An interesting exchange — give me your thoughts

I received this email from a man whose path crossed mine several years ago. He is an exceptional human being involved in exceptional work: several years ago he took off went to Gambia to do some doctoring for no reason other than it was a way to serve. His blogs and stories were the stuff of a modern day Schweitzer, though he would likely deny the similarity.

Anyway, he sent me a response of one of his friends to my last blog on Hillary. I find it instructive. I’m sending it on to you with my response attached. I would love to see others write their thoughts in the “comments” section at the bottom of my blog.

Here is the exchange:

Kent, here’s an email I got from a friend after pointing him to your latest “News from..” column.

This hadn’t occurred to me. I’d seen her drive as pure hubris. Perhaps not….


Mr Nerburn has, like very very many others, missed the point of Hilary’s fight entirely. Unfortunately there is absolutely no way that she can mention it. Quite simply, regardless of his qualities and likeability (wasn’t Bush supposed to be ‘likeable’?) he is black. The US is still very racist, and there is no way that a black candidate will become president at this time. An Obama win over Clinton will DEFINITELY result in McCain becoming president.

The remedy, difficult and no doubt unpopular amongst his supporters, is for Obama to face facts as they regrettably are, and stand aside to allow Clinton to be nominated. It really doesn’t matter whether she is the better candidate. We do not want another four or eight years of a Republican president – and that is what WILL happen if Obama stands.

The best solution, and maybe the only one that will give Democrats a fighting chance, is a Clinton/Obama ticket. After being a successful VP for four (or eight) years there is an excellent chance of him then getting the top job. He is young enough to wait.

If he does stand at this time, and inevitably loses, he will eliminate all hope of a black president for at least a decade.

Mr Nerburn seems to think that Clinton is just being stubborn and dishonest. So she is, and must be. If she told the truth (that Obama, being black, will not be elected) she would be denounced as racist and she too would be unelectable. It is a large minority of Democrat voters who are racist, but will not admit it openly. They will in voting though!

Maybe I’m the only one who thinks this, but I would hate to have to say “I told you so” come November! I’m very pessimistic. Democrats are unbeatable – at losing election. And they are heading that way yet again.


And my response to his response:

Hi David,

Good to hear from you. I stand in awe of what you’ve done since we met several years ago. We’re too old to have heroes, but we can certainly have exemplars, and you have proven to be one. Thanks for what you do.

Your friend is a smart man. I heard the same thing from a national photographer who was covering Hillary in Pine Ridge. He had been shadowing various candidates since before New Hampshire. He said that he thought McCain was going to win because the middle of America didn’t like Obama. He wasn’t as convinced that it was pure racism, but that was one ingredient in a stew that was potent and boiling. “There are no people that look like us” in Obama’s audiences, he said, referring to middle aged white guys.

Unscientific? Perhaps. But those were his words.

Perhaps my hope is based on being the father of a 19 year old who grabbed one of his friends and went to the Obama speech at the Excel Center last night. I guess I still believe in, or hope for, a “Children’s Crusade.” After all, we had one when we were young, though we didn’t pose it in those terms. Old white folks always come out to vote; perhaps young folks of all colors will be energized to do so by Obama. It’s my wish — more than that, it’s almost my prayer.

The frightening thing is that McCain even has a chance. If the Democrats can’t win this one, they should fold up their tent. They’re running against one of the weakest candidates in memory; they’re running on the worst economic situation in memory; and they’re running against easily the worst president in my lifetime and, perhaps, in the history of the republic. If they lose this, what hope is there?

At this one moment in time I have to refuse to let myself be as cynical as your friend, though I fear that his cynicism is simply realism. If we start to see some swiftboating bulletheads turning Obama into an upper class white man, and the Democrats let it happen, I’ll buy your friend a drink and we can drown our collective sorrows. But, for now, I’ve got to believe in the light in the young people’s eyes.

Thanks for writing. May our paths cross again.


If any of you have thoughts, please weigh in. Is Hillary’s constant refrain that she’s the candidate with the best chance to beat McCain really just realpolitik in action? Is it really just code for, “A black man can’t win”?

