POLITICS: ANOTHER PERSPECTIVE – Commentary and Analysis on Race, War, Ethics and the American Political Landscape in the Age of Obama, by Wilmer J. Leon, III, Ph.D. (AuthorHouse, Bloomington, Indiana, 2016, 332 pages).
Book Review by Dennis Moore
May 10, 2017 (San Diego) - Wilmer J. Leon, III, PhD., has written a provocative and well researched book on politics and race relations; Politics: Another Perspective – Commentary and Analysis on Race, War, Ethics and the American Political Landscape in the Age of Obama. When I read Dr. Leon’s book it is like “preaching to the choir”, particularly his take on the Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright in my hometown of Chicago. I am well aware of Dr. Wright’s place in history, and especially as it regards the ascension of Barack Obama to the Presidency of the United States. Former President Barack Obama was actually a member of Rev. Dr. Jeremiah Wright’s church at one time prior to becoming president, as well as Oprah Winfrey.
Just what is the “Age of Obama” and how does Dr. Leon define it in this book? I actually have intimate and personal understanding and appreciation of former President Obama, as I once covered his campaign for president as a writer for the Baja Times Newspaper in Rosarito Beach, Mexico, at a La Raza sponsored convention event in San Diego, where he spoke along with the Republican candidate Senator John McCain. Also, with both of us being from Chicago, and his wife Michelle and I both working at City Hall in the Daley administration at the same time. He also gave that famous YouTube video speech at my former church in Chicago, the Apostolic Church of God, on a Father’s responsibility to their children. Click on video here.
Over the last 8 years there have been significant shifts in the American political landscape, as indicated in this book by Dr. Leon. The election of Senator Barack Obama as America’s 44th and first African American president signaled a giant leap forward in the American social, cultural, and political landscape. It has taken America 219 years to reach this point.
Based upon Senator Obama’s campaign promises, prior to him becoming president, many people looked forward to a more transparent and inclusive government. Others saw this election as a signal of a new post-racial America, but America has always been a country in conflict. As many basked in the comfort of Obama’s historic election, others feared its backlash. History tells us that white supremacy dies hard in America, if at all, and its proponents would not take America’s victory lying down.
The bigoted rants of the Tea Party and the ultra-right wing’s obstructionist agenda have resulted in a political statement unlike any other in recent American history. These reactionary politics coupled with the Democratic Party and Obama Administration’s inability to articulate an effective counter-narrative and employ effective countermeasures has left America in a political abyss.
Despite the author giving plaudits to President Obama, it is surprising to this writer that in his collection of Op Ed’s written by Dr. Leon, he devotes one in particular that seems critical of the former president; Obama’s Irresponsible Rhetoric Exacerbates Global Tensions – September 10, 2013. Politics: Another Perspective, is actually a collection of Op Ed’s written by the author that puts our present state and condition in perspective with that of the rest of the world.
In a bit of revisionist history, Dr. Leon quotes in his book former President Obama in regard to Obama’s Irresponsible Rhetoric Exacerbates Global Tensions, by stating: “We have been very clear to the Assad regime, but also to other players on the ground, that a red line for us is we start seeing a bunch of chemical weapons moving around or being utilized … That would change my calculus. That would change my equation.” This was said by President Obama on August 20, 2012, but obviously, he did not stay around long enough to see the changing conditions that the world now sees in regard to Syria and the new President, Donald Trump.
It seems that once President Obama left office, everyone tends to critique his every move when he was there, including Dr. Leon. This is clear in the author’s critique of Obama’s Irresponsible Rhetoric Exacerbates Global Tensions. To be fair, Dr. Leon’s observations and critique is food for thought, in this well written and thought provoking book.
A passage in Politics: Another Perspective that resonates with me, is the author’s take on the injection of ideological Christianity into mainstream American politics, particularly by the Republicans. Dr. Leon alludes to the hypocrisy of their position by giving the following examples:
- Ralph Reed, former head of The Christian Coalition, was implicated in the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal.
- According to Florida authorities, State Representative Bob Allen, a Republican, was arrested in July 2007 outside the men’s restroom at a Titusville park after offering to perform a sex act on a plainclothes officer. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Allen sponsored the “Sexual Predator Elimination Act,” legislation that toughened penalties for lewd or lascivious conduct and created a new provision that allows sexual predators to receive life prison sentences for their offenses. Before his 2006 reelection, Allen had received a 92 percent rating from the Christian Coalition of Florida. Bob Allen is married.
- Washington Representative Richard Curtis, a Republican, resigned October 31, 2007, days after he was quoted in police reports as saying a man he had sex with after they met at an erotic video store was trying to blackmail him. Elected to the state House of Representatives in 2004, Curtis had voted against bills that would grant civil rights protections to gays and lesbians. Curtis, like Bob Allen, is married.
Dr. Leon points out in his book, rather succinctly, that by allowing ideological Christianity to control American politics, policy and day-to-day life, American have compromised the fundamental values, concepts and traditions that formed the foundations of its democracy. He further points out that Ideological Christianity is being used by the Christian Right as a weapon of exclusion and hatred instead of a positive force for redemption and reconciliation.
Perhaps, most significantly, the author concludes that America is slowly deconstructing Jefferson’s “…wall of separation between Church & State” brick-by-brick. These “family values” of the Christian Right have proven to be the values of a dysfunctional family, as concluded by Dr. Leon.
Dr. Leon even takes aim at the Democratic Party, in an Op Ed titled “The Democrat’s Problem with Democracy.” The author states: “If the Democrats fail to elect their presidential and allow the ‘Super Delegates’ to select him/her in the smoke-filled back rooms at the convention in Denver, the Democrats could create a long-term problem with their base. This, along with the decision to disenfranchise the Democratic voters in Florida and Michigan, could prove to be Democrats’ problem with democracy. In order to understand why the super delegate issue could be a problem, it is important to understand why the rules were created in the first place. For that, you have to go back to the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago, Illinois.” With the recent election of Donald Trump as President, it looks as if Dr. Leon was being prophetic in his assessment of things.
The author uses a number of anecdotes and examples throughout this well researched book, which is insightful, to buttress his conclusions. This thought provoking book will keep the reader enthralled, and pondering the ultimate fate of our society, and America as we know it. This is a book that I encourage readers to pick up.
Dennis Moore has been the Associate Editor of the East County Magazine in San Diego and he is the book review editor of SDWriteway, an online newsletter for writers that has partnered with the East County Magazine, along with having been a freelance contributor to EURweb based out of Los Angeles. He is also the author of a book about Chicago politics; “The City That Works: Power, Politics and Corruption in Chicago. Mr. Moore can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or you can follow him on Twitter at: @DennisMoore8.