I’m actually a bit surprised, being on the west coast and all, that I’d be the first one from what I can tell in the Jewish progressive blogosphere, let alone the Jewish blogosphere as a whole, to write about Obama’s clinching of the Democratic ticket as an absolutely historic moment in U.S. politics. Whether people like or dislike the nomination, no one can deny that we’re living in an incredible moment in history, as Obama became the first African-American to win the nomination of a major political party in the US.
And, even with Clinton’s loss, that her run as the first female candidate for president, has been historic as well.
So, why the silence around Obama’s win? While I know there are plenty of Jews writing about this political win in non-Jewish outlets, why not in Jewish specific outlets? Why not even a mention of this historic win?
I could make a lot of conjectures why–and at the same time, I don’t want to do the same thing that a number of media outlets, including even The New York Times are doing, which is to talk about Jews as if we are a monolithic community, with monolithic concerns, identities and political opinions.
That said, it’s hard not to question if part of the reason this tension around silence is palpable because, in general, conversations about race and racism in Jewish communities are often tense.
Let’s be clear, I think it’s hard to get Jews to speak openly and candidly because around our kitchen tables, and with close friends, folks often talk about how they don’t necessarily see themselves in the racial categories that define US life. And, at the same time, I think it’s hard for people to have open conversations about what it does mean that many Jews do experience white skin privilege living in the US–in part because the language in itself becomes so wonky.
But one thing I will say is unsettling is watching one of Obama’s first speeches after clinching the nomination presenting business as usual politics when it comes to Washington and Israel.
So, no, I’m not surprised that the Jewish press is focusing on the candidates’ deliveries at the AIPAC conference right now, which by all standards reads to me as more of the same-as-usual politics, not the “change we seek” politics I am often inspired by when Obama speaks.
But I will say I’m disappointed.
This is where I’m looking to new political outfits like J Street in wonder. Will they be challenging, not only McCain, but Obama and the Democratic party from politics as usual, AIPAC pandering? Or will we continue watching the Democratic party believe that AIPAC party-line politics represent Jewish voices on Israeli foreign policy?
So, today, I sit with mixed feelings–feelings of incredible excitement to live in this historic moment in Obama clinching the Democratic nomination, and deflation, in watching in the very next news cycle, Obama’s campaign becoming a clearinghouse for Jewish approval of AIPAC/Israel politics as usual.