Ralph Nader: Obama Not Black Enough

Ralph Nader says that Barack Obama “talks white” and ignores “black issues.”

Ralph Nader:  Obama Not Black Enough Photo by Judy DeHaas Ralph Nader, who is running for president, talks about Barack Obama in his Washington, D.C., office Monday. Nader said Obama should candidly describe the life of the poor.

“There’s only one thing different about Barack Obama when it comes to being a Democratic presidential candidate. He’s half African-American,” Nader said. “Whether that will make any difference, I don’t know. I haven’t heard him have a strong crackdown on economic exploitation in the ghettos. Payday loans, predatory lending, asbestos, lead. What’s keeping him from doing that? Is it because he wants to talk white? He doesn’t want to appear like Jesse Jackson? We’ll see all that play out in the next few months and if he gets elected afterwards.”

The Obama campaign had only a brief response, calling the remarks disappointing.

Asked to clarify whether he thought Obama does try to “talk white,” Nader said: “Of course. I mean, first of all, the number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be is to candidly describe the plight of the poor, especially in the inner cities and the rural areas, and have a very detailed platform about how the poor is going to be defended by the law, is going to be protected by the law, and is going to be liberated by the law,” Nader said. “Haven’t heard a thing.”

I’m reminded of Charley Pride’s recounting of how often he was asked in the early days, “Why you don’t sound like you’re supposed to sound?” Of course, that was in the 1960s.

It’s not at all clear why black candidates have a particular obligation to talk about “black issues.” Indeed, as a major party nominee, it’s his job to forge a broad consensus on issues that appeal to Americans as a whole. Running as “the black candidate” and focusing mostly on the issues Nader wants him to would ensure he’d lose. Certainly, those issues haven’tNader much good.

Elsewhere, Ed Morrissey notes the irony of Nader trying to tell a black man how to talk black and that the focus on Obama’s race continues to come from those on the Left and Eric Kleefeld reminds us that this is, after all, Ralph Nader we’re talking about.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2008, Race and Politics, , , , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Tlaloc says:

    It’s not at all clear why black candidates have a particular obligation to talk about “black issues.”

    Well it is a fact that Obama has had a huge amount of support from black voters, substantially more than a generic democrat would get (which is already considerable). Presumably that obligates him to them somewhat.

  2. Alex Knapp says:

    “Of course. I mean, first of all, the number one thing that a black American politician aspiring to the presidency should be is to candidly describe the plight of the poor, especially in the inner cities and the rural areas, and have a very detailed platform about how the poor is going to be defended by the law, is going to be protected by the law, and is going to be liberated by the law,”

    I’m fairly certain that Obama has done all of these things, actually. This is a guy who worked for over a decade to organize communities of the urban poor to improve their neighborhoods, after all…

  3. Ralph Nader helps to illustrate that race is a social construction. Maybe the postmodernists are right about something.

  4. Dantheman says:

    Ralph’s not even right on the substance of his complaints. But why should that matter to a person who professed himself unable to tell the difference between Bush and Gore’s policy stands?

    I remain convinced that one day we will find evidence that Karl Rove had a very large role in Nader’s 2000 campaign.

  5. Tlaloc says:

    I’m fairly certain that Obama has done all of these things, actually.

    If you say so. Personally I don’t find that the words “Obama” and “detailed platform” to fit together without some sort of negative modifier in between.

  6. Derrick says:

    Elsewhere, Ed Morrissey notes the irony of Nader trying to tell a black man how to talk black and that the focus on Obama’s race continues to come from those on the Left and Eric Kleefeld reminds us that this is, after all, Ralph Nader we’re talking about.

    I find that interesting in that the right including many on Ed’s website find the proxy argument of pointing out what an Angry, Black Woman Michelle is as more of an appealing argument. I will admit that after what we’ve seen in the primary, you can’t leave out people on the Left (I’m looking at you NoQuarter) from racial criticism but this election has just started and the racial stuff has only begun to fly by our friends from across the aisle.

  7. Drew says:

    1. My hat is off to you Mr. Nader
    It is about time somebody comes out and tells it like it is, Obama is just another politician a corporate puppet that was created by Obama TV and the Chicago political machine, When will people of the United States wake up, Obama is for total governmental control he wants the people of the United States to give up your god given rights and hand us back privileges, which can be taken away at any time.
    So for all of you sheeple out there keep following this Manchurian Candidate there will be change you will wake up in socialist country
    Drew

  8. DL says:

    I’ll bet Hillary and Al Gore could help the poor man out with how to talk black ebonics. If that isn’t acceptable, there is always that white priest that is a friend of Obama. I hear that even Al Sharpton wants to take ebonics lessons from him.