It’s too bad right-wing provocateur Andrew Breitbart never met Derrick Bell, because it might have made him a better man.
Of all the news that surfaced after Breitbart’s sudden death, I was most stunned by the evidence that he was preparing to use Professor Bell to attack President Obama. Perhaps you’ve seen the clips of The Hug, taken by WGBH in 1991 while Obama was a student at Harvard Law School. Student Obama introduced Professor Bell to a crowd protesting the lack of faculty diversity. Then, they embraced. This happened the year after Bell had lost his tenured position owing to his taking unpaid leave in protest the school’s failure to hire a black woman as a tenured professor. He was one of three black men on the faculty, but he recognized that black women need a role model, and there were none. Harvard dragged its institutional feet, and he never returned to teach. But his legacy lived on there long after he accepted a position as Visiting Professor at New York University.
What has been happening in Madison, Wisconsin, should cheer anyone who has lost hope in American democracy. It is even balm for the despair many of us feel about the often passive Democratic Party.
While the Democratic state senators Governor Scott Walker needs to kill collective bargaining remain holed up in an Illinois motel, thousands of protestors—public workers and their supporters— fill the public spaces of the Wisconsin’s rococo capitol building. Many of them have brought their sleeping bags to the rotunda.
This should not surprise us.
During the run-up to the 2002 Congressional election, I was traveling in South Georgia. One ad, run repeatedly, caught my attention, because it featured candid shots of New York Congressman Charles Rangel whose wavy silver locks brushed the collar of his custom shirt in a style that was more New Orleans than Savannah.
Although race was never mentioned, the voiceover proclaimed that if Democrats won control of the House of Representatives, voters could look forward to the ascension of this obviously dark-skinned man to the Ways and Means Committee chair.
Tuesday’s election still fills me with awe, and not just for Barack Obama. The American electorate is wiser than I dared hope. Even John McCain, who ran a shoddy campaign, delivered a concession speech that was generous and inspiring. Sarah Palin has flown back to Alaska with new respect, I would hope, for the power of community organizing.
I spent the week prior to the election in a place I’d never known existed—Northeast Philadelphia—with a marvelous group of people, most of whom were volunteers.
John McCain’s selection of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, 44, as his running mate makes indelibly clear the Democratic error in not exposing the Republican abuse of power that has flowered since the attacks of 2001. The opportunity for someone as inexperienced and volatile as Palin to exploit these newly assumed powers is all too real. George W. Bush's and Dick Cheney’s quest for the “unitary executive” has lead them to trample on Constitutional protections Richard Nixon only dreamed of violating. And no matter what his claims of being a maverick, McCain has yet to assert that his view of power and how to yield it differs from theirs.
Summarizing reporting by the New Yorker’s Jane Mayer, and Barton Gellman and Jo Becker of the Washington Post, Hendrik Hertzberg wrote back in the July 9, 2007, New Yorker: “... it is now, so to speak, official: for the past six years, Dick Cheney, the occupant of what John Adams called ‘the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived,’ has been the most influential public official in the country, not necessarily excluding President Bush, and his influence has been entirely malign.
Random reflections on politics, the media, political activism, women's lives and spirituality, often inspired by travel, cultural events or what I read.
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