17 thoughts on “An interesting exchange — give me your thoughts”

  1. Meredith Neria

    This is the VERY reason for Senator Obama to continue in this campaign — to prove that this is the time for us, as US citizens, to overcome our prejudice, bigotry, small-mindedness and history and elect a very capable, trustworthy candidate, black or otherwise. If we cannot, then we don’t deserve him as President. Senator Clinton is very capable and suitable to be President of USA, but Senator Obama will do more good for this country in the long run if he is the Democrat candidate, more so when he wins the Presidency.
    If this country can’t see that, then we have earned the alternative, sadly. And I am not being pessimistic. I’ve usually voted Republican or Independent. This is the time for Senator Obama. My husband and I are Texan blue-collar, white Baby Boomers.
    Meredith Neria

  2. i feel most people just want Bush out and don’t really care about who is in. The press have made this a personality event and not an issues event.
    I really liked Obama, but have already tired of his hyperbole. His constant call for ”CHANGE” Well, no shit Obama. Unfortunately change his going to take generations after what the criminal Bush administration has put us and our planet thru the last eight years. Obama does not say what he is actually going to DO to create this ”change.” He scares me because I don’t think he has what it is going to take. Not cuz he is black, more because he is green and naive. I did not like Clinton, but am now thinking she has the BALLS to get things done. Obama is against universal health care, is pro-nuke, and has stated that Ronald Reagan is one of his heroes. THAT scares me more than anything! When he was at Crow Agency Rez a couple weeks ago, he said the same EXACT words Bush said in his now infamous ”soveireign” speech for tribes. watch the videos on youtube. A lot of people are going to just vote for him because he IS black, just as a lot of people are not going to vote for him because of the color of his skin. Sad indeed. My two teen-age kids feel like they and their generation are screwed either way. Ball of confusion. That’s what the world is today. Hey Hey.

  3. I think there is merit in both commentaries. I think America is NOT ready for a Black preseident and will show it in their voting come November. This will be tragic for the nation as McCain is NOT the man for the job.

    However, Kent may have a point that young people “could” save the day by going out to vote for Obama in droves come November. Then, he stands a chance.

    My solution? An Obama/Clinton ticket! With Hillary as VP, I think the democtrats are a shoe-in. And, we NEED THEM DESPERATELY! Let’s send letters to Obama begging him to pick Hillary as his running mate. It’s the best chance we have to succeed!

  4. Dear Kent,
    Writing from the heart of Texas now – I do read your newsletter! I’ve been blogging about this and related issues for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s DonkeyTales08 and have put my entries on my blogsite (below). I was an Obama delegate to my county convention and will attend the Texas convention this weekend as a volunteer. I believe Obama can, will and should win. I’m amazed at the people I’m finding all over the country (old friends like you I haven’t spoken with in how many years? a 19 year old son? My little Bobby has two children!) who are for Obama. Yes, race is in the picture. Well, let’s get on with building a new world. There’s great enthusiasm in Texas, which very well might go for Obama. It will be a tough fight, but Obama is an extraordinary leader and manager who keeps winning people over. Nobody’s perfect, but he’s remarkable and Billary have stumbled, stumbled, stumbled.
    Linda Walsh Jenkins

  5. I cannot agree with the assessment of the writer your friend forwarded. Obama is obviously a “Man of Color,” but I am seeing beyond that when I listen to him. Simply to say that Hillary is the better choice because Barack Obama is black is ludicrous. I have never seen the Democratic Party so mobilized in my memory as I have during this Primary Campaign. We can thank Obama for that. He has energized the young and gotten them interested in politics like never before.

    Obama is inexperienced in some things, but he is not inexperienced in politics and grass roots democracy. McCain and Hillary might say that Obama has no background or experience to bring to the Oval Office, but both Bill Clinton and George Bush came to the presicency without any experience on the national level. You choose advisers and experts to help you learn and deal with domestic and foreign issues. We can see that Obama has done so during this campaign. I cannot see him bowing out in favor of Hillary simply because his skin is darker than hers.

    With the results of the primary campaign over, and his having surpassed Hillary in the needed delegate count, I am surprised that anyone would be so convoluted in their thinking as to wish to see him step down now and accept the Vice Presidential seat. A recent poll has placed him ahead of McCain, and now that the real hunt begins, I can only see him surging forward and winning the presidency in November.

    I agree with your assessment of both Hillary Clinton and George Bush. We need to move on and not stay with the status quo. I am an Independent and always vote for the best candidate in my estimation. The one that I feel will best represent my interests. While I don’t agree with everything Obama has said, he makes more sense than McCain to me.

