As much as I believe in cosmopolitanism, I still admire some public intellectuals with a strong stand on minorities or communautarian perspectives and already published Renford Reese’s insight on Obama’s election so here’s a follow-up page on which I regularly publish those papers from Renford which I find particularly interesting from my multicultural and cosmopolitan perspective…in its wider meaning of course!
San Bernardino County Sun and Inland Valley Bulletin (CA)
Point of View
Guest Columnist: Renford Reese
September 18, 2012
Democrats are riding the wave of an extraordinary Convention that was just what the doctor ordered – in more than one way.
The convention inspired a Democratic base that was largely uninspired before the convention. Bill Clinton’s masterful speech added clarity to the choice that sits before the American people in November. Clinton’s simple explanations regarding the limitations of the Mitt Romney/Paul Ryan platform were crystal clear, timely and believable. So much so that Romney, to the dismay of conservatives, praised Clinton for elevating the Democratic National Convention.
Prominent conservatives such as George Will, Rush Limbaugh, Laura Ingraham and Bill Kristol have begun to criticize Romney’s tactics and his will to win this election. In his column titled “Speak Up,” Kristol stated that it is time for Romney to engage in specifics. According to Kristol, “When a challenger merely appeals to disappointment with the incumbent and tries to reassure voters he’s not too bad an alternative, that isn’t generally a formula for victory.”
Maybe it was Clinton’s speech that prompted undecided voters to begin doubting Romney’s credentials to be president, and maybe it also made Romney begin to doubt his own credentials to be president. His premature, crass, and un-statesmanlike criticism of the Obama Administration regarding the deadly riots in Libya and Egypt sharply points to a credibility problem. This all compels me to ask the hypothetical question: What if Romney had Obama’s credentials and Obama had Romney’s credentials?
In three years and seven months in office, what if Romney had advocated for and passed legislation related to gender equity, consumer protection, children’s health insurance, clean energy, student loans, veterans’ affairs and food safety? Coupled with this, what if the private sector experienced 29 months of job growth and the S&P 500 stock index had risen by 64 percent since he took office? On the hawkish front, what if Romney was responsible for killing Osama bin Laden and other high profile Al-Qaeda leaders? With these credentials Romney would win this election in a landslide – especially if Obama had Romney’s profile.
What if Obama was the CEO of Bain Capital and sought profit by any means necessary, including outsourcing jobs to foreign countries?
He would certainly not be able to tout this as an accomplishment on the campaign trail. What if Obama was only willing to show two years of his tax returns? This would surely be scandalous because no other president in U.S. history has concealed their tax returns. What if it had been revealed in 2008 that presidential candidate Barack Obama hid a portion of his wealth in a Swiss bank or in the Cayman Islands?
We all know the answer to this question.
There is no way Obama would have been elected president with such a mark on his record. And finally, what if Obama changed positions on: universal health care, global warming, gun control, minimum wage, stem cell research, campaign spending limits, the TARP program, capital gains and the right to choose? With this profile, Obama would lose this election in a landslide.
What explains this paradox? There are those who dislike President Obama’s policies. There are those who are disappointed that his lofty 2008 rhetoric was not matched by immediate prosperity. There are those who dislike him “just because,” which morphs into those who hate him just because “he is not one of us.” For those in the latter group, they see Obama through an “us vs. them” prism: e.g., you are either one
of us or you are one of them. One of “them” represents everything unpatriotic and negative in our society: crime, welfare, socialism, terrorism, etc. One of “us” means that you share wholesome and traditional American values.
The “us” group will go to extraordinary lengths and make exceptions in order to embrace one of their own – even if he is adopted for symbolic purposes.
On his Sept. 10 show, Rush Limbaugh said that Romney could be Elmer Fudd and conservatives should still vote for him because he is not Obama.
This type of sophomoric and hateful logic is dangerous to our nation. The most problematic part of the dichotomous American political psyche is that our politicians have embraced the same hate and simplistic logic as Limbaugh.
