Running Local

This Train of Thought Makes All Stops

The Ironic World of Bobby Rush

Posted by Bob Kohm on January 6, 2009

Bobby Rush had a large tumor cut out of his throat to save him from cancer; the scar from that, however, is 2803066331_3498031398_onothing compared to the one where his nose used to be, the result of self-mutilation in spite of his face.

A founder of the Illinois Black Panther Party and every inch the radical that the GOP failed to portray Barack Obama as during the campaign, Rush has gone from being an effective agent of social change to the stooge that he always railed against. While many only need to read as far into Rush’s biography as the Black Panther tag, Rush took his notoriety and organization and did some amazing things with them back in the late Sixties and early Seventies. From sickle-cell testing and awareness to education reform and nutrition programs, Rush embodied his ethos and moved forward issues and programs badly needed by his community literally by force of will. The “radical organization as social services provider” model that he promulgated has been twisted to more nefarious purposes by many groups since, with Hamas being the one most currently in the public eye.

How sad it is, then, to see what Rush has become, an aging crank who is literally becoming the stooge of the people whom he so virulently railed against throughout his life. Over the past week Rush has forced himself back onto the scene by enlisting in one of the dumbest causes seen of late, the push by Rod Blagojevich to appoint Roland Burris to the Senate seat vacated by Barack Obama. Burris is an old line Chicago politician of a similar stripe to Rush, but with one significant difference– Burris knowingly sold out to the Chicago establishment years and years ago, maintaining his Civil Rights status as a thin camouflage for his naked ambition. His appointment by Blagojevich is seen by many as a “screw you” to Barack Obama, whom Blagojevich sees as the proximate cause of his downfall.

Rush’s frenzied support of Burris slips into that “Screw Obama” template quite handily. Rush has long despised the President-Elect as the reflection of everything that Rush saw himself to be in his youth but failed to be as a member of the establishment that he sought to reform. Young Obama, the community organizer on the South Side stomping grounds of Rush, brought a measured and calm approach to helping the community, yes, one part Alinsky but three parts Harvard. Whereas Rush would’ve railed against “the man” and crammed what he needed for the community down “his” throat, Obama worked the system to achieve his goals deftly and with a maximum of resident participation but also a minimum of screaming and stress. When a more mature State Senator Obama sought to move into the national scene, it was the aging dinosaur Rush whom he set his sights upon. Obama primaried Rush in 2000 for his House seat and suffered the only electoral loss of his career to date in a nasty primary that saw Rush frequently resort to harsh personal attacks on Obama, calling him at times a “…Harvard educated fool”, a “puppy”, and, most surprisingly from a civil rights leader like Rush, a “boy”.

This past week has seen Congressman Rush continue his harsh personal attacks on Barack Obama coupled with racial invective totally inappropriate to the situation. Rush has become the token black activist serving at Blagojevich’s behest, forwarding the cynical supposition that the Democratic resistance to Buriss’ appointment is a matter of racism rather than one of propriety and legality. From his hateful use of the lynching hot point to his comparison of the “cause” of Blagojevich & Burris to the Jena Nine, Rush parodies everything he has ever stood for.

He still is a racial firebrand, but his torch is now wielded not by an oppressed minority seeking to burn down their oppressor’s castle but by that cynical and haughty Duke himself in order to set light to the pyre upon which the original cause is burnt.

Rush today is Rush as satire and nothing more. Railing against the manifestation of his dreams, an African-American President drawn from the Community Organizing movement of the South Side of Chicago, for the sake of a guy who is every bit the plantation master would be comical were it not so sad. His is a very modern tragedy.


4 Responses to “The Ironic World of Bobby Rush”

  1. Chancellor said

    For the GOP, Blago is the gift that keeps on giving. Diabolically shrewd combined with unbrideled arrogance then mixed with stunningly corrupt has proven to be an amazing contribution. While Rush is the most vocal and nasty, he’s hardly alone among the Black Caucus wanting Burris seated. Nothing like splintering the Black Caucus even before Obama is sworn in.

    As certain as it was that Texas was going to score the winning TD against OSU last night, it’s also as certain that Harry Reid will screw this up, too. It’s just a matter of when and how badly.

  2. Bob Kohm said

    Rush is providing cover for some other members of the caucus, yes, but John Lewis and the other serious players will keep the group together and backing policy. The thing to realize, though, is that Obama really doesn’t give much of a damn about the Caucus beyond their votes– he’s not goign to be ruling as a “black” president no matter how much certain groups want to label him.

    Blago will be gone in a month and this all goes away. Well, except for Reid. I don’t expect him to stay in the Majority Leader post for more than another two years.

  3. Chancellor said

    Agree with you on Obama vis a vis the Black Caucus. But, IMO, you’re underrating the level of dissatisfaction among the caucus with Reid’s course of action. Rangel pitched in with his more measured, but probably more damning, condemnation of how Burris was treated.

    Blago gone in a month? Not a chance, IMO. The Illinois legislature couldn’t even organize a kids picnic in a month. Add that the charges have been delayed for at least 90 days, and I don’t see Illinois getting rid of Blago until April at best.

  4. Chancellor said

    I’m typically not a big Jane Hamsher fan, but you HAVE to read her spot on “I Want to Play Poker with Harry Reid” on It’s really, really funny…well, after you stop crying if you’re a Dem.

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