  6. Carole Humphrey

    This is our one real hope for a true new beginning. We have to get rid of weak, fear-mongers like Bush and Mc Cain. I too think the best way to achieve this would be an Obama/Clinton ticket. I have been on the fence between the two, and have generally been a Hillary supporter, although I think Obama is an equally good option, and will vote for him. I come from Hillary’s generation. I too have worked all of my life, raised a child, and experienced much sexism in the work force. I am very aware of the anti-Hillary camp. Hillary is strong, outspoken at times, and smart. She is sometimes brash, and seems like the ice-queen to many. She has to be. She would not be where she is if she wasn’t. She knows the political ropes(both from a positive and a negative viewpoint. I do believe that if she was male (and not married to Bill), the press, Republicans, and the anti-Hillary public, would probably not be as hard on her. I think I understand why she is hanging in there. It is a statement of her conviction to the party, to women, men and the future of our country and our children. Also, I feel her staying in has kept the focus on the Democrats. Yes, she has made some errors along the way. She has said some things she shouldn’t have. We’ve all been there. I applaud her for hanging in there and for following her dreams. She is a role model for all of us, our children and our grandchildren. The same is true for Obama. We need to all band together to make this an Obama/Clinton ticket and to urge EVERYONE to vote. If we don’t see the positive, only the negative, we will surely be defeated. As a teacher of young children, I constantly remind them of the “Little Engine that Could.” When they are faced with something they feel they can’t succeed at, I have them chant “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can..I KNOW I can.” We need to all loudly say “We KNOW we can”!

  7. Kent:
    I really like your work and, in fact, we carry Neither Wolf nor Dog on our website Back 40 However, I need to make a post here that will probably anger a lot of people. Frankly, none of the three candidates in the lead are the right choice for our country at this time. Unfortunately the best qualified person with the right ideas is…Surprise!: Ron Paul.
    I am a 65 year old CEO and have voted for both democrats and republicans. I know that Paul can’t win, but I have been part of his movement since early on. I never thought I would ever vote for a conservative Republican. But I do hope folks will read his book The Revolution and take the time to consider his views.
    No matter which of the three mainstream candidates we elect, we can expect to continue to travel down the road to extremely bad times for our country. Ironically many, many well known leaders and corporate executives agree with Dr. Paul but know as well as I do that the American people don’t want to hear the truth about what got us into this mess and what our options are to pull us out of it. Thanks for your time.
    Herman Beck-Chenoweth

  8. Janie Hougen Peak

    Clinton has not clearly articulated why she is “more electable”. It is her failure to be clear that has fostered the debate over her motives and the meaning of her words.

    We must object to the insinuation that Clinton is more electable because she is White. If this is her subtext, as Geoff asserts, it is negative, devisive, and unacceptable. It enables the bigot and fans the flames of bigotry itself.

    Perhaps she doesn’t visualize an America that can elect and support a Black president. I do.

    Americans will have ample opportunity to watch and listen to the candidates in the next five months. Given this time, Clinton’s supporters could surprise us. This is the ideal moment for many to re-evaluate their personal biases. Those who did not vote for Obama because of his race deserve the opportunity to change.

  9. As a father, professional and as a citizen I find that our labeling is judgemental. We put so much into a divided system Democrats and Replublicans that we forget that all great empires and civilizations that were divided have fallen. “A house divided cannot stand” as the quote goes. I have watch the political process again and find it revulting. When did we loose the capacity to look and the credibility and integrity of a person and whether they can represent the people (Us). We shall just have to see how far we really have gone a stray. As a good friend has said “Our task is not to judge the path of others, but to find a path that will lead you to the murmings of your heart”.

  10. As a father, professional and as a citizen I find that our labeling is judgemental. We put so much into a divided system Democrats and Replublicans that we forget that all great empires and civilizations that were divided have fallen. “A house divided cannot stand” as the quote goes. I have watch the political process again and find it revulting. When did we loose the capacity to look and the credibility and integrity of a person and whether they can represent the people (Us). We shall just have to see how far we really have gone a stray. As a good friend has said “Our task is not to judge the path of others, but to find a path that will lead you to the murmings of your heart”.

