Sunday, August 24, 2008

I don't talk about this much...

McCain has rapidly gained five points in the polls over the past few weeks, putting himself only a few points behind Obama - though I’m sure that the Biden announcement combined with the DNC will change things in the coming days; and then the Republican announcement will swing things back again, etc.

I was hunting across news sites looking for reasons why McCain was gaining on Obama and came up empty. I found poll data and a few guesses about the cause, none of which were new: Hillary supporters are considering McCain, McCain has gone on the attack with good effect, etc. The surprising one was how many publications blamed the gain on racism. Here’s one rather unsurprising one.

Analysts continue to refer to racism as “the elephant in the room” in this election, but the obvious truth is that there’s been fairly consistent debate over the nature of race in politics throughout this election year. Not to say, as always, that we don’t still have miles to go.

I just don’t see how racism applies here. Assumably, there are a certain number of people in America who will never vote for a black candidate. Beyond that, there are shades of gray: people who might under very certain circumstances vote for a black president, people who have bitterness towards the black community for one reason or another, people who are vaguely but non-specifically prejudiced, and so on. But shouldn’t all that be decided by now?

If someone’s mind is made up against Obama, either partially or totally because of his race, that shouldn’t change according to current events. As best I understand it, it either affects your decision making or it doesn’t. You don’t suddenly decide “y’know, I don’t think I can vote for Obama after all. He is, after all, black.”

I have to think that the several major publications that blame McCain’s surge on racism have done Obama a disservice. To say that the only reason his opponent could rise in the polls would be general racism isn’t just insulting, it’s politically damaging. Naturally, Obama’s campaign has become the figurehead of race relations in this country, but comments like this make it only that. Obama’s made it fairly clear that he doesn’t want to spend a lot of time discussing his ethnicity (though certainly that hasn’t stopped anybody from doing it for him, and you can read into that however you want), so to turn his Presidential campaign into nothing more than a metaphor for the shape of prejudice in America is insulting to Obama, McCain, and Americans in general.

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