Obama might be a little more than his party bargained for

September 29, 2004|By GREGORY KANE

THIS POLITICAL stuff is getting curiouser and curiouser.

In downtown Baltimore, just outside a ballroom of the Marriott Waterfront hotel, folks gathered for a Democratic Party fund-raiser. Many wore blue buttons or stickers with white letters that read: "Obama Democrat U.S. Senate." The Marriott Waterfront is in the Inner Harbor. In other words, just about as Baltimore as you can get. There's nobody from this town named Obama running for U.S. Senate. What in the wide, wide world of sports was going on here?

Illinois state Sen. Barack Obama - soon to be Illinois' U.S. senator - came to Baltimore Monday to raise campaign funds. Turnabout is, indeed, fair play. Over the summer, Illinois Republicans extended an invitation to Maryland's Alan Keyes to enter the U.S. Senate race against Obama. Keyes, who was highly critical of Hillary Clinton's U.S. Senate run in New York after she lived in the state only briefly, for some reason couldn't turn down the invitation. Perhaps he had the itch for a public forum where he could accuse gays and lesbians of being "selfish hedonists."

That remark came to us courtesy of Keyes late last month. Apparently he hadn't gotten the word - which comes to us from comedian, filmmaker and part-time philosopher Woody Allen - that all sex is selfish hedonism if you're doing it right. Just as apparent is that Keyes' social conservatism, which didn't win him Senate races here against Paul Sarbanes and Barbara Mikulski, isn't doing him much good in Illinois either: He trails Obama by 51 percentage points.

Probably not what Illinois Republicans had in mind, but Republicans in the Land of Lincoln ain't thinkin'.

But Democrats here in Maryland are. They seized the opportunity to have Obama, considered a rising star in the party, campaign here in Maryland.

"We're at a signature crossroads in this country not only internationally but domestically," Obama told reporters before the fund-raising breakfast. "With an urban agenda that's being unmet at the national level, this election couldn't be more important." It's important, Obama stressed, that Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry be elected and that both houses of Congress swing back into the Democratic fold.

Ah, yes, just think of it. A federal government that will get larger, more expensive and more intrusive than it has under that other Democrat - you know him as President Bush, currently well-disguised as a Republican - and a president who will nominate and a Senate that will confirm federal judges committed to repealing the 10th Amendment and forgetting that the Constitution was created to limit, not expand, the power of the federal government.

I, for one, can hardly wait.

But Obama's the guy to spread the word that Americans will be better off if they vote Democratic. Wasn't he the one who, in his keynote address at the Democratic convention, had his fellow party members wildly cheering for things they don't even believe in?

"There is no black America," Obama told the convention. "There is no white America. There is no Latino America. There is no Asian America. There is only the United States of America."

Didn't it just choke you up hearing Obama say those words? Didn't it make you wonder why Democrats cheered them?

Obama's party believes very much in a black America, a white America, a Latino America and an Asian America. His party believes it so much that many of its leaders were for a University of Michigan undergraduate admissions policy that gave 20 points to blacks and Latinos and none to Asians and whites. That policy was ruled unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, which caused much Democratic pouting. A color-blind admissions process, the only one that should prevail in Obama's America, didn't suit their fancy.

Maryland Rep. Elijah Cummings - who's also chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus in Obama's America where a black America doesn't exist - was one of those leaders. He stood next to Obama at Monday's news conference. So did Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley, another Democrat who went ballistic when a local color-blind process resulted in an all-white trainee class for the Fire Department.

One of the reporters asked the eloquent and erudite Obama if there is a run for president in his future.

"That's way premature," Obama answered. "I'm a lowly state senator trying to get to the U.S. Senate." That was the humble answer, and perhaps the wise one. But the way his political stock is rising, Obama may very well be a presidential candidate within 10 to 20 years. But the reporter asked the wrong question.

With his vision of a color-blind America that clashes with the politics of his party, a better question would have been: "Senator Obama, why are you a Democrat?"

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