(10 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)
I had lunch last week with a good friend of mine. She is in her mid-sixties and her husband is in his early seventies. They are white working class people and life-long Democrats. During the primaries, she had noted how interesting it was that she supported Obama and her husband supported Clinton. Last week when we were talking about the election, she mentioned that her husband would reluctantly vote for Obama. For the first time, I asked her what his concerns were about Obama…she said it was his race.
BAM…never saw that one coming. I know we read alot about this, but it felt like a different story coming from such close quarters. I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since. I wonder what constructs he has in his head that would write-off someone he would otherwise support simply because of his race. I know he’s from an era where that was more common than it is today, but its still hard for me to get my arms around that kind of blatant racism – especially in someone who is otherwise fairly progressive.
Perhaps its because I’ve been thinking about that conversation so much, or maybe there has been an actual shift in the campaign back to racism, but I seem to be hearing about it a lot more over the last few days. I think the later is more the case as the McCain campaign recognizes its in the “final throes” (hope its more true this time than it was when Cheney said it) and they have announced a new surge in negativity.
I think we’ve already seen how this works. A few months ago, Buhdy wrote that in trying to smear Obama, all they’ve got is black. But we know that those who are overtly racist would never vote for Obama in the first place. As Nicholas Kristof wrote in his column this weekend:
Most of the lost votes aren’t those of dyed-in-the-wool racists. Such racists account for perhaps 10 percent of the electorate and, polling suggests, are mostly conservatives who would not vote for any Democratic presidential candidate.
Rather, most of the votes that Mr. Obama actually loses belong to well-meaning whites who believe in racial equality and have no objection to electing a black person as president – yet who discriminate unconsciously…
Research suggests that whites are particularly likely to discriminate against blacks when choices are not clear-cut and competing arguments are flying about – in other words, in ambiguous circumstances rather like an electoral campaign.
So, how does the McCain/Palin campaign tap into the competing arguments in ambiguous circumstances? Like this:
“Our opponent … is someone who sees America, it seems, as being so imperfect, imperfect enough, that he’s palling around with terrorists who would target their own country,” Palin told a group of donors in Englewood, Colo. A deliberate attempt to smear Obama, McCain’s ticket-mate echoed the line at three separate events Saturday.
“This is not a man who sees America like you and I see America,” she said. “We see America as a force of good in this world. We see an America of exceptionalism.”
To me, that whole statement is despicable, but the portion I highlighted is what signals the unconscious discrimination that Kristof was talking about. He’s different from me…the most obvious way is is skin color and name…therefore, I’m not sure I can trust him. And today, William Kristol suggests that Palin will drudge up all the old Reverend Wright racist memes as well. They know that they can afford to “take the gloves off,” but that if Obama does so, it has the potential to cast him as an “angry black man.” If you haven’t read Tim Wise’ essay titled This is Your Nation on White Privilege, I highly recommend it. He powerfully demonstrates the two standards being applied to these campaigns.
I’m not sure that, in the end, this will be an effective strategy (tactic? LOL) for the McCain campaign. But then, the subtlety only needs to get a small percentage of the population to question Obama.
I expect the last few weeks of this campaign will be ugly. And nowhere more so than in the McCain campaign’s attempts to appeal to unconscious racism.