I could kick myself for missing not one, but two of the last presidential inaugurations. Much of that regret initially pertained to missing out on what has become the political equivalent of All-Star Weekend – something that most of us will hopefully agree has been long overdue. So yes, I was a bit disappointed that I was missing out on the Hip-Hop Inaugural Ball featuring rap’s newest uncle, 2 Chainz (one of the first ever ‘rookie’ artists who’s old enough to become POTUS himself), and of course, being on the lawn to witness history. Now I’m even more frustrated because the more I think about it, the more I worry that this will probably be the last time a Black person will be sworn in as president in my adult life.
I know what many of you are thinking. “Why not be more optimistic? The barrier has been broken. No one could’ve predicted that a random first-term senator would manage to usurp a political heavyweight with a powerful last name and go on to set up arguably the most successful political operation in American history. If Obama could, why can’t another?”
Insert lyrics from “Hero” and “I Believe I Can Fly” here.
True enough, it’s not impossible for another Black politician to make it the highest office in the land before I have to start twirking with the assist of a cane, but neither are the chances of Beyoncé winning an Academy Award for her acting or Taylor Swift tapping Project Pat for a duet. Shoot, Houston’s finest has a better shot than all of the above (shut up).
But no really, name the politicians who as of today have a credible chance at securing the Democratic presidential nomination let alone the presidency? There is Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick, who won’t be seeking reelection in 2014, and after a rousing speech at the last Democratic National Convention, has seen his name floated around as a potential candidate in 2016. Well, as CNN demonstrated mere seconds after President Obama was privately sworn into his second term, 2016 is all about Hillary Clinton.
Should Clinton seek the nomination, I don’t see lightning striking twice and some talented Black politician managing to wobble right past her in a primary. Maybe he can be her running mate or something, though. Patrick is young enough to run later in life, but though he seems great and all, we know how this country treats presidential candidates from Massachusetts.
Then there is Cory Booker, a favorite of the Marvel Comics wing of the party, who is noticeably building his resume with his proposed plan to run for the Senate. While it’s true that he has a much better shot at becoming New Jersey’s junior senator than he does defeating Chris Christie in a gubernatorial race, the latter position would make him a much more formidable presidential contender. Plus, securing a wife and at least 2.5 children to fit America’s idea of a president in recent decades.
Even so, senators don’t typically end up as commander-in-chief. Republicans know this, and though much of their minority governors are essentially spewing out the same awful whitewashed conservative ideology, the fact remains that them holding executive power is an advantage. Maybe that’s something Democrats will learn as they groom future national figures of their party, including Attorney General of California, Kamala Harris.
As it stands now, the larger issue to me is personnel more than political climates; yet as much as I want to give the country more credit, the treatment of President Obama by his opponents in his first term combined with the failure of the media at large to discuss its source candidly makes me question how far we’ve truly come. The ‘audacity of hope’ is a beautiful thing, but reality has revealed how un-ready many of our countrymen are for Black leadership…even after we soundly elected a Black POTUS not once, but twice. Don’t believe me? Ask the Tea Party and the Birthers and all others who ran with the various Obama as a secret Kenyan/homosexual/Muslim/terrorist/Nazi theories.
However, in her new Lean Forward ad, MSNBC’s Melissa Harris Perry reminds us: “President Obama’s reelection is in certain ways more important even though it’s less emotional, because it says that African Americans having a stake – a governing stake – in this country is just normal, regular, maybe even unremarkable. And in a certain way that’s more valuable for our understanding of equality than the celebration of the first time it happened. It’s really when it becomes something you don’t really talk about anymore that you know we’re moving towards some kind of racial equality.”
I’m not convinced that reading about presidents who love playing spades on Air Force One will become commonplace in the foreseeable future, but her point is clear. That said, where we’ve won in symbolism we continue lacking in decimating racial and class barriers that brings about genuine equality. Still, the idea of another Black president is only now implausible to some, but impossible to no one anymore.
The difference is key and hard to ignore – even to skeptics unsure of if and when we’ll get a repeat performance.