When Tim Russert passed earlier this year, many of his colleagues characterized him as a journalist who was tough, but fair. I have never have I had a problem being tough, but journalistic fairness is still a work in progress for me. On the other hand, I’m more of an activist than journalist. My writings are more about persuading than reporting -- more about calls to action than mere dissemination of information. But for now, I’ll try this “fairness thing”.
The titles of my blog and internet radio program -- A More Perfect Union --reflect the goal of America, not its reality. From time to time, I have reminded “my fellow Americans” that the “original intent” of our Founding Fathers’ call for “a more perfect union” was the promotion of the American Dream for white male landowners only. I have reminded them that there was no intent to include white male non-landowners, white women, blacks and other ethnic groups, laborers, gays and trans-gendered, unions, nor poor people of any ethnicity. Thus, throughout the history of this great nation all other demographic groups outside of the preferred group -- white male landowners -- have had to protest and struggle for inclusion, mostly by regurgitating the eloquent words of our Founding Fathers. Usually, this has been done with full knowledge of their original intent -- our exclusion. Thus, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. challenged America to “live out the full meaning of its creed. That we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal”. And more than three centuries later, his daughter -- Rev. Bernice King -- admonished in her trial sermon that American politicians “say what [they] mean and mean what [they] say”.
While switching from C-Span’s full coverage of the Democratic National Convention to CNN’s and MSNBC’s selective coverage, initially I was inwardly tough on the latter two. How dare these political pundits on CNN and MSNBC decide whose speech was and whose wasn’t important enough for the American people to hear, I thought. On C-Span I heard numerous everyday citizens -- as well as lesser known politicians -- speak of the difficulty of survival in today’s economy and the need for a new governmental focus that includes all Americans, and not the mere upper echelon. One could feel the ambiance in the convention hall. Delegates and others danced and swayed to an eclectic array of music, clearly exhibiting the convention theme of that “common thread” uniting Americans -- belief in the possibility of the American Dream. Michelle Obama poignantly addressed that common thread and all those before and after her echoed the same.
Yes, it was cliche politics at its best. There were constant references to the “restoration” of the American Dream as the providence of all Americans, and not merely of the rich. But no one mentioned the marches and protests that were necessary to coerce the resultant incremental inclusion, nor the fact that -- even before Bush -- many were still excluded. Every speaker did his or her part. Many -- especially the politicians -- noted that their improbable journey resulted from America’s past commitment to its citizenry. They remarked that it was our nation’s commitment to G.I. bills, fair labor practices, support of unions, women’s rights, etc. that had enabled them to rise from a decidedly lower economic status to a decidedly higher one. They vowed to give all Americans the opportunities that they had availed themselves of.
Everyone pointed to the Bush administration as the culprit that co-opted the American Dream as the privilege for the few. One need only to note the billions earned during the current recession by American oil companies and private contractors in Iraq to see the validity in that stance. It’s been boom time for the rich and recession time for average hard-working citizens. And yet, in the interest of fairness, it must be noted that President Bill Clinton’s signing of NAFTA helped to start America down the slippery slope that eventually buried the average Joe’s American Dream under a thunderous avalanche. George Bush merely took it to the next level.
But this wasn’t the time for open and fair assessments. This was the time for party unity -- a time to hone in on the increased Gross National Product and deficit reductions under Clinton. So, in fairness, it wasn’t the time to discuss the fact that during the Clinton years the increased GNP resulted in the top 40% of Americans getting richer while the bottom 60% got poorer. This was an exhibition of party unity before our very eyes, while CNN and MSNBC pundits pontificated on whether or not the unity would occur. What will Hillary do or say? How forceful will Bill’s endorsement of Barack be? These were their questions, while C-Span’s coverage left no doubt what the answers would be.
