Poor Barack Obama. In becoming president he inherited the "hollow prize" of the United States of America. That was the astounding theory suggested this morning by Melissa Harris-Lacewell.
The Princeton professor of politics and African-American studies bemoaned the president's predicament on Morning Joe today. Apparently this "hollow prize" theory is in vogue in certain circles, used to decry the plight of African-Americans who only rise to powerful political positions in "hollow prize" places like Detroit.
JOE SCARBOROUGH: I wonder, Melissa, if there's a growing frustration among Democrats in the House, that we talked about with Sam [Stein, of ] last hour, that here we have this progressive president, but there's going to have to be spending cuts, there's going to have to be pay-go rules, there are going to have to be all these things that constrain a progressive agenda.Barack Obama is surely too savvy to ever publicly embrace the "hollow prize" view of the United States. But what does it say of liberals like Harris-Lacewell that they view America so negatively, and view high office not as an opportunity to serve and solve difficult problems, but as the political equivalent of war booty?
MELISSA HARRIS-LACEWELL: There's no doubt about the fact there's anxiety and a little stress around this. I mean, a lot of this has to do with what we think Barack Obama's up to. How many constraints he has. Early on when he was running, I used to talk about what we learned about African-American executives. So, most of the folks we know who hold office are legislators, either at the state level or the national level.
The one place where we have many African-American executives was in the mayor's office. But one of the things that we saw in cities where African-Americans had risen to the level of city hall, was that they inherited what we call "hollow prizes." They became mayor of Detroit just as the auto industry was hollowing out the city, just as the tax base was hollowing out.
And when you look at the particular structural constraints facing this president: reduction in the tax base, mobile capital, the real question became whether or not Barack Obama, in becoming president, inherited a hollow prize in the United States.