OK, bright-eyed people, here are three brief things to put in your craw and mull over.

First, as of Tuesday, President Barack Obama quietly and officially garnered the 2,778 Democratic Party primary delegates necessary to be the party’s presidential nominee for the 2012 election in the five states that held the innocuous contests–Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut and Rhode Island. Of course, more than 99 percent of us did not notice, since we had already taken it for granted and considered it a non-issue. But one constancy about politics–particularly effective and successful politics–is never to assume a win or take a triumph for granted. Politics can give you a lethal load of pretty poison in the blink of an eye.

In the run-up to Jimmy Carter’s re-election bid in 1980, Senator Ted Kennedy decided to contest the incumbent president’s claim to the Democratic Party’s nomination during the anointed time for party primaries. It was an unusual and acrimonious in-fight that further weakened Carter (along with the Iran hostage affair and the seemingly incompetent way it was handled) and helped Ronald Reagan’s initial election to the presidency.

Bill Clinton had no such primary opposition, and literally ran unobstructed to the 1996 Party nomination. As we remember, he was subsequently re-elected, even after having been impeached regarding the Monica Lewinsky saga. The point is: it’s possible to muddy-up the waters and saddle an incumbent with unnecessary baggage in addition to the regular detritus of a big campaign. Lord knows, Obama does not need another 16 tons weighing on him.

So, the Obama campaign team just took care of that issue out front, understanding the need to leave as little to chance as possible. President Obama became the de facto national nominee on Tuesday, April 24, and the Sept. 3-6 Democratic Convention in Charlotte, N.C., will simply be pro forma in terms of that process. There has been no indication whatsoever that Joe Biden will not continue as the vice presidential candidate. The convention then, in a way, will simply be a rechristening of the pair wrapped in the party banner, and a massive rah-rah pep rally will get the democratic base riled and lathered up.

The second point is that the Romney campaign, even this early, has already begun self-immolation. It was announced on Tuesday morning that Romney had chosen a well-qualified gay activist to be the foreign affairs adviser for his campaign. That brought instant heat with little light from the evangelicals and other social conservatives of the Republican Party. They publicly attacked their own presumptive candidate (although Newt Gingrich, battered and badly behind, said he’s still not to be counted out) and again openly questioned Romney’s trustworthiness in advocating the conservative agenda.

What’s the issue here? Romney will have to show that he can forge his own path as a leader, or he will cringe to the right and replace his foreign affairs adviser with someone more straightlaced.
Romney just created his own public test of character and will. In politics, the mantra is, if you cannot do any good, at least do no harm; and most certainly don’t present to your opponent haymakers to your own head.

The third and final thing for this particular article is that many of us are doing a wistful, ethics-in-hindsight reconsideration of the 1992 Los Angeles civil unrest (variously called the rebellion, the revolt, the riots, the insurrection, the Rodney Roll, etc.). There are lots of other analysts, pundits, preening falsettos and survivors talking and blogging about those four days in April hell.

My small portion of painting the remembrance is that surrounded by a milieu of guns, drugs, Latasha Harlins-like incidents, graffiti, regular police abuse and profiling, swapmeet disrespect, and too many liquor stores, the 1992 Rodney Roll was overall a case of Black folk just getting sick and tired of being sick and tired. The Rodney King verdict was a mere tipping point, not the direct cause of the disturbance. It was the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back, but most of the South Central Black community had been seething for quite a while.

The 1992 disturbance was a massive reaction to persistent disrespect and disregard for Black people by damn near everybody, including ourselves. We were constantly being told our Black skin would dirty up any swapmeet clothes we wanted to try on before buying, and we just had to suck it in as we got talked to in any arrogant way carpet-baggers wanted to address us as we purchased fish, hair products, gas and Johnnie Walker from them before they daily took our money out of our community. Our grocery stores had tacky food that wouldn’t be sold in other neighborhoods but was OK for us, we were told. We weren’t that discriminating.

The first two days of violence against property was as if some small groups had been practicing in preparation, as virtually every nail shop, gas station, liquor store and swapmeet in which Blacks had been disrespected got torched systematically. The larger fires started after the fire department said its firemen were afraid for their safety (someone said he or she heard bullets being fired in their direction) and refused to bring the trucks and hoses anymore. The specific targeting of singular facilities then turned to a raging roast of all manner of buildings, and hanging a sign up saying “I’m a brother too” did not always guarantee a positive result.

Then, once the fires of recrimination and bitterness got out of control, everything else did too.

Chief Daryl Gates withheld any significant police presence in the communities (while urging the blue flu) and unfettered, outpoured all the pent-up anger and resentment at being treated as less than a worthwhile citizen.

The 1992 disturbance was a potboiler against massive and pernicious disrespect. And once it leaped out of pandora’s box, that genie was not going back inside without venting and roaring for a while. In that context, common sense and community responsibility abandoned the streets. Most people stayed inside and hugged the walls.

Will the disturbance return, by whatever name we choose for the moment? Will the fire this time revisit us? Has enough changed in 20 years?

Well, no, as a matter of fact it hasn’t. But we aren’t as sick and tired of it as we were before, we have a Black president, and there’s no tipping point event, not even Trayvon.

What we’ll do is soldier on. But we do remember when we were warriors in the fiery night . . . .

Professor David L. Horne is founder and executive director of PAPPEI, the Pan African Public Policy and Ethical Institute, which is a new 501(c)(3) pending community-based organization or non-governmental organization (NGO). It is the stepparent organization for the California Black Think Tank which still operates and which meets every fourth Friday.

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