Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Is Racism the Central Reason Why
This Race For President is So Tight?

Over the weekend, Slate.com's editor
Jacob Weisberg flatly said yes. Yesterday, in the New York Times opinion page, Matt Bai flatly said no. We think Bai's argument is far stronger than Weisberg's simplistic take, which was a little over the top. He ends the piece with what can only be labeled a bizarre overreach, arguing that an Obama loss would represent nothing less than a sign of America's decline. "To the rest of the world, a rejection of the promise he represents wouldn't just be an odd choice by the United States. It would be taken for what it would be: sign and symptom of a nation's historical decline." We'll be charitable and hold open the possibility that Weisberg is just trying to get readers' attention in late August with a dash of hyperbole.

Bai, on the other hand, pursues a logical argument rather than an hysterical one. "While it’s entirely possible that Mr. Obama’s race is costing him some support, it’s also true that the electorate that voted in the last two presidential elections was almost symmetrically divided between the two parties. It would defy the laws of politics if, at this early stage of the campaign, moderate Republicans and conservative independents were to reject Mr. McCain (a candidate many of them preferred back in 2000) simply because they don’t like George W. Bush. Second, Mr. Obama faces genuine obstacles that are more salient than skin color. By any historical measure, he has remarkably little governing experience and almost none in foreign policy. And he represents not only a racial milestone in American life, but also a stark generational shift. It’s hard to extricate these things from Obama’s blackness."

Either way, the Washington Post
reports today that a lot of Democratic convention delegates from swing states are growing increasingly nervous about the job that lies ahead. After all, even Michelle Obama, to her credit, admitted in a video played before her speech to the convention last night that when she first met her future husband, her initial reaction was "what kind of name is that?"

8 Comments:

At 9:12 AM, Anonymous Mr. Bluster said...

"It would be taken for what it would be: sign and symptom of a nation's historical decline."

I think that already happened in the 2004 Presidential election. Fool me once...

 
At 9:51 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Great point. I remember thinking after the results were in in '04 that the rest of the world must think we're moral cretins to put those two thugs back in the White House after all the overwhelming evidence of their multiple misdeeds.

 
At 12:41 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

By the way, I hope you all saw or will see Michelle's speech last night. It was quite good, and should win over some converts at least from the middle (though of course never from the Cro Magnon right, which will continue to brand her with every sin they can conjure). But note that it signals a tactic the campaign has apparently decided to employ to combat the problem of his complicated, far-flung geographic family roots: they apparently intend to put the focus on hers rather than his. Not sure how well that will work, especially given the still-fresh sensitivities of the electorate about the "two for one" Clintons, but it will be at least interesting to watch as it unfolds. The tactical war in these final 70 days will be fascinating.

 
At 9:11 PM, Anonymous Roldo Bartimole said...

Although I haven't read his article, I think Weisberg has the correct slant. A rejection of Obama to an old, backward-thinking McCain would suggest an inability or unwillingness on the part of the U.S. electorate for change and that means an acceptance of the status quo. The inability to change means decline.

 
At 9:22 PM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

I think that's what he might have meant by that Roldo. I only wish he would have taken the time and effort to explain it as well and as simply as you just did. I don't happen to agree, though, as you know. One might be for change in the country, but the older and wiser you become, the more interested you tend to be in a person's track record (as a predictor of future actions) and the less you focus on his plans, hopes or ambitions. Obama just doesn't have nearly enough of a record of achievement to put my mind at ease, at least not yet, and lots of Americans agree at the moment. He just might change my mind with a really powerful series of debates in the fall. That's where the election will be won or lost (like many elections, I suppose). But I'll still be nervous about the prospects of having a sophomore in such a crucial job, with all the serial disasters he'll be facing. We can't afford to get it wrong this time, after eight years of this wrecking crew.

 
At 10:43 PM, Anonymous a fan said...

Classic Ettorre with both sides fairly portrayed, thoughtful and tightly written commentary with plenty to ruminate upon. Top off such a feast with desserts of Roldo and Bluster and delighted I am, rolling away from the table with a smile on my face and a thorn in my kiester.

 
At 6:19 AM, Blogger sevnetus said...

Last night on Charlie Rose, Connie Shultz said they had to take down comments on their blogs because of overt racism against Obama. She also said she received much email commending her for acknowledging that race was playing as a big issue on the preceding evening’s show. I’m paraphrasing here. My own previous comment was entirely reported.

 
At 9:47 AM, Blogger John Ettorre said...

Thanks. And not to quibble, but we think the contributions of Bluster and Roldo (and all our other smart, subtle readers who take the trouble to weigh in here via comments) seem less like apple pie a la mode and more like a heaping plate of pasta primavera. Here's hoping they'll continue to add to the conversation. And thanks for letting us know about the CS appearance on Charlie Rose, Sevnetus. It had escaped our attention. That would be her third appearance on his show, I believe. Not long ago, I wrote about (link below) what I thought was her first Charlie Rose appearance, but she later set me straight by noting an earlier appearance.

http://workingwithwords.blogspot.com/2008/06/waitress-test-recycled-what-does-barack.html

 

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