But, I must be fair. Both CNN and MSNBC offered live streams on the internet. And though I mainly watched C-Span‘s coverage, channel surfer that I am, I still switched back and forth -- mostly landing on MSNBC. [I’m a fan of Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow -- and I’m warming up to Chris Matthews, as he warms up to Barack Obama despite his clear preference of Hillary Clinton during the Democratic primaries.] And it’s a good thing that I did switch. I caught an interview with former President Jimmy Carter that I wouldn’t have wanted to miss. He spoke candidly about his being raised with and working in the fields with black folks, the desegregation of the military while he still served, and his assessment that America was on the cusp of a new day in racial relations. Though admitting that there still exists a contingent of Americans who won’t vote for Obama because of skin color, he insists that their numbers are relatively small and shrinking. And again -- to be fair -- he actually made me believe it.
I then surfed over to TV One -- to see what my people were saying. I caught the last part of the very prolific Prof. Michael Eric Dyson conversing with activist/civil rights icon Rev. Al Sharpton. Rev. Sharpton candidly offered that black leaders hadn’t really pressured Obama to spell out his agenda for blacks because they knew that -- as I have offered many times -- for him to do so would probably alienate needed white voters, afraid Obama will help black Americans at the expense of white Americans. Thus, whereas a white presidential candidate has to spell out his or her black agenda to obtain black votes, for a black presidential candidate to do so, would derail his candidacy. And yet, Obama received in the primary elections -- and will receive in the general election -- over 90% of the black vote. Hmm. I guess we are a bit more politically astute than the media deems us to be.
But in all fairness, though America has made great strides in the area of racial conciliation, it has a few more laps to run. That should be evident by the fact Barack Obama has to clearly state his support of a foreign nation -- Israel -- to have a chance to be elected (and he has), but can’t clearly state his support for a genuine American demographic and have the same chance. Thus, Rev. Sharpton merely stated that Barack Obama wasn’t running for the presidency of black America -- that he was running for the Presidency of the United States of America. But, to be fair, he and other black leaders have never wavered from the assurance that they would pressure a President Obama for a stand on the right side of justice just as much as they have pressured, and will continue to pressure any other president. But for now, the focus was on party unity.
So Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, Bill Clinton, John Kerry, present and former military personnel, and others gave great speeches exhibiting their unwavering support of Obama, designed to coalesce the Democratic Party around their chosen leader. But even after Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton extolled the virtues of an Obama presidency, MSNBC’s Pat Buchanan wasn’t swayed. He offered that Hillary Clinton supporters were “emotional” -- that they supported a movement -- and that it remained to be seen whether or not these emotional types would support Barack Obama in the numbers necessary and with the enthusiasm necessary for an Obama victory. But Buchanan was uncharacteristically quiet after Maddow pointed out that the people behind them fervently chanting “Obama, Obama, Obama”, did so while holding up a Hillary Clinton banner.
Just minutes before Barack Obama’s rousing speech -- advance copy in tow -- Buchanan opined that it was good but lengthy. He suggested that Obama talk through the expected applause so that he could get through such a lengthy speech without losing the audience. But after the speech, Buchanan appeared to be won over. He observed that Obama’s speech wasn’t a partisan one. He said that it wasn’t delivered to democrats, republicans, nor independents, but to all Americans. He read the part of Obama’s speech where Obama averred that, “The men and women who serve in our battlefields may be Democrats and Republicans and independents, but they have fought together and bled together and some died together under the same proud flag. They have not served a Red America or a Blue America -- they have served the United States of America.”
Buchanan appeared to be transformed. There was a conspicuous lack of nay saying on his part -- replaced by kudos. Could it be that Pat Buchanan is working through this “fairness thing”, himself? Might he actually vote for Barack Obama? I won’t dare to venture a guess on that one. I’ll just close by temporarily slipping into the persona of the late Bernie Mac and ask, “America, will you be fair come November? Will you vote for the candidate who seeks to improve the quality of life for all Americans, or will you vote against your own self-interests simply because the man championing those interests is the wrong color? Drop me a line, America.”