The Wright World-View

Jeremiah Wright’s performance at the National Press Club was devastating for the Obama campaign. No matter how David Axelrod tries to spin it, the story will not go away.

Sen. Barack Obama’s (D-Ill.) chief asset has been his perceived ability to see the world through multicultural eyes. His father from Kenya, his mother from Kansas, his upbringing in Hawaii, his time spent in Indonesia — all of this life experience allows Obama, or so the story goes, to offer a different, more updated, vision of reality, a reality that moves beyond black and white.

Obama’s pastor, the Rev. Wright, on the other hand, sees all things through a black-and-white lens. And in Wright’s world-view, all that is black is good, and all that is white is bad.

In the Wright world-view, the federal government is an instrument of racism. In the Wright world-view, the gederal government allowed slavery and promoted oppression of his people. In the Wright world-view, the federal government conspired to inject AIDS into black people and the CIA promoted crack cocaine to bring down the black community. In the Wright world-view, Louis Farrakhan — and his vision of black separatism — is a hero. In the Wright world-view, America “reaped what it sowed” on Sept. 11. In the Wright world-view, the war in Iraq was another example of American criminality. In the Wright world-view (shared by the Rev. Al Sharpton), what happened to Sean Bell was another example of white racism, despite the fact that two out of the three police officers on trial were black.

Obama must explain where his views actually differ from Wright’s world-view. When he came out against the war in Iraq, which was well before we found out that there were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, did he do so because he agreed with the Rev. Wright’s world-view of America as the bad guy? When he refuses to wear a flag pin and refuses to put his hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance, is this because he shares the Rev. Wright’s world-view? When he says that his grandmother used to say the “typical things that white people say,” how he does know what the typical white person says? Did he learn that from the Rev. Wright? When his wife says that this election season is the first time in her life that she has been proud to be American, is that because the Obama family shares the Wright world-view? After all, Obama has attended Wright’s church for two decades. After two minutes, I grew tired of listening to Wright’s press conference.

These are not trivial questions. Traditionally, America is extraordinarily conservative when it picks its presidents. By conservative, I don’t mean politically conservative. I mean culturally conservative. For goodness’ sakes, we have elected only one Catholic president in our history. The rest are from mainstream Protestant denominations. We typically like to pick a president whose family has some deep, patriotic connection to the country, either through family circumstances or through national military service. Even Bill Clinton could trace his family tree to the Founding Fathers.

An Obama presidency would represent a sharp break from that history. America may be able to elect somebody who looks like Obama, but not if he shares the Wright world-view filled with such venom and conspiracy.

Obama needs to make a sharp break from Wright and his world-view. A good place to start would be in New York, where Sharpton has threatened to shut down the city to protest the Sean Bell verdict. Obama should say that Sharpton is wrong, that while what happened to Bell was tragic, it wasn’t further evidence of a racist society. Since two out of the three defendants are black, Obama can make that case easily. Then he could actually say something in support of law enforcement and against the gang-bangers who kill each other and terrorize their communities. This could be Obama’s Sister Souljah moment, which he needs now if he wants to stop the erosion in superdelegates.

Obama said last week that if he loses the election, he won’t lose because he is black. He said that if he does lose it, it will be because of mistakes he made in how he communicates to voters. He is right on that score. If Obama loses, it will not be because of the color of his skin. If he loses, it will be because too many Americans believe that he shares the Wright world-view, a world-view that is fundamentally rejected by most Americans.