Famed political philosopher John Rawls theorized that if we made our policy decisions behind a “Veil of Ignorance” (an imaginary blindfold), our policies would be equitable, just and fair. If we chose our presidential candidate in the same way, we would invariably choose the candidate with the most experience, transparency, consistency and compassion.
Inland Valley Bulletin/San Bernardino Sun (CA)
Wednesday, August 15, 2012
Guest Columnist: Renford Reese
How the London Olympics will help Obama get Re-elected
I followed the London Olympics each day with great anticipation. Like many of us, I wanted to know what the overall medal count was each day. From a geo-political perspective, the medal count is significant. China’s quest to be the overall medal leader is reflective of their desired Superpower status. Indeed, the success in the Games is symbolic of the perceived health, strength, and vitality of a nation. By winning the most metals with 104 and winning the overall gold medal count with 46, the U.S. Olympic team made an emphatic statement to the world, which echoes President Obama’s sentiments–the U.S. is not in decline.
Presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s pre-Olympics criticism that London might not be ready for the Games were widely criticized in London—garnering negative headlines in the British news such as “Mitt the Twit,” and “Party-pooper” among others. U.S. Olympian Carl Lewis stated the following about Romney’s pre-event criticisms: “I swear, sometimes I think some Americans shouldn’t leave the country…Are you kidding me, stay home if you don’t know what to say.” Lewis’s comments describe a person who lacks diplomacy—a critical skill for the leader of the free world.
Contrary to Romney’s presence at the Games, Michelle Obama’s attendance had the opposite effect. The First Lady was greeted warmly by the British, the international fans, and by the U.S. Olympic team. When the members of Team USA basketball walked into the stands to give the First Lady a hug after their victory over France, it was one of the most touching and memorable scenes of the Games. With grace, charm, and her own charisma, there is not a classier representative of the U.S. than the First Lady. I think most Americans can envision seeing Michelle Obama as the First Lady for four more years.
The Olympics inspired national pride. Americans irrespective of ideology or race cheered on Michael Phelps, Allyson Felix, Gabby Douglas, and LeBron James. The “USA, USA” chant seemed to resonate louder and prouder throughout these Games. This nationalism has the potential to mitigate some of the political divisiveness in the country. If so, President Obama will benefit from this esprit de corps.
Moreover, these Games were the full manifestation of Title IX, which ensured gender equity in college athletics 40 years ago. Gender equity has been at the forefront of Obama’s presidency. In fact, no U.S. president has worked harder to make this issue a priority. This was the first Olympics that the U.S. sent more women than men (269 compared with 261). The U.S. women won 58 medals to the men’s 45. Obama’s staunch support for women’s rights and gender equity paid off in London and will pay off in November.
At the opening and closing ceremonies, one conspicuous site was the physical appearance of the national teams. There was no national team that had the diversity of the American team. Our dynamic ethnic diversity was on display for the world to see throughout the Games. This diversity has contributed to this country’s greatness in and outside of the Olympic athletic venues. This inclusive multicultural spirit explains how we elected the first African American president in 2008 and why we will elect him again in 2012.
Obama will ultimately benefit from these Olympic Games because of the national pride they have inspired. These Games have shown each American and the world that the U.S. is not in decline under this President, but the opposite. The London Olympics also showed each American and the world the diplomatic maladroitness of Obama’s opponent and the grace, charm, and warmth of our First Lady. The Games reflected Obama’s prioritization of gender equity and his desire to build an inclusive America where everyone wins a medal. In the end, Obama will benefit from the collective love, pride, joy, and excitement that these Games brought to our nation, which will propel him to the top position on the podium and will enable him to win the ultimate gold medal.
Renford Reese, Ph.D. is a political science professor at Cal Poly Pomona University. He is the author of five books, and the widely discussed journal article, “The Olympic Ideals and the Multiple Agendas of the Games” found in the London Journal of International Sport (April 2012).
