Obama as a state senator
A close-up look at Barack Obama’s years in the Illinois State Senate reveals someone different from the post-racial Barack Obama we thought we knew. Stanley Kurtz writes a must-read article on “Barack Obama’s Lost Years”, and it is in the Weekly Standard.
In 2004, a U.S. District Court disallowed the ordinance under which Chicago required the use of at least 25 percent minority business enterprises and 5 percent women’s business enterprises on city-funded projects. In the immediate aftermath of the ruling, Obama and Jesse Jackson were among the prominent voices calling for a black leadership summit to plot strategy for a restoration of Chicago’s construction quotas. Obama and his allies succeeded in bringing back race-based contracting.
A Chicago Defender story of 1999 features a front-page picture of Obama beside the headline, “Obama: Illinois Black Caucus is broken.” In the accompanying article, although Obama denies demanding that black legislators march in perfect lockstep, he expresses anger that black state senators have failed to unite for the purpose of placing a newly approved riverboat casino in a minority neighborhood. The failed casino vote, Obama argues, means that the black caucus “is broken and needs to unite for the common good of the African-American community.” Obama continues, “The problem right now is that we don’t have a unified agenda that’s enforced back in the community and is clearly articulated. Everybody tends to be lone agents in these situations.”
Speaking in reply to Obama was Mary E. Flowers, an African-American state senator who apparently broke black caucus discipline and voted to approve the casino’s location in a nonminority area. Said Flowers: “The Black Caucus is from different tribes, different walks of life. I don’t expect all of the whites to vote alike. . . . Why is it that all of us should walk alike, talk alike and vote alike? . . . I was chosen by my constituents to represent them, and that is what I try to do.” Given Obama’s supposedly post-racial politics, it is notable that he should be the one demanding enforcement of a black political agenda against “lone agents,” while another black legislator appeals to Obama to leave her free to represent her constituents, black or white, as she sees fit.