(8 am – promoted by ek hornbeck)
I’ll be quick.
Had a brief conversation at lunch yesterday with someone I’ve known for nearly 20 years now. This gentleman – let’s call him Solley – is a longtime Democratic supporter, to the tune of scores – perhaps hundreds – of thousands of dollars over decades. He and other family members used to be active in Democratic politics and were very well connected within the party, but not so much anymore. He’s a World War II veteran.
We were talking about the presidential race, and about the respective prospects for Hillary and Obama. Solley brought up his concern about the Rev. Wright issue, and expressed the view that it could be a very serious matter in terms of Obama’s electability.
But when he said that, I detected a false note in his concern. Solley is an extremely intelligent person with a curious mind and a voracious appetite for knowledge. As he talked about Jeremiah Wright, he couldn’t say anything substantive about why Wright would be problematic. I suspected that that was because he is smart enough to realize that if one tries to make a case against Obama built around Wright, one can much more easily and quickly make a case against McCain with respect to Hagee, or against Hillary with respect to The Family.
Even though Solley is still very sharp, he is getting on in years. Solley is definitively of the “old school” in most areas of his life. And that includes his prejudices. In unguarded moments, he will not hesitate to use a pejorative Yiddish term for black people. As well-intentioned and liberal-thinking as he is, deep down, from decades of history, he still harbors racial prejudice.
And as he was talking, it hit me: Jeremiah Wright is for certain Democrats – and will be, for many Republicans come the general election – their 21st-century answer to “states’ rights.”
“States’ rights” was the code phrase that Southern racists used, first, in the 19th century, to justify slavery, then, in the 20th century, to rationalize Jim Crow laws supporting segregation, to legitimize their heinous practices, to – in their minds and in their conversations with the rest of the world – defend the indefensible.
Jeremiah Wright and William Ayers (and every other cockamamie “objection” that will be dug up by Obama’s foes and that has an equal or greater counterpart with respect to Hillary and/or McCain) will be used to justify a vote against an uppity n***er by every latent racist of whatever political stripe.
That is why, no matter how much anyone tries to respond to a “But what about Rev. Wright???” attack with a massively more rational, “Well, what about Rev. Hagee??” retort, it won’t matter to those who are most eager to latch onto the Wright narrative to begin with. And that is precisely because, for such people, Wright represents merely a hook to hang their racist votes on. It’s not about Wright. It’s not about Ayers. It’s not about Rezko. It’s not about 3 a.m. It’s not about Muslim. It’s not about any of that. For certain voters, it’s about an excuse not to vote for a black man.
PLEASE NOTE: This is NOT to say that everyone concerned with Obama’s electability vis-à-vis the Wright (non-)issue is a latent racist; I’m sure there are those voters who genuinely believe that the idea that every utterance by one’s former pastor – specifically, a former pastor whose endorsement one has neither sought nor trumpeted – is a reflection of one’s own character and fundamental beliefs, and thus a central issue in a presidential campaign. If you’re a Democrat, that is. An African-American Democrat, to be more precise.
When I thought about it, I realized that my conversation with Solley wasn’t the first time I had heard an otherwise intelligent person spout an utterly ridiculous objection to Obama; I had heard something equally inane a month or two earlier, only this time it came from a Republican, who seemed genuinely fearful that Obama – not Clinton, mind you, just Obama – would “raise taxes.”
At the time, I tried to engage this person by pointing out that any fiscally responsible person to hold the office of president beginning in January 2009 will have to raise taxes – even if only on the very wealthiest – just to bring the U.S. budget into balance. But I now realize it wouldn’t have mattered what I said – it wasn’t about taxes.
I could be wrong about this. But it hit me like a ton of bricks yesterday, one of those “Aha!” moments of clarity. It’s only a theory, but it might go a long way toward explaining why certain “issues” are only “issues” for Obama, while the same “issues” are not issues for Clinton or McCain.
Also available in Orange