Eddie Glaude Jr., author and professor of African American Studies at Princeton, outed himself on MSNBC’s Deadline: White House as a man dedicated to soundbites over substance. While discussing the show’s go-to topic of racism in the Republican Party, the network regular denounced Georgia Senate candidate, Herschel Walker, as a “black Manchurian candidate” who is only running for office because he is owned by the GOP. Putting aside the professor’s economic interest in forcing all topics through the prism of race, his statement made something extraordinarily clear: Either he has not read The Manchurian Candidate, or he utterly failed to understand the words contained within.
A Stunning Rebuke of the GOP
Glaude is rarely shy in expressing his condemnation for the GOP. He told MSNBC’s Nicolle Wallace:
“It’s almost as if for the Republican Party in places like Georgia and across the nation, the only way that black people can participate in the political process is that they have to own us. They have to possess us. They have to find a black ‘Manchurian candidate’ like Herschel Walker, a walking stereotype who will do their bidding. I mean, damn, when are we going to finally, finally leave this behind and try to be an actual democracy?”
The Manchurian Candidate Legacy
Written in 1959 by prolific author Richard Condon, and made into an Oscar-winning movie in 1962 starring Frank Sinatra and Angela Lansbury, the story details a conspiracy to make an unwitting assassin out of a politically connected young sergeant, Raymond Shaw. Its legacy in popular culture has far outstripped its initial literary success, partly as a result of its dark humor and partly due to the very real undertones of McCarthyism that penetrate every page.
So how did this apparent intellectual, Eddie Glaude Jr., manage to entirely misunderstand a novel that has been at the forefront of American culture for more than half a century?
Begin the Beguine
First and foremost, calling Herschel Walker a black Manchurian candidate completely ignores the whole premise of the story. The plot details how radical communists – intent on disrupting the decadency of America, and in particular, capitalism – seek out a “candidate” to be an unknowing assassin. The reason for choosing young Raymond Shaw is that he has family connections in politics which would not only allow him access to the upper reaches of high society but also ensure that his discovery as a killer would be a devastating blow to the moral fiber of the nation.
If Professor Glaude’s analogy regarding Mr. Walker were to hold any water, the Senate contender would have to be running for the party that has disavowed capitalism and embraced socialism. Another arena in which the professor has erred is that the protagonist, Raymond Shaw, is selected because he is already an insider. His mother (masterfully played by the late Angela Lansbury in the 1962 movie) is a stalwart of the WASP upper crust, who is married to Senator Johnny Iselin, a Joseph McCarthy-like figure. In what imagined world is Walker a member of the political elite, tangentially or otherwise? Of course, Walker has a certain amount of fame as a football legend, but that by no means implies he is a denizen of the brackish DC Swamp.
Glaude appeared on the panel via video from a room filled wall to wall with books – a setting he often adopts. And yet his blatant misunderstanding of an American classic could cause one to wonder if the books are a mere affectation adopted to instill a sense of intellectualism.
Or perhaps they are merely a Dali-esque crutch to support a career that values hype and hyperbole as paramount over genuine intellectual engagement. Yes, the term “black Manchurian candidate” succeeded in creating headlines across the country, and perhaps that was the real point. But if fancy soundbites that are inaccurate reflections of reality are the pièce de résistance of the left’s cerebral vanguard, maybe a new set of books to quote from is in order … perhaps even ones with pictures?
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