Listen to the radio programme in April 2012 about the Zimmerman Trial Update, The Colorful Flags program, the 20th Anniversary of L.A. Riots, Prison Industrial Complex, and Cruz with the News.Read more: http://www.ktlkam1150.com/cc-common/podcast/single_page.html?podcast=DavidCruz&selected_podcast=Cruz042012_1334972973_20400.mp3#ixzz1uO6Cwiir
Here’s the latest piece published about this talented scholar: (click on the link)
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, CA)
August 30, 2009
Guest Columnist: Renford Reese
Ted Kennedy: Civil Rights Icon Who Put People First
When I grew up in the 1970s in McDonough, GA (near Atlanta) I was immersed in the spirit of the Civil Rights Movement. I heard countless stories of the giants of the movement: Martin Luther King Jr., Ralph Abernathy, Andrew Young, etc. Although I knew of Ted Kennedy I never heard his name mentioned in the same breath as those whose fundamentally changed the landscape of civil rights in the U.S.
Kennedy, fondly known as the Lion of the Senate, should be considered one of the lions of the movement to secure civil rights in the U.S. Although less visible than his African American contemporaries, his legacy on this issue is on par with that of the most influential change agents of our times.
The most comprehensive and significant civil rights act in our history was passed in 1964. On the heels of his brother John F. Kennedy’s assassination, Ted urged his colleagues in the Senate and in the House to pass this monumental act. He solemnly stated that it was the most pressing moral issue of the day.
Blacks in the south always had a deep respect and affection for the Kennedys. As I was growing up and visiting family members in Georgia, Mississippi, or Alabama, it was not strange to see portraits of Jesus, Martin Luther King Jr., and John F. Kennedy (occasionally Bobby) on living room walls. The Kennedys represented the most prominent and boisterous white voices that advocated for social justice since that of the courageous whites who spoke out after the Civil War during the period known as Radical Reconstruction. The Kennedy’s legacy and connection with blacks has been fortified with various watershed events.
Out of all of the battles that Ted Kennedy fought on behalf of the underprivileged in the U.S. his most significant contribution to blacks and to social justice might be his enthusiastic endorsement of Barack Obama for president. The noble senator’s
endorsement should not be trivialized. It was the single most important endorsement in U.S. presidential politics. Kennedy’s endorsement gave Obama the legitimacy that he needed to defeat Hillary Clinton in the 2008 presidential primary and become the nation’s first black president. Kennedy’s endorsement also showed us a conspicuous bond and family-like relationship that he shared with Obama. Indeed Obama, in more ways than one, seems to be a Kennedy.
Our collective question now is how do we honor the spirit of the great dealmaker—the person who fought tirelessly for universal health care in this nation. Kennedy leaves us in a time when we are fiercely debating the “great cause of his public life.”
In the wake of Kennedy’s passing, President Obama stated, “Everyday that I was with him he restored my sense of idealism of what this country could do.” Senator Kennedy displayed the courage to consistently stand up for his principles but yet reached across the political aisle when he thought it was right for the American people. Kennedy leaves us in a time when our nation is ideologically bifurcated and hostile–lacking the can-do idealism that he embraced all of his public life.
We have lost a magnificent public servant and political icon. Politicians should use this moment in history to dedicate themselves to the spirit of Kennedy by pledging to embrace a new spirit of bipartisanship, compromise, dealmaking, and reconciliation. They should pledge to have the Ted Kennedy-like courage to fight for social justice and for the least advantage of us. And finally, politicians from Sacramento to Washington D.C. should always govern by Kennedy’s Golden Rule of politics: Always put the people first.
Inland Valley Daily Bulletin (Ontario, CA)
San Bernardino Sun (San Bernardino, CA)
July 2, 2009
Page A7, Opinion
Guest Columnist: Renford Reese, Ph.D.
Michael Jackson, Obama, and Political Calculation
I learned of Michael Jackson’s tragic death while in Puerto Plata, Dominican Republic. I was shocked and deeply saddened like many of the Dominicans and people around the world. I felt compelled to call family members and close friends for grieving sessions–for comfort. It was the void and emptiness I felt that caused me to toss and turn and lose sleep the night of his death. Like many, I have been thoroughly engaged in the coverage of this tragedy.
