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?"