Politics

Lifting Up, Talking Down

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Re: the latest Obama kurfuffle: Didn't Jesse Jackson spend the '70s giving "moral lectures" to black people? I'm reading Paul Cowan's invaluable The Tribes of America, first published in 1979 and reprinted earlier this year. It includes a fascinating profile of Jackson, who in those days mixed left-wing economic views with socially conservative ideas, and who frequently preached the importance of turning off the TV, giving as much attention to academics as athletics, and the rest of the self-improvement litany.

Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama are very different men, and I'm sure there are enormous divergences between Jackson's performances then and Obama's performances now. (Obama probably isn't prone to praising corporal punishment or denouncing abortion as murder.) But I'd like to hear more about what exactly was bugging the nut-cutting reverend. Is it personal jealousy? A difference in tone and style? A lingering feeling that Obama is an outsider in the black community? Or does Jackson feel that Obama's recent speeches to blacks are actually intended for white consumption — that he's patronizing his audiences by using them as props?

The floor is open to alternative theories.