We’re still in Kansas, Toto!

Dec 31, 2008 at 6:00 am

I’m not big on New Year’s resolutions, but I’m asking readers to make one for 2009. Stay engaged! That’s it. It might be harder than you think.

Let’s talk about what staying “engaged” means.

By staying engaged, you must remain consistently committed to understanding political shifts and decisions beyond shallow bandwagons. This is especially important since the rise of Obamamania. I’m not saying support of President-to-be Obama is bad (I voted for him, too). But, I am saying uninformed support and short-term engagement is dangerous. Just know what you’re supporting, folks. One of my mentors said something interesting immediately following the election: “Those who know the least are the most excited.” Hmm.

Let’s catch up on some of what’s gone down over the last couple of months. After railing against “dynastic politics,” “Washington politics” and “politics as usual” during the campaign, many of Mr. Change’s choices for his Cabinet, White House staff and other high-level positions in his incoming administration are people who have ties to Washington and old administrations. These include Clintonistas Hillary Clinton, Rahm Emanuel, Eric Holder, Timothy Geithner, Lawrence Summers, Gregory Craig and others.

Some of the choices are interesting. Craig, for instance, is the attorney who defended Clinton during the impeachment hearings. He also presented and won the insanity defense for John Hinckley Jr. that allows Ronald Reagan’s would-be assassin to spend weekends with his family. After soliciting Princeton Professor Cornel West’s support during the primaries, Obama selected Summers as his chief economic advisor. Summers is the man who all but ran West away from Harvard when Summers was the school’s president. Wonder what West thinks now.

Obama’s selection of Eric Holder (who is black) as his attorney general raised a few eyebrows among the informed. Holder, an adamant death penalty supporter, also pushed to make the penalty for distribution and possession with intent to distribute marijuana a felony instead of a misdemeanor, punishable with up to a five-year sentence. The measure became law in D.C. in 2000, increasing black incarceration rolls in the District. This choice seems to be in striking contrast to Obama’s seeming opposition to long sentences for nonviolent drug offenders and capital punishment.

Lately, Obama has outraged the LGBT communities by selecting evangelical megachurch pastor Rick Warren to deliver the invocation at his inauguration. Anti-abortionist Warren also supported the highly controversial Proposition 8 that passed on election night in California banning same-sex marriage. “He selected someone who actively worked to eliminate the rights of me and millions of others,” said Geoff Kors, executive director of Equality California and a leader in the fight against Prop 8. The choice was “appalling,” he added. “If that’s Obama’s idea of a new day, we are in a lot of trouble.”

Meet the new boss … same as the old boss?

Cox Newspaper columnist Tom Teepen wrote recently, “The Obama enthusiasts who believed in Oz and thought Obama was just the whirlwind to get them there are left in the mundane prairie dust. Their candidate is turning out to be the moderate he said he was, more a pragmatic progressive — and that more by inclination than by doctrine — than any sort of schematic liberal. We’re not going over the rainbow.”

Wake up, Dorothy — you and Toto are still in Kansas, and the Wizard ain’t real!

Meanwhile, in South Africa, following the ouster of President Thabo Mbeki, the new Congress of the People Party (COPE) broke from the African National Congress (ANC). Interestingly, less than 15 years after the ANC came to power with the election of Nelson Mandela while combating racial oppression, the black-controlled COPE proclaimed itself a true, “non-racial” party. This declaration comes in a country still steeped in racial oppression of the black masses despite new profiteering black leadership. I guess South Africa is now “post-racial,” too — just like America.

Well, you’ve voted. Now the hard part begins. Now you need to pay attention, learn and stay engaged after the hoopla dies down. Can you do that?

Remember, until next time — have no fear, stay strong, stand on truth, do justice and do not leave the people in the hands of fools.


Ricky L. Jones is associate professor in the Department of Pan-African Studies at U of L and author of “What’s Wrong With Obamamania?” His column is published in the last issue of each month. Visit him at www.rickyljones.com