Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Who Is "The Next Obama"?!?

Trailblazers are called what they are for a reason. Namely because they presumably open doors for others, but if they screw up, they can likewise close those doors for quite awhile. When Art Shell was named interim coach the of Oakland Raiders in 1989, he became the first black coach of the modern era. Over the next 5 seasons, Shell went on to compile a very respectable 54 - 38 record that included a trip to the AFC Championship game, Coach of the Year, and a 12-4 season before being unceremoniously dumped. It was years later before Tony Dungy (who later won a Super Bowl) became only the 2nd black NFL coach, and another decade before the hiring of a black head coach became little more than a footnote in a press release.

Obama departed from past black politicians by shying away from race, building white support, then doubling back to ensure Blacks weren't alienated in the process. This formula (seemingly perfected by David Axelrod), mixed with a perfect storm of Bush f*ckery and an ailing economy put a brotha in the White House. So, Obama is a trailblazer, but the big question is, who will eventually be the Raheem Morris to his Art Shell?
His election in November 2008 was a seminal moment in American politics and the nation’s history. Now, just two months in office, Barack Obama’s election raises interesting questions concerning the future of American politics in the post-Obama era.

As the first Black American to make it to the White House, Barack Obama ran the last leg of a race that had its roots in the Reconstruction era when Black politicians first won election to state and federal office.

The journey included several memorable efforts by Blacks to influence the country’s consciousness to accept the eventuality that an African American could be president. Starting with Rev. Channing Phillips’s “favorite son” candidacy in 1968 at the Democratic National Convention and the historic candidacies of Rep. Shirley Chisholm and Rev. Jesse Jackson, it was never really a question of if a Black citizen would be elected President, given the many trailblazing accomplishments of African Americans, but a question of whom.

Now, that Barack Obama has broken the presidential barrier, the reality is that the magic of the “first” Black president will give way to the political reality of the inherent difficulties in electing the second. Fair or not, the tenure of Barack Obama will have a lot to do with the opportunity to elect another Black citizen to the presidency. If successful, President Obama will likely wipe away the negative perceptions, voiced or silent, of Black’s leadership potential and smooth the path of the next African American to seek the White House.

Even if the individual does not have the same pedigree of Mr. Obama, she or he will gain some of the residual benefit and good will of a successful Obama administration. On the other hand, if Mr. Obama stumbles along the way or his administration falters, there is a strong possibility that the next Black to run for President will face an uphill climb.
While I think it's cool to talk about who the next Black President might be, I'd personally prefer to see the first Black Female Governor in the interim. One thing that's quite true is that whoever follows Obama will be expected to have a similar educational pedigree, charisma, inspirational speaking powers, a black wife, and a crystal-clean resume. This is much like Shell set the standard for coaches that followed him needing to be ex-players who related well to star players. I few guys immediately come to mind.

Deval Patrick - The Massachusetts Governor has his hands full right now, but he's got a very similar educational background (Harvard) and high-achieving wife (an attorney also). As the only brotha actually running a state at the moment, he's got a clearcut path to Washington in 2012. Not a particularly magnetic speaker. Out-of-the-box thinker and political risk taker. Polished, but not exciting. Already over 50, which can either be a gift or a curse.

Corey Booker - The current mayor of Newark, NJ, Booker's got the academic background (Rhodes Scholar), non-threatening biracial look (although he isn't biracial, just like skinnded), and is media savvy. Isn't married, which is a problem for any politician. Has lots of cache with the bridge and tunnel crowd. Young, but a bit too wonkish to be considered "hip". He'd need to take a couple of steps up the ladder to some statewide office, which isn't likely to happen in Jersey, but not impossible either.

Michael L. Williams - Texas Railroad Commissioner and George Bush weedcarrier is considered a strong GOP contender for Senate. First African American in Texas history to hold an executive statewide elected office. Honorary State Chairman of Big Brothers Big Sisters of Texas, which means I obviously like him. Looks curiously like the guy on the Cream Of Wheat box.

Kamala Harris - San Francisco District Attorney and aspiring California Attorney General was pegged by the NY Times as one of the most likely women to become the first female President of the United States. Attractive and media-savvy. Biracial (Jamaican and American Indian) ethnicity fits the whole "post-racial" template. Howard and Cal Berkley educated. Assuming she wins AG campaign in 2010, her national profile will skyrocket. Single woman, which, let's face it, is a detriment in politics.

Thurbert Baker - Georgia Attorney General is making run for Peach State Governor in 2010.

Adrian Fenty - Like Obama, the DC mayor represents a new-school politician with high educational attainment (Oberlin and Howard Law). He's got the high achieving and attractive wife, plus photogenic twin boys. He's biracial (although he doesn't look it) and generally non-threatening, but not the pantywaist that Booker is. He's also a Kappa Man, which is always a plus. Loves TV cameras, perhaps to his detriment. Unfortunately, while he's done some good things in DC, the District isn't a state, so there's no clear path since unless he somehow succeeds in the push for voting rights. Even so, most of America still thinks DC is little more than Capitol Hill, and still believes Marion Barry is mayor (he's a Councilman) after all these years. Not gonna happen.

Kendrick Meek - Florida Congressman took an unusual route to office, graduating from an HBCU (FAMU) and spending nearly a decade as a policeman before getting into politics. A member of Omega Psi Phi, which surely means there are some incriminating photos somewhere in Public Storage. For same-sex marriage. Infamously clashed with then-Governor Jeb Bush over affirmative action. Relatively young at 43. Odd Steve Harvey-style haircut. Has announced plans for 2010 gubernatorial campaign.

Bakari Sellers - Elected to South Carolina State Senate at age 22. Morehouse alum is considered an up and comer with the family pedigree and aspirations to run for Governor someday.

Shelia Dixon - Baltimore Mayor was considered a rising star, but recent indictment on twelve counts, including perjury, theft, and misconduct more or less closed the door. The charges stem partly from incidents in which she allegedly misappropriated Best Buy gift cards intended for poor children, and used them to buy PlayStation2 consoles and games. Nah, she shouldn't be on this list.

Michelle Obama - Stranger things have happened. See: Clinton, Hillary Rodham.

Michael Nutter - Sorta pissed off lots of black folks by supporting Hilary Clinton last year, rather than Obama. UPenn educated. Has a reputation (which may or may not be warranted) as a reformer. As big city mayor, has visibility and clear shot to larger statewide office. Not particularly telegenic, and has a really, really strange looking Van Dyke/soul patch thing going on. Could use one of those Goatee Saver things they sell on that infomercial.

Kwame Kilpatrick - Yaw's Boy is out. So are any chances of any job other than Detroit Mayor. Just say no to strippers and putting jumpoffs on payroll.

Artur Davis - Alabama Congressman is seizing the Obamomentum and running for Governor in 2010. He has two Harvard degrees. He sounds disturbingly similar to former DC mayor Anthony Williams, so he has no "cool factor". If his gubernatorial bid pans out, as first black Governor of Alabama, he'll have the national profile to position himself for a run down the line. If he loses, well, can you say "Harold Ford"?

Question: If Obama is generally considered a failure and loses in 2012, how long would it be before another black was given a chance? Who did I miss in the list above?

Post-Obama, What Black Politician is Presidential Material? [Digital Journal]

In Obama's Wake, Others Seek to Make History [WashPost]

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