  11. Mark Scheithauer

    As an American I find myself deeply disturbed and disappointed at the cast of ‘characters’ running for our nation’s highest, and arguably, most important office.
    Of three hundred and fifty plus million people, these three are the best we can do?
    Neither the black man, the white woman, nor the old white guy appear, to me, to have anything like what it takes to do more than simply keep the system going the way it has been, which has set our country on a dangerous and possibly fatal occurrence.
    All three have shown they are more than willing to say anything it takes to get the election won. Not one of them has proposed a single hard measure that will bring my friends home from Iraq, help unemployed neighbors find jobs that have been outsourced, ensure everyone has at least access to good health care, stem the flood of illegal immigration, or address the multitude of problems that beset us and seem poised to drag us down into a ‘has-been’ world power.
    They all have all the hyperbole, hit the right verbal buttons, and orate until they are blue in their collective faces, but when the hot air has all passed, none appears to have a clue as to how to tackle the issues that face us today and in the forseeable future.
    Our nation is a constant source of good and positive things, the world over. As we slip into decline, that ability to be the world’s ‘friend’ will diminish and people will suffer. We are losing the ability, the will, and the economic wherewithal to do all the good we are capable of.
    Detractors point to America’s mistakes, her dark periods, but I simply say that every single culture, society, and nation on earth has gone through dark times and made mistakes. Why do people choose to pick on the biggest target as if we were the only one?
    We are castigated, threatened, and torn from the outside and the inside by nay-sayers who focus on the mistakes and ignore the positive impact we have had on the world, and still might have, if we can only find a strong hand to take over and make the changes, the hard decisions, the unpopular choices that our current candidates only prattle on about.
    I love good oratory, too. It’s entertaining. But when all the hot air blows away, the job is still left to do, and it is not done with excuses, finger-pointing, assigning blame, and bewailing the difficulty of the job or simply blaming the trouble upon one’s predecessor, a time-honored American presidential tradition.
    So please, let’s cut the nonesense. Stop saying the word ‘Change’ as if it magically happens because all the good hearts in America want it to happen. It’s like saying we should click the heels on our ruby slippers three times to go back to Kansas. Let’s give up on the mad rhetoric that courts voters and try and work with the concrete issues instead of fantasy and ‘gee-wouldn’t-this-be-great-if…’ blather.
    I desperately want to hope. I want for my daughter to be able to dream, too. I want all of us to live in a better world. And I’d like to teach the world to sing in perfect harmony… But none of these hacks touting their own brand of ‘I can build a better world…’ seems to have anything more than a sack of wind, a few fantasies, and an ego big enough to make them think they have all the answers and can do it all, when their various work records are pretty thin on actual accomplishments when it comes to governing and making this world a better place.
    Please forgive my cynicism, but I am desperate for a candidate woh can give me some reason to hope and not a disappointing feeling of “another four/eight years of the same stuff.”

  12. Our country needs change, a breath of fresh air, and hope for better days to come. Obama is our only hope.

  13. So many civilaztions have been built upon the foundations of previous ones. Electing Jillary and or McCain would have been just that and yes our country would have continued and one day we would ride out the cyclic economic pressures of today and tomorrow we would still have a bigger gap between rich and poor and the only place the MAerican Dream would be alive is in China. My son came home some what like yours Kent excited about a candidate for the first time ever after hearing Obama at Georia Tech in Atlanta last year. He texted me during the speech called me following and came out to the house to talk about his experience. We can say it is simply that an experience but it is through experiences and others experiences that we create movements and it is through movements we build new foundations and now is as good a time as any. Why wait eight years lets start NOW.

  14. If we base our views on the past and cynicism, that is what we will get more of in the next president. If we open our minds to possibility and take a stand, that is what will show up in the next president. I’m “old” and “white” and not expecting anyone else to provide hope for me or any sector of the population to either represent me or take responsibility for me. Kent Nerburn inspires me, Barack Obama inspires me, and I move forward with a sense of resonance with their points of view.

  15. Alexandra Saperstein

    A black man HAS now won the candidacy against the most powerful woman in the Democratic party. And I believe he can win the presidency as well. I’m looking forward to it!

  16. Place your dreams with Obama with care! He is a wonderful speaker, but it is all smoke and mirrors. He did NOTHING as an Illinois senator (at the time, he held the record for most Not Presents) and was part of the senate cabal in that state. He has nothing more than platitudes and smooth words. Don’t we need soemthing more concrete than promises?
    We could really use a good candidate now, and a third party seems to be the way to go. I pray that it happens, for the sake of our children and our country.

  17. How is it that someone with one white parent and one black parent is black? Is race paternally inherited? If Obama had a white father and a black mother would he then be white?

    Of course not. The pervasive tendency to seek (and uncritically accept) such simplistic categorization is a yet another symptom of the failure of public education to grasp and promulgate even the most basic tenets of post-Darwinian biology. Obama, like Tiger, force us to recognize that racial categories are social constructs rather than biological realities.

    Can Obama win? Of course. Will he be assassinated by some racist lunatic? Sadly, it seems quite probable. Is the melatonin level of his skin relevant to his electability? It certainly shouldn’t be…

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