Is “New School” Really New?

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on July 17, 2008

This interesting piece from a few days ago by Washington Post writer Paul Kane big ups what he calls “The Obama Generation:”

Lewis is one of three House Democratic incumbents in Georgia who should be enjoying an easy run through today’s primary but instead find themselves battling a wave of younger black politicians emboldened by Obama’s success and intent on succeeding their elders in choice political posts.

The generational challenge in Georgia and several other states comes from black politicians who view Obama, 46, as a kindred spirit and are not steeped in the civil rights era.

Ok – good point. But following this article is news that Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) coasted through this primary with 69 percent of the vote, blasting two younger primary challengers.

Note to blogging self: Lewis’ primary win – despite the seemingly out-of-touch style of his Clinton endorsement then swith – is a moment for pause.  True: we’re seeing a general, overall paradigm shift in Black political style, management and tone.  But is it really that dramatic?  Is it really something of a novel or uniquely new political phenomena with new voice and agenda? Or, is it just a simple generational change that comes along, well, every generation?

In the euphoria of the “Obama Moment” or “Obamamania,” it’s easy to draw premature conclusions about Black political trends.  It’s all part of that habit we have as a society, either making blanket assumptions about Black people or assuming we have “Black leaders” … or that we think as a monolith. So, when we see an African American man rising to the top of the American political tower, we assume things that may not be there.

Yes: it’s an exciting time. But, it’s also time to bring it all down to earth. The big question: does the youth of a challenger necessarily make him/her a “New School” Black politician? We don’t think so. We see many who define themselves as “New School” Black politicos still clinging on to a lot of “Old School” ideas, many of them very predictable and, sometimes, rather predictable to the left or “progressive.” Nothing wrong with taking a side or embracing a view, but much of the rhetoric sometimes appears stuck in time, is all.

One could argue: that’s not really change; that’s really a bunch of younger folks who look fresher than the older folk.  Just because we listen to hip-hop doesn’t mean we suddenly have a vastly different or superior outlook on the political landscape – it just means that we listen to different music defining a different generation.  We saw the flaw in this assumption with Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick: much style, much bling, much talk about being “young,” “new,” “fresh” and “different;” but little to no substance – at least not enough substance to reverse Motown’s fate.

To us, change in the Black political sense, would see a careful, thoughtful and analytical embrace of various political, ideological and policy elements – considering many parts to make the whole.  There is still some feeling that we’re not totally there, yet, since we see a lot of regurgitated “urban agenda” platforms or younger brothers and sisters looking a new part but speaking an old game.  Tactically, we might be doing things much differently; but are we doing anything differently on a strategic level. We think it’s about time somebody start talking about it and calling it out.


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