Obama's burden

Commentator Marcellus Andrews

KAI RYSSDAL: This month's elections are just three weeks old, but already polls are being taken for the next one. Quinnipiac University published a survey today. Kind of a political popularity contest. In order, Americans ranked New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, Senator Barack Obama and Senator John McCain in their top three.

Senator Obama has been getting all kinds of press as a possible presidential or vice presidential contender. Both good and bad. He's had his share of puff pieces. And of critical stories about his rapid rise into Washington's system of institutionalized influence-peddling. Commentator and economist Marcellus Andrews says that's just the price of power.


MARCELLUS ANDREWS: Barak Obama is something new: a leading black liberal finding a way to square business needs with the needs of ordinary people.

The new political game is about corporate players coming to liberal statesmen out of need.

Politics is owned by capital in this country. But capital has come to Obama because, believe it or not, big business is in a jam that liberals have to fix.

Take health care. High cost health care makes it hard for U.S. business to compete in the global marketplace. In turn, U.S. business either cuts health-care benefits or squeezes our pay.

Conservatives saw this as a nasty fact of life that we just have to live with. But people don't want to live with these facts anymore, so they voted in liberals of Obama's ilk to fix this mess.

Someone like Obama wants to be a big player in meeting the needs of both people and business at the same time. But for Obama to become a player in national politics, and buy all those TV ads he'll need, he needs corporate money.

Is it ugly? Yup. But you can't be a liberal player with big bucks by going door-to-door with your hat in hand.

Most black folks I know worry that Barack could get used to the money and power and put aside the needs of ordinary citizens. But truth be told, black people in America have been waiting for this moment.

They have wanted a real place at the table where white people put real money into black hands to solve our common problems. And that is Obama's tallest order. Nobody, not even him, knows how to meet the needs of both big business and ordinary people.

In the end, it may be too much to ask. But that's the deal.

RYSSDAL: Marcellus Andrews' latest book is called "The Political Economy of Hope and Fear."

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