Thursday, March 13, 2008

Obama is The Black Larry Bird

It's a bit eye opening to see some of my favorite bloggers take the side of Geraldine Ferraro in her awful comments about Barack Obama. I think the argument they make can be summed up as "hey Geraldine Ferraro is right. A big part Obama's appeal is the fact he is black". Kaus even links Andrew Sullivan, in what he thinks is some type of Gotcha!.

But of course, Ferraro said no such thing. She said the only reason Obama is where he is, is because of his skin color. To quote, "he would not be in this position if he were white". It was not meant as a compliment to Obama's appeal, but as an insult to diminish his accomplishments.

I think the success and appeal of Larry Bird is fitting analogy to the success and appeal of Barack Obama. Larry Bird excelled in a game that is generally dominated by players of another ethnicity. There have not been that many successful white American-born basketball players in the last 25 years. But not only did he excel, he was one of the two best players of his generation. There is no denying that fact given the numbers he put up and the championships the Celtics won.

Of course, being white made him a tremendously popular player, especially with white fans. Not only is there the straightforward appeal of seeing someone who shares your background become successful, but there is also the appeal of rooting for the underdog.

Now there is nothing wrong with arguing that a large part of Larry Bird's appeal was his race, as I have done here. It is an indisputable fact.

But you can't argue that Larry Bird would not have been a great basketball player if he was black. But some people certainly tried. That was an argument made by Isaiah Thomas in 1989 who said, "if Larry Bird was a black guy, he would just be another good guy". That is insulting, offensive, bitter and utterly false.

Barack Obama is excelling in a field that is generally dominated by politicians of another ethnicity. There have not been that many successful black politicians on the national stage. Not only is he excelling, he leading the race to become the Democratic nominee for President. There is no denying that fact given the votes he has received and the contests he has won.

So if you want to argue that part of Obama's appeal is his ethnicity, that's true. We just haven't seen a black politician this talented before on the national stage and I will admit it is exciting.

But that is not the point Ferraro made. If you listened to her multiple interviews, she argues that being black is the only reason Obama is winning. But if being black was so important to being president, we would have had a black one a long time ago.

Barack Obama is a intelligent, charismatic, and skilled politician. And he's black. That last fact is a wonderful aspect of his campaign. But it is not the reason he is winning.