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August 30, 2014, 2:20 pm

Election presents a Hobson’s Choice

Defined as a choice in which there is only one option (like the color of Henry Ford’s first cars), are we facing a Hobson’s Choice when it comes to the presidential race? As usual, this is “most important” election we have ever faced as our leaders always say. Some even say the only way to change our situation is to vote. Well, it’s that time again. Roll out the same old mantras and rhetoric, except this year most Black folks face a Hobson’s Choice when voting for president.

Existing for generations at the top of every bad category and at the bottom of every good category, especially when it comes to economic issues, Black people have invested so much emotion, and little else, in politics that we now have to cast a vote for either President Barack Obama or Willard Mitt Romney with the prospect of getting very little in return from either one.

What makes the choice so Hobson-like are issues such as abortion, women’s rights, gay rights, religious beliefs and others that have nothing to do with putting food on our tables. Morality has taken center stage in our political discourse and the economy is definitely missing in action. With politics being about self-interest and the transference of public money into private hands, what can we do to keep the main thing the main thing?

Politicians cannot legislate morality and nor should they even try. Just look at all the immoral things many of them have done over the years. Notwithstanding their own moral compasses, or the lack thereof, they sure are doing a good job of using morality to dominate the national conversation around who is the best person for president. Separation of church and state? Yeah, right.

To ease the minds of those who think Obama should not be criticized and for those who believe that when he is re-elected he will do everything in his power to help Black people, this is not a diatribe against the president. Rather, it is simply an effort to underscore the futility of Black emotional buy-in to his presidency.

When Obama was elected, Black folks created new line dances, expected the euphoria of a race-neutral or colorblind society, and thought our reparations checks would arrive in the mail in a few weeks. While other groups, Hispanics, Jews, Filipino Veterans, and gay people were standing at the White House door the day after the inauguration, with their wants, needs, and demands ready to present to the new POTUS, Black folks were still “at da Club” celebrating the “first Black president.” After the party was over, we went back to business as usual expecting everything to be all right politically, educationally, socially and economically. Seems a lot of us bought into what Peggy Joseph said about the president: “I won’t have to worry about putting gas in my car; I won’t have to worry about paying my mortgage; if I help him he’s gonna help me.” Say what?

I don’t agree with Barack Obama’s stance on some things, especially this last one on gay marriage, but I will vote for him in November. The fact that Obama said gay marriage is OK, when he could have been silent on the issue, says a great deal, especially when you consider the LGBT fundraiser that took place immediately following his declaration of support. But Jeremiah Wright told us what Obama was and would be if he became president: a politician. Obama does not determine my moral position on anything, but I sure want him to be the one who appoints the next couple of Supreme Court justices. Can you still say Clarence Thomas?

Blacks are faced with a Hobson’s choice in November mainly because we only have an emotional investment in the current administration and, therefore, continue to be taken for granted by the Dems and ignored by the Repubs. We have a choice between voting for a Mormon or Christian, a white man or a Black man, a nerd or a cool guy, a super-rich guy or just a regular rich guy, a man who couldn’t care less about us as a voting bloc or one who knows we are going to vote for him regardless.

That, brothers and sisters, puts Black folks between a rock and hard place, in a pickle, damned if we do and damned if we don’t, six in one hand and half dozen of the other. Yes, those are clichés, but real for Black folks, we let our emotions rather than our political influence control our response to what most Black folks have waited for more than four generations. As a result, in November 2012, we will be faced with a Hobson’s choice, and that is no choice at all. — (NNPA)


James E. Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his website,