Charles Pierce’s column for the September 2012 issue of Esquire Magazine, Black Like Him: Obama’s Narrow Path to Reelection is an absolute must-read.
He perfectly articulates the social obstacles that, to a certain extent, dictate the president’s demeanor and govern the way in which he can present himself to the nation. We’ve witnessed this just recently with the “you didn’t build that” attack. And it’s far past time to have a frank discussion on the subject. Not just because the Right is nakedly racist. We know that.
Here’s an excerpt.
These are some things the president of the United States cannot say but that I can say about him. Because he is a black man, he has an obligation to be grateful to the white people who voted him into office. Because he is a black man, he has an obligation not to use the full powers of his office in such a way as to alienate any of the white people who so graciously voted him into office. Because he is a black man, he has an obligation not to use the full advantages of his office in his effort to get those white people to reelect him as their president for another four years. Because those white people voted him into office, his primary job as president is to make sure his entire presidency is a demonstration of how far we’ve come as a nation on race, and that means he is not allowed to do anything or say anything that the white people who elected him can perceive to be divisive, because his primary function is to make them feel good about themselves. In theory, at least, all presidents are servants of the people who elected them. In the case of Barack Obama, it has seemed from the start that the idea as applied to him was more than mere metaphor. He is the first president in my lifetime whom the country felt obligated to remind that he know his place.
In May, Florida senator Marco Rubio called the president the most “divisive figure in modern American history,” which, even if “modern American history” for Rubio is whatever popped up on his BlackBerry in the last fifteen minutes, is plainly preposterous. Rubio was reacting to the president’s decision to use an executive order to allow the children of undocumented immigrants to come out of the shadows. This was a good and decent thing to do, but it was also damned fine politics and Rubio knew it. And, according to the people who dearly would love to throw him out of office, Barack Obama was elected to be “above politics.” He wasn’t elected to be president, after all. He was elected as an avatar of American tolerance. His attempts to get himself reelected imply a certain, well, ingratitude.
Read the whole thing. You won’t be disappointed.