Sunday, September 21, 2008

Re-Birth of a Nation.

“We know all too little about the factors that affect the attitudes of the peoples of the world toward one another. It is clear, however, that color and race are at once the most important and the most enigmatic.” - John Hope Franklin
Over the last 24 hours, an explosive issue has begun to creep back into the national political conscience. This issue has played a central role in American politics since the 18th century and could decide the presidential election on November 4th. As reported yesterday a recent poll suggests that up to 1 in 3 white democrats may not vote for Barack Obama due to racial biases they hold against African-Americans. Today, a Chicago Sun-Times article on the poll went on to say:

"Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks -- many calling them ''lazy,'' ''violent'' or responsible for their own troubles. The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004 -- about 2.5 percentage points. Certainly, Republican John McCain has his own obstacles: He's an ally of an unpopular president and would be the nation's oldest first-term president. But Obama faces this: 40 percent of all white Americans hold at least a partly negative view toward blacks, and that includes many Democrats and independents. More than a third of all white Democrats and independents -- voters Obama can't win the White House without -- agreed with at least one negative adjective about blacks, according to the survey, and are significantly less likely to vote for Obama than those who don't have such views."

“I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races - I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of making voters or jurors of Negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office.” - Abraham Lincoln

My friend Selena Zito, wrote an interesting column in the conservative leaning Pittsburgh Tribune-Review entitled "The States of the Unions", exploring the challenges unions in Ohio and Pennsylvania are facing to get members to vote for Barack Obama. PA State AFL-CIO President Bill George is quoted in the article as saying:

"There is no question, earlier in the primary campaign the racial issue was there, just like the gender issue was with Hillary for some unions," he says."We in America like to think we don't have any hang-ups or stereotypes. But because of our history and because of a lot of industrial psychology controlling the masses, people have innate prejudices."

Ben Smith & Avi Zenilman of Politico.Com weighed in on the re-emergence of race as an issue in this election:

"It may not be in Obama's political interests, but the national conversation on race may have just begun. But if Democrats hope to muffle a discussion of race, which polling and reporting have long suggested is a crucial factor in swing states, discussion of it also carries risks for the Republican nominee. McCain has largely steered clear of anything that could be interpreted as race-baiting, and the Republican Party earlier this year warned its officials to stay on message on the sensitive topic".

“Let us all hope that the dark clouds of racial prejudice will soon pass away, and that in some not too distant tomorrow the radiant stars of love and brotherhood will shine over our great nation with all their scintillating beauty.” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

The article reminds us that during the democratic primary in New Hampshire when asked "if he would launch another "national conversation about race." Obama responded in the negative. "I'm less interested in a conversation about race in the abstract," he said. "All the self-flagellation, it's not useful. African-Americans get all riled up, and whites get defensive.""

A short two months later, he gave his historic address on race in Philadelphia. He may find himself giving a similar address in a battleground state in the weeks to come.

2 comments:

Michaek said...

It doesn't surprise me that a large percentage of white democrats have negative feelings about African-Americans, but I'm willing to bet that those racist thoughts and beliefs won't prevent most of them from voting for Barack Obama* (much less than 30%). I think you certainly lose some traditional Democratic voters when the candidate is black, or female, but a more aggressive Obama campaign wins back the difference from the center of the spectrum.

* Why? Because I'll bet the mass of those racists disparage "blacks" but not the black man or woman who they work with, because, obviously, that co-worker's not "one of those people". The survey seems to assume racist beliefs are applied as a blanket against all African-Americans. Obama's campaign, even the relatively anemic one he's currently running, will likely land him in the exceptional category for most of these racist Democrats.

Michaek said...

When I said "anemic", I wasn't talking about this ad (which I hadn't yet seen).

That's the stuff.