African American men are one of Barack Obama’s strongest constituencies. And yesterday, Father’s Day, he called them out about disproportionately high levels of asbsentee fatherhood among African American men.
This is tough stuff. This is akin to John McCain going to white seniors and lecturing them about the current structure of Social Security and Medicare threatening their grandchildren’s ability to retire in dignity. It’s like Hillary Clinton going to feminist activists and lecturing them about inadvertently fostering a culture of victimhood by occasionally overstating sexism to gain a personal advantage.
Make no mistake, Barack Obama stuck his political neck out here. Guts, or nuts?
There is a phrase used in politics, “only Nixon could have gone to China.” President Richard Nixon was able to politically survive negotiating with Chinese communists because of his staunch anti-communist street cred. Therefore, the reference “only Nixon could go to China” builds off that historical analogy to make the larger point that personal history dictates one’s relative credibility to be a messaging pioneer.
The son of an absentee black father went to an African American church yesterday in the same way Nixon went to China. Others would not have been heard in the same way. Others would have chosen the safer route with their strongest constituency, pandering rather than pushing. Others would not have survived politically.
All of us need to be pushed by our leaders. I need to hear about the need to sacrifice more in taxes to truly “support our troops,” so the fiscal pain for my generation’s wars are not pushed off onto my kids’ generation. I need to hear that my kids should be subject to military service as surely as other people’s kids, so I am not insulated from the pain and sacrifices associated with our foreign policy decisions. I need to hear that I’m not the “self-made” man I sometimes fancy myself to be, and that I need to do more to give back to the next generation in the same way past generations of taxpayer’s gave so much to me.
And I don’t hear enough of that from my leaders.
African American dads are hardly the only ones in America who need less pandering and more pushing. All leaders need to search their souls and ask themselves, “where is my ‘Nixon goes to China’ opportunity to say what really needs to be said?”