Once upon a time, there was a Mythical First Black President who held court with his white Wife. They lorded over the land, until he was impeached and she bolted for the world’s greatest deliberative body.
Today, the Mythical First Black President is trying to help the Wife beat the Candidate who could be the Actual First Black President.
The Wife launched the first racial salvo, when she suggested that all Martin Luther King, Jr. did for civil rights was to "make speeches." To reinforce the point, she said, "It took a president (Lyndon Johnson) to get it done." Meaning: it was swell that King made some speeches and stuff, but it took the white guy in power to make it happen.
The Mythical First Black President then disrupted his welcome in Black Presidentville with a cranky tantrum: the campaign of the Candidate was "the biggest fairy tale" he’d ever seen.
Blacks around the country took offense that their Mythical Leader would dismiss the actual black candidate as a fantasy, so the Mythical First Black President took to the airwaves to try to clarify: he meant that the Candidate’s position on Iraq was a "fairy tale," not his candidacy. Most black audiences weren’t buying what the MFBP was selling this time.
Meanwhile, the Wife claimed that while the Candidate was an "inspirational speaker" (shorthand for a great preacher), he hadn’t "put in the spade work to be president."
The Rev. Al Sharpton must be too busy admiring his "Destroying Don Imus Award" to notice.
Two Sundays ago on "Meet the Press," the Wife claimed that this campaign shouldn’t be "about race." Which is why she didn’t mention race, right?
New polls show that black voters support the Candidate by a 50 point margin over the Wife of the Mythical First Black President. Among white voters, the Wife has a much more vulnerable 14 point lead.
Meanwhile, the Candidate seems to have finally figured out that he isn’t just running against the Wife, but against the Mythical First Black President as well.
In comments to a newspaper last week, the Candidate seemed to casually mention that Ronald Reagan had changed the country "in ways that Richard Nixon did not" and "in ways Bill Clinton did not." He did three crucial things here: 1. he acknowledged that 2008 is a change election year on the scale of 1980; 2. he acknowledged that Reagan was a vitally important change agent (hello, conservatives!); and 3. he hit back at the Mythical First Black President, perhaps falling into a trap set for him by the MFBP’s Team in order to reinforce how “naïve” and “inexperienced” he is.
But this may be the only way the Candidate can deal with the reality that the Mythical First Black President isn’t just a surrogate for the Wife, but is himself running for a third term.
On Monday’s Good Morning America, the Candidate said, "Bill has taken his advocacy on behalf of his wife to a level that I think is pretty troubling. He continues to make statements that are not supported by the facts….This has become a habit, and one of the things that we’re going to have to do is to directly confront Bill Clinton when he’s making statements that are not factually accurate."
What?! The Mythical First Black President, an habitual liar?!
The Candidate also took a page out of the MFBP’s 1992 playbook: that year, the upstart Arkansas governor referred to the incumbent president against whom he was running as "Mr. Bush." The Candidate referring to the MFBP as "Bill" is a delectable example of "what goes around, comes around."
All three Democratic candidates for president — the MFBP, the Wife, and the Candidate — spent the Martin Luther King, Jr. national holiday dueling for black votes. The Mythical First Black President thinks he can charm those voters on behalf of the Wife. But the actual black man in the race has a thing or two he wants to say about that, and for the first time, the MFBP may be out of his depth.
Black voters in South Carolina and beyond might say to the New Hampshire women who carried her over the finish line, "We’re glad you’re proud to have a woman in the race. But we’ve got a black man in the race, and we’re proud of him, too." The pendulum, in other words, may swing again.
Here’s another rich but sad irony: the Mythical First Black President and the Wife claim to embrace minorities, to work for their advancement, to help them achieve equality, and to work toward racial unity. And yet they stoke the flames of racism, dismissing a black man of undeniable ability as a "fairy tale," and dividing by race.
For two people who claim to admire Dr. King, the Mythical First Black President and his Wife have turned his most powerful adage upside down: they are asking us to judge the black candidate by the color of his skin, NOT by the content of his character.
Then again, would you expect anything different from two people whose own characters are empty and malignant?