Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Obama and America's racial integrity; On Obama's age

That is, our electorate's integrity on race will be tested on race.

So far, we have much cause to worry when it comes down to how American voters will treat race. Michele Norris, on PBS' analytical discussions late Monday night of Barack Obama and race, squarely identified a key factor in voters' minds: Obama's race. She squarely noted that many voters are using code words and phrases as foils to express their discomfort with his race. All of this talk about "not knowing him well enough" is bunk; many voters are, frankly, racist. That is, they will not vote for Obama because he is part black. Connie Schultz, of the Cleveland Plain Dealer, also on PBS's convention discussion panels, followed up on Norris' point Monday night, noting her blue collar background, emphasized her conversations with working class voters and many blue collar voters' saying that they will not vote for Obama because of his race. For decades, race has been the great cleavage in American society, dividing the working class. As Schultz pointed out, this great divide has persisted into the current election.

Phrases such as "I don't know him well enough," "I don't feel comfortable enough with him" are mere foils, mere cover for voters' racial anxiety. It is sad that pundits reiterate these phrases, without recognizing the deeper, the essential meaning of these phrases.

I am not arguing that to reject Obama indicates that a voter is racist. Rather, I am arguing that if the only thing that voters can produce is to not know him well enough is cause for not voting for him, then this suggests that it is quite likely that voters are racists and that they are using these phrases as excuses for their racism. There has been ample television coverage of Obama and his personal life. This litmus test of "knowing him personally" is unusual: Americans have known the same or far less about presidential candidates in the past and this did not prevent them from voting for them.

I feel a great uneasiness that this vote is the great litmus test for the American electorate's racial majority. Whether America has moved on, on the issue of race, will be tested on election day. Let's see how the votes come down; let's see what exit polls say and let's see what kinds of questions these exit polls ask.

Do voters want a fairer tax code for humbler classes? Do voters want out from this financial quagmire of a war? Then, they want Obama.
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Here's Patricia Williams of the Nation, addressing the question of language and implicit narrative in the campaign, "Is It Racist to Say Obama's Untested?," in AlterNet, August 21, 2008.

Even Daivd Gergen suggested that McCain is using code words. See Sam Stein, August 3 in the Huffington Post: Gergen: McCain Using Code Words To Attack Obama As "Uppity"

The issue of age is one of those double standards that Obama is facing. We are forgetting that other presidents have had the same youthful age when assuming office. How often is age cited negatively in assessing John Kennedy's performance? While Kennedy is often noted as the youngest person elected president, Theodore Roosevelt was the youngest person to assume the presidency. He was 42 years, 10 months when he assumed the presidency, following William McKinley's assassination in 1901. His youth was never held against him in analyses of his presidential performance. By contrast, Obama will be 47 years of age on election.

Now, as to government experience, Obama exceeds the experience of Abraham Lincoln. We often remember Lincoln for the Lincoln-Douglas debates for the Senate. Yet, we forget that he lost and did not serve in the Senate. He had served merely two years as a member of the Illinois delegation to the U.S. House of Representatives.

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