In light of Sen. John McCain's badly managed presidential campaign and series of outlandish statements, along with general anti-Republican sentiment among the electorate, some prominent Democrats and media pundits are now saying the only reason many polls show McCain essentially tied with Barack Obama is due to the latter's ethnicity.
Gee, ya think?
Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius raised the topic of subtle racism while taking questions from a crowd in Iowa on Wednesday.
“Have any of you noticed that Barack Obama is part African-American?” said Sebelius, as quoted by The Iowa Independent. “That may be a factor. All the code language, all that doesn’t show up in the polls. And that may be a factor for some people.”
Jack Cafferty, a CNN political analyst, echoed the theme later that same day.
“Race is arguably the biggest issue in this election, and it’s one that nobody’s talking about,” Cafferty said. “The differences between Barack Obama and John McCain couldn’t be more well-defined. Obama wants to change Washington. McCain is a part of Washington and a part of the Bush legacy. Yet the polls remain close. Doesn't make sense, unless it’s race.”
Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke even discussed the topic in a recent Web article. Burke said, "I know there is a real concern out there that some people who normally would be voting Democratic might not vote for an African-American."
We’ve been saying ever since Ohio’s March primary that the most likely explanation for Hillary Rodham Clinton’s strong showing among the state’s blue collar, non-college educated workers was their reticence in voting for an African-American to hold the highest office in the nation.
Exit polling done at the time by MSNBC revealed about two-thirds of white voters in Ohio backed Clinton, higher than in many other states. Also, Ohio is far more Caucasian than many states; nearly three-fourths of all voters here are white, compared to the six in 10 in earlier Democratic primaries.
Obama got overwhelming support from blacks, younger voters and the college educated, but did poorly among blue collar workers and elderly voters.
The same split also held true in primary results in Pennsylvania and West Virginia, where the same demographic gave Clinton her margin of victory.
But even Clinton’s own campaign manager, Terry McAuliffe, conceded during the primary race that Obama and Clinton agreed on “90 percent of the issues.” The biggest difference was on healthcare and, in that instance, Clinton’s plan was more liberal. Clinton’s proposal would’ve required that everyone have insurance coverage, which Obama’s didn’t at the time.
Further, Obama publicly criticized the job losses sparked partially by passage of the North American Free Trade Agreement in the 1990s and vowed to renegotiate the pact, while Clinton was more hesitant and nebulous on the issue. Whether it was genuine or calculated, Obama’s position was closer to the one held by many blue collar workers in the region, yet they still voted for Clinton.
Race is still a hot button issue that’s not brought up in polite society.
Philadelphia Daily News columnist Fatimah Ali discovered that earlier this month when she wrote, “If McCain wins, look for a full-fledged race and class war, fueled by a deflated and depressed country, soaring crime, homelessness — and hopelessness.”
The mere mention of a possible race war — two words out of 775 in the column — triggered an avalanche of hateful commentary on conservative Web sites and right-wing radio talk shows, and threats to Ali.
U.S. society has come a long way since the Rev. Martin Luther King’s “I Have A Dream” speech, which celebrated its 45th anniversary on the day Obama accepted his party’s nomination. But it hasn’t come as far as everyone likes to think.
— Kevin Osborne