problems young cowboys have meeting women and raising families, not that there's anything wrong with that.

Dave said...

The expression that Sharpton is riffing on is "when the fat hits the fire."

Zeb Quinn said...

Will America elect a smoker?

How he looks in beach togs is one thing, but is he still sexy when you learn that he's a cigarettes addict? In 2007 at his age and with his education? Is that sexy nowadays?

Gahrie said...

but is he still sexy when you learn that he's a cigarettes addict?

OMG!

What if he eats...gasp....meat?

I bet he eats Big Macs! (I wonder if he supersizes?)

Does he recycle? What type of car does he drive?

Balfegor said...

They have to be asking -- and we should ask too -- whether that is why Americans like Obama so much.

He's a Black politician, and so far, he doesn't seem to be a racist, and hasn't got where he is be engaging in disgusting race-baiting. Unlike, say, Al Sharpton. Obama is a Democratic Colin Powell.

---

The other thing about Obama (something he does not, as far as I know, share with Powell or any other current Black politician in the US) is that for all that his father was a Kenyan farmer, his upbringing was extremely posh, compared to your average American. His Hawaiian prep school might not be Groton or St. Pauls-- Actually, it's older than either. Punahou has been around since 1841. And in the US, I think we have an affection for those quasi-aristocratic backgrounds. We've got a Bush in the White House, and his past two opponents (Gore and Kerry) came from pretty much the same stock. From Howard Dean's perspective, they're practically parvenus. We're comfortable with people from this kind of background. They might not be like us (at all), but we're comfortable with them. Used to them.

Obama -- raised by a White family, attending a posh prep school, attending an elite college and law school -- is as close as you can get to a WASP, without being White and Anglo-Saxon. Or Protestant. Is he Protestant? (I have no idea). In any event, for all that his skin is darkish, and for all that he self-identifies as "Black," he's a member of the American elite, born and bred. Voting for him is like voting for any other posh WASPy candidate, only he's got dark skin. There's a racial phenotype, but no "ethnicity" to it at all.

And that's probably why the other Black politicians don't like him -- Sharpton has complained that people like Clarence Thomas aren't the right kind of Black. Betrayed his heritage, letting down the side, pulling up the ladder, Uncle Tom -- whatever. Obama is almost less "Black" than Clarence Thomas -- culturally, he may be in sympathy with Black America, but he didn't come from Black America. His experience is really nothing like the experience of "Black America," that Sharpton (or Farrakhan or Jackson) promotes as authentic. Obama lacks "street cred" with them, as it were.

Re Zeb Quinn:

How he looks in beach togs is one thing, but is he still sexy when you learn that he's a cigarettes addict? In 2007 at his age and with his education? Is that sexy nowadays?

It's rebellious! He's an independent thinker! A risk-taker!

Actually, really, why would we care? Everyone has vices.

Anonymous said...

In regards to Ann's response to Shady on the African-American leadership's "left-liberal position that's tied to race": It is that, but there's also an investment in victimhood, through which greater social and civil rights policy demands can be placed on a guilt-plagued white America (to use Shelby Steele's thesis). Juan Williams calls this the "blood of martyrs" strategy, in which the sacrifices of the slain civil rights icons of the 1960s are manipulated by today's black activists to keep a chokehold on the Democratic Party's patronage. Obama's not getting attention from the likes of Sharpton, Belafonte, et al., because he won't sing in the black cult of victimology chorus. Obama's 2004 Democratic Convention speech was notable for arguing against exactly that -- that is, he called for putting responsibility for black advancement back in the hands of African-Americans themselves.

Burkean Reflections

vbspurs said...

How he looks in beach togs is one thing, but is he still sexy when you learn that he's a cigarettes addict?

Seriously? Come on now.

America has elected, one after the other, a marijuana-smoker (didn't inhale!), and allegedly (but almost certainly) a cocaine user.

Obama himself did BOTH, and possibly -- according to his biography, which he insinuated as much -- crack cocaine.

They say that White Americans view Black Americans with "lowered expectations".

If this is true, then his current cigarette smoking, and past drug use will count LESS than for a white presidential candidate.

If the publicity goes negative, he could even publicly quit, and hold Nicorette rallies, where fellow would-be voters and smokers all quit alongside him.

"Put the ash back in the holes! Send Obama to 1600!"

Please. They should so hire me.

Cheers,
Victoria

Zeb Quinn said...

It hit me. Here's what he can do: quit! Win - win. Best of all possible worlds. People will love him even more. He just needs to wait for the right moment to do it for the greatest effect.

Anonymous said...

Douglas got it right when he typed: "but there's also an investment in victimhood, through which greater social and civil rights policy demands can be placed on a guilt-plagued white America."

I have not seen the senator practice the politics of victimhood. And he is a Democrat. And he is black.

Tired old race baiters like Sharpton and Belafonte do not know if he is fish or fowl because they do NOT recognize what he is doing. Where is the blame slavery? Ain't whitey to blame for all this? And he has not turned uncle tom like Cosby (their understanding, not mine.)

It is kind of like seeing fly fishing for the first time. You know the person is fishing, but you do not understand what they are doing and how and why it is working.

Cluelessness.

Trey