Way back in the olden thymes, there was a guy named Kurt Schmoke, who was the hottest thing in black politics since Martin Luther King. This was the late-70’s and early-80’s so most black politicians were like Jesse Jackson. Schmoke was different. He was charming and smart with credentials from the Ivy League. Most important, he was not standing on ghetto corners yelling about the honkies. Instead, he had moderate political views, worked in the legitimate economy as an attorney and he participated in mainstream politics. He was the sort of well-behaved black guy white liberals love.
Schmoke was supposed to be the example of how Progressive race polices would succeed. He went to public school, but got into Yale, went onto a Rhodes Scholarship and then Harvard Law School. This was how race policy was supposed to work. Given the opportunity to be free of white racism, blacks could rise to the very top of society and compete with whites. No one talked about affirmative action and it probably never played much of a role. Schmoke was a genuinely smart guy, but that did not stop white liberals from taking credit.
Schmoke eventually won office in ’82 and then became mayor of Baltimore in ’87. Everyone assumed he would be governor one day and then who knows. Instead, the politics of Baltimore devoured him. He went into office as a cerebral, race neutral technocrat. He was going to fix the city and avoid the racial politics. By the time he left office, he was wearing a dashiki and waving the flag of the African National Congress. Instead of being the sort of black politician that made white liberals proud, he ended up the sort that made them ashamed.
Twenty years after Schmoke was written off by white liberals, they had found a new great black hope. Barak Obama was a “new breed” of black politician. He was the product of the best schools and, according to Joe Biden, “the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy.” Even better, he had an exotic back story with a white mother, a Kenyan father and a youth spent in Indonesian madrassahs. Obama’s 2004 speech at the Democratic convention made him a star in the party and punched his ticket as the next big thing.
The 2008 presidential was one long sales pitch about how Barak Obama was the salve to what ailed America. Obama was the quintessential example of what post-racial America was going to be. He was a post-racial healer, who would close the books on America’s racist past. The way the Obamasoxers carried on in 2008, you could be forgiven if you thought Obama was the leader of a new cult. They truly believed he was the fulfillment of prophecy. He was the one to bring about the end to the long civil war in favor of those on the winning side of history.
The Magic Negro stuff was never going to last. It’s not how the world works and it is certainly not how things work with the American Left. Obama was always a prop, a pitchman, an actor hired to play a role written for him by old white lefties from the 1960’s. His job was to freak out the squares. People forget that in 2008, the chatter from the Left was that whites feared nothing more than an intelligent, articulate black man. They believed it which is why they hired Obama in the first place. That was the point. They did not care a whit about Obama’s ideas. His job was to read from the teleprompter.
Things did not go as planned. The debacle of health care led to the midterm disaster and the Left decided Obama had to be more scary. The Henry Louis Gates flap was where the shift began. Obama the racial healer could have turned that into a chance to close the books on the bitter racism of Gates, but that would not have freaked out the squares in the suburbs. Instead, Obama made it clear that when the choice was between a black and a white, particularly a white authority figure, the weight of his government would back the black guy.
Here we are at the end of his time in office and America is looking worse on the race front that it has since the late 60’s. Instead of the post-racial leader of a unified America, we have a bitter black guy shaking his fist at the honkies, while homicidal blacks run wild in American streets. All the talk of the new black political leader seems like a long time ago. It’s also reminiscent of the end for Kurt Schmoke. The reason Schmoke rose to be a star was that he was black. In order to remain a star, or at least remain in office, he had to keep getting blacker.
That’s been the story with Obama. He has gone from the Magic Negro to Barak X.