Jesse Jackson’s Gaffe Helped Obama? I Don’t Get It…

July 10, 2008

Can anyone seriously explain to me why Jesse Jackson’s accidentally overheard remarks about Obama will help Obama in the polls, as nearly every media outlet seems to be claiming as if it were an obvious outcome?

Here’s two different supposed political experts on the matter:

“It reinforces Obama’s effort to present himself as an advocate of responsible personal behavior, a position that Republican candidates like to secure as uniquely their own,” Rozell said.

“Obama should give Jackson and O’Reilly an award for helping his campaign with white voters,” Schultz said.

I don’t get it. How is this supposed to work?

Imagine yourself the stereotypical “white voter” these guys seem to be imagining. What does this incident suggest to you other than that African American voters and leaders are politically divided, beneath the surface? Is that supposed to make you feel good, or something? Why is the fact that someone talked about cutting off Obama’s nuts, and Obama, obviously, doesn’t like the idea very much, supposed to change anyone’s opinion about anything or anyone?

Heck, it doesn’t even change my opinion about Jesse Jackson: the fact that people use crude, hyperbolic and aggressive language when talking in private about factional politics should surprise and outrage absolutely nobody. Except, of course, me being outraged that everyone from Obama’s campaign to FoxNews is pretending it’s a big deal.

Finally I would think that the very fact that the media is insisting that this gives Obama a chance to “look better” in front of voters should itself dampen, or even negate, that very effect. “Sistah Soljah” moments work only insofar as they seem immediate and authentic, and after the first, real Soljah moment, none really do anymore. Especially if the media telegraphs the whole thing in advance.

In my opinion, the only person who’s benefited from this incident is, amazingly and improbably, Al Sharpton, who had a uncharacteristically reasonable comment:

But the Rev. Al Sharpton admonished Jackson and cautioned against dividing black voters.

Obama “is running for president of all Americans, not just African-Americans,” he said. We “must be careful not to segregate Senator Obama and impose some litmus test that is unfair and unproductive.”