I read today over at Street Prophets that noted African-American, and United Methodist, minister Kirbyjohn Caldwell has endorsed Barack Obama. When I told my wife, her first reaction was, "Is that smart?" She is very careful not to make any public statement in support of any political candidate, taking the separation of church and state, as well as the threat of IRS action against her and the church, seriously. All I could say was that Caldwell is a pretty savvy operator. Also, this kind of thing is par for the course in the black churches in America, and Caldwell was also careful to insist that this is a personal, not institutional (either United Methodist, or even Windsor United Methodist Church) endorsement.
What seems to be raising people's hackles, especially on the heels of the questions raised by Obama's invocation of the great demon Reagan, is that Caldwell is "conservative". Actually, he is a pretty traditional black churchman - that's why there is an "ex-gay" ministry at his church. Now, Obama has already called out the homophobia of the black community in general (as well as the anti-Semitism of some elements of its leadership), even though this past summer he raised eyebrows by featuring an "ex-gay" preacher on some of his campaign tours.
This tell me a couple things. First, I think there are many reasons Caldwell would come out for Obama, not the least of them being racial solidarity. I find that commendable (also consider that had he, or other prominent African-American church leaders, come out for another candidate, there would be caterwauling about Obama's lack of appeal to certain segments of the African-American community, so one could argue he can't win for losing). Second, I think this does not mean that Obama is some kind of Manchurian candidate from the right, but a transcendent figure - I have had third thoughts, and I honestly believe that Obama was saying what I said he was saying, especially after reading Bob Somerby today.
Finally, and in all honesty I wonder about this, isn't it a good thing that there are people across the political spectrum who are coming forward to support a particular candidate? At one time, Democrats crossed the line (like Phil Gramm) for reasons of ideology, and everyone at least pretended to understand. Shoot, Joe Lieberman has managed to continue caucusing with Democrats, with the progress of the Iraq war/occupation being the only serious issue that separated him from his former party-mates. When conservatives manage to come forward and put their principles where their practice should be, no one seems to mind. Yet, when the same persons come forward and speak out in favor of someone who calls themselves liberal or even progressive, the only possibility is that the person so endorsed and making these claims is lying, a stealth DLC-right-winger.
That kind of thing just bugs the crap out of me. Obama's history, as a local organizer in Chicago, in the state legislature, and in Congress, while not perfect from a progressive point of view, is certainly no indication that he has any sympathies with the right, or even moderately conservative elements in today's political culture. Furthermore, I see no reason not to take Obama at his word. Until I see real evidence otherwise, I continue to believe that he is exactly as advertised, and Caldwell's endorsement does not change that one iota.