Robert Stein 1924-2014

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Saturday, August 02, 2008

Whole Deck of Race Cards

The Issue That Dared Not Speak Its Name is now on everybody's lips, including John McCain's and Barack Obama's own. Is this good or bad? Maybe both.

On the positive side, it's healthy to drag prejudice into the open (fresh air as a disinfectant and all that). Those who vote against Obama because of race should at the very least be made to squirm for it, if they have the capacity for being embarrassed, instead of hiding behind euphemisms.

But we are now involved in a more convoluted debate that threatens to diminish all sides. Let's review the bidding:

After the Jeremiah Wright YouTube rants, Obama made his Philadelphia speech about race, was almost universally applauded for it and prepared to move on.

But Hillary Clinton's sudden enormous popularity with "working-class voters" in the late primaries showed that millions had a wee problem seeing a black person in the White House, and it was inevitable that Republican swiftboaters would notice and act accordingly.

Obama, in effect, challenged them to try. “We know what kind of campaign they’re going to run,” he told Americans in June. “They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?”

For the past month, the McCain campaign has been doing just that, using "different" and "flashy" as its locutions of choice.

Responding to the Britney Spears-Paris Hilton ad, Bob Herbert in today's New York Times muses:

"Gee, I wonder why, if you have a black man running for high public office--say, Barack Obama or Harold Ford--the opposition feels compelled to run low-life political ads featuring tacky, sexually provocative white women who have no connection whatsoever to the black male candidates."

When Obama himself hit back, he was accused of playing the race card. “I did not bring up the issue," John McCain says in his best I'm-shocked,shocked style. “Senator Obama...brought up the issue of race, I responded to it...I’m disappointed, and I don’t want that issue to be part of this campaign."

So what we have now is a whole deck of race cards, with double edges, on the table. Once the August silly season is over and the Conventions start, politicians on both sides will be talking about the economy, wars and threats other than Obama's skin tone. But the issue will be there, under the radar, all the way to November.


Stimpson said...

Any responsible reporter should have called 'bullshit' when McCain claimed he didn't bring race into the discussion. His campaign did, and so he did. As in, "I'm John McCain and I approve this message."

John said...

The ad had psycho-sexual connotations involving race. McCain scored points on the hit but the rebound is yet to come.

Stimpson said...

In case you missed it, from the jedreport website: "One month ago -- in late June -- a McCain ad superimposed Obama's visage on a one hundred dollar bill as part of an effort to mock his supposed 'presumptuousness.'"
Yet the McCain camp has the nerve to say Obama's dollar-bill comment is 'playing the race card'?