On CNN, I saw President Obama’s written statement offering his condolences to the Jackson Family. The president was, as always, gracious in his warmth in his statement to the family. Nevertheless, I felt that his written statement was an insufficient way of expressing sorrow for this American icon. I stated to my host in the Dominican (a college classmate) that President Obama should have made a brief televised statement about the death of Jackson. My friend’s response was: 1)Obama probably had more important things to do like deal with the Iranian or North Korean crises 2)Obama probably made a political calculation that because of allegations of child abuse it would not be wise of him to make a deliberate televised statement about the death of Michael Jackson.
Inherently, I knew that president was trying to be “presidential” by not publicly lionizing Jackson. I think this was the wrong calculation. What person has embraced more of a humanitarian spirit in the world than Michael Jackson? What person has brought more joy to the world through their music and entertainment than Michael Jackson? What person reflects the president’s humanistic agenda more than Michael Jackson? President Obama should have risen above political calculation to acknowledge Jackson’s overwhelmingly positive impact on this nation and the world.
The president used various aspects of popular culture to ascend to the White House. Indeed, his success relied on his unique appeal to the pop culture generation. In this sense, the president should have appealed to this generation by purposefully acknowledging this tragedy using the same pop culture mediums that got him elected. Moreover, he should have acknowledged how Jackson invariably inspired him. He should have acknowledged how Jackson was his predecessor in many ways. Four decades before there was Obama-mania there was Michael Jackson-mania. As an African American, Obama should have discussed how Jackson enabled him to walk a little taller.
The recent BET Awards captured how almost 100 percent of African Americans feel about the “King of Pop.” Although we have joked about Jackson’s transformed physical appearance and eccentric ways over the years, he has brought immeasurable joy and pride to us. He has enabled us to speak, act, and perform more creatively and boldly. More importantly, he showed us how to be a powerful voice of peace and unity. In many ways, his life and legacy is on par with Martin Luther King Jr.
The convergence of all of the scrutiny, ridicule, and callousness took an incalculable toll on him. Ridicule of Jackson was almost always without empathy. We criticized Mike for his eccentricities but nobody knows what it is like to be the most popular entertainer/person in the world for 80 percent of their life.
Many Americans’ negative perceptions of Jackson revolved around the unsubstantiated reports of child abuse regarding two children. These allegations were not made by the alleged victims but made by two manipulative parents with ulterior motives. In these cases, Jackson’s life embodied the most tragic of ironies. A person who was the most kind-hearted and sensitive towards children was accused of abusing them. In true American fashion, many people focused on the negative and overlooked the tens of thousands of children that he assisted financially, the thousands of children he visited in hospitals and orphanages throughout the world, the thousands of children he brought joy to when he invited them to his amusement park at the Neverland Ranch, and the hundreds of millions of children that he inspired just by being Michael Jackson.
Americans let the media shame them into not embracing the pure goodness of Jackson. The media compelled many Americans to be embarrassed about being Michael Jackson fans. I think even the president was affected by this phenomenon.
Nevertheless, whether we admit it or not, if we believe in optimizing our potential by commitment, discipline, and hard work, if we believe in the potential of every man, woman, and child in every corner of the world, if we believe in giving what we have been given, if we believe that “We are the world,” if we believe that the world should be made a better place, then we are all Michael Jackson fans.
–Renford Reese, Ph.D., is a professor in the political science department and director of the Colorful Flags program at Cal Poly Pomona. He is the author of American Bravado (2008), Prison Race (2006), and the widely discussed American Paradox: Young Black Men (2004). He is also the author of the Starbucks “The Way I See It” cup quote #294.
See his work at: http://www.RenfordReese.com and especially his op-ed links at http://www.csupomona.edu/~rrreese/nonfla/articles.html
Renford’s other papers on this blog: