Barak Obama has changed positions on several issues during the course of the campaign. Although a staunch Obama supporter, I believe whether his shifting (“flexibility”) is principled or political expediency has profound implications for his presidency. And Blacks’ euphoria tends to preclude all but positive assessments of “our” candidate
Obama’s promise is in unifying vastly diverse groups and maintaining unalterable ethical standards. His long- established liberal credentials are unassailable but changing positions will inevitably raise questions about his judgment and integrity.
Blacks must not permit their vote to be taken for granted. Obama supporter, Eric C. Watree, deplores his having first opposed, then supported the FICA bill that recently passed Congress. Watree feels Blacks must realize it is not in their best interest to choose individuals over ideals; he cites Obama’s support of wiretap legislation that blocked the opportunity to investigate George Bush’s spying on countless Americans and gave retroactive immunity to administration officials and communications companies, as significant reversal.
In February, I said it was too soon to know whether Obama was a genuine change agent; in June, I cautioned that his priorities would not be known until he became president, (at which time, Blacks must hold him accountable for addressing their concerns.) It’s still too soon to know if Obama is a genuine change agent but charisma, notwithstanding, his shifting-always to the center- should neither be overlooked nor minimized. (John McCain has also shifted position on an array of issues.)
Apart from disavowing Jeremiah Wright’s statements, Jeremiah himself, and quitting his church, Obama’s shift lift includes: Israel, North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), public campaign financing, Iraq, Iran, government wiretapping, handgun control, patriotic lapel pins and legislation giving corporations blank immunity for post-9/11 eavesdropping.
This raises questions that only Obama can answer. He has become a larger-than-life symbol of hope and successful (Black) leadership and there can be no doubt about his principles. Clarity will also help to solidify his support that should be based on “eyes open” acceptance of both his strengths and weaknesses.
It is axiomatic that presidential primaries are only incidentally about issues and mainly about winning the party’s nomination. But candidates often attempt to win over their party’s most ideologically driven voters. Obama departs from that strategy even though the centrist reversals are at odds with his liberal record.
As suggested earlier, this raises questions and concerns about an apparent “softness” and gives naysayers ammunition to criticize his liberalism. (He has been ranked as having the most liberal voting record in the Senate but Obama himself calls this misleading.) He also disagreed with the Supreme Court and contends states should be able to impose the death penalty for heinous crimes, and angered Labor by naming a chief economic advisor who has extolled the virtues of globalization. Some are increasingly concerned that Obama may abandon principles when he feels it advantageous.
Of course, there are those who feel Obama’s “backtracking” is smart politics and does not conflict with his liberal principles. However, he is already being perceived as downplaying views on which his reputation as a maverick was built. His staff is quoted as saying Obama is “committed to making decisions he feels are right”. Does this mean that they believe he can do whatever he pleases whenever he pleases.?
The broader context of this discussion is leadership, Black leadership, in particular. Earlier references to commitment, collaboration and accountability apply across the board and Obama must not be given a pass on accountability - especially on matters affecting the nation’s Blacks. Their concerns will not be evident in rhetorical proclamations but in discernible indicators of Obama’s commitment to their needs in his policies, legislation, regulations, etc., starting in the Oval Office and emanating throughout his administration. Like all elected officials, he is not above scrutiny or criticism but it is citizens responsibility to keep his feet to the fire.
Obama’s record speaks for itself and his appeal is nothing short of phenomenal. Legitimate concern about his changing positions will likely strengthen, not weaken the support or resolve of his most ardent followers-Blacks: Their vote must never be taken for granted.
We must all work hard to elect Obama the next president of the United States, not because he is Black, but because he respects and will respond to our needs and the needs of all others. Barak Obama is beyond question our best hope, but he must be held accountable for high ethical standards and not be given blind support.
Larry Aubry n can be contacted at e-mail