Wednesday, January 2

:: Yes, Race Will Be a Factor

Of course race will be a factor if Barack is the nominee - just as gender will be a factor if the nominee is Hillary.
Political reporter Matt Bai remarks, in blog post over at you-know-where, "In fact, on the eve of the Iowa caucuses, there’s been remarkably little discussion at all about Mr. Obama’s race, which 20 years ago would have been the dominant subtext of every word spoken about him." He wonders what impact, if any, race will have on Barack's support in the primary and general elections.

It got me to thinkin'.

I believe we aren't hearing race-based negativity about Obama because we're still in the Democratic primary. Most Democratic campaigns - most Democratic operatives - wouldn't fight that way if their lives depended on it.

But if Barack were the nominee in the general, I guarantee you all hell would break lose.

Remember that Bush in 2000 used racist messages against John McCain in South Carolina, and he's a man of no color whatsoever. Imagine what the same operatives would do this time around.

My guess is this: they'd start by finding ways to talk about "affirmative action," eventually leading up to saying that Obama - who doesn't have much experience and hasn't "paid his dues" - was trying to use his race to get "political affirmative action" in order to "cheat" his way into the Oval Office. There'd be lots of talk about how Obama only cares about getting ahead, about how ambitious he is (read: doesn't know his place).

The moment Obama would try to defend himself, the operatives and their media friends (Matthews, Williams, O'Reilly etc) would counter-charge that Obama is playing the "race card" because he doesn't think he should have to face tough questions, and that's he demanding "special treatment" because he's black. After another week or two they'd start saying its really Obama who is the racist, while the GOP is truly for equality because they don't believe in "special privileges" for anybody.

This is, after all, what's already happened to Hillary. First it was "she expects special treatment because she's a woman / she was First Lady" then when she countered, it was "she's playing the gender card to avoid criticism." Not too long after this you start hearing "she's the one who is the real sexist."

Unfortunately, this gambit plays well with a lot of people, particularly those who don't think of themselves as racist or sexist but do believe that civil rights activists and feminists want "special privileges" for minorities and women and are out to game the system to their own advantage.

Don't believe it? Check out the latest Maureen Dowd column, where she claims both Clinton AND Obama feel "entitled" to the presidency. The groundwork is already being laid.

I'm just as certain that the GOP will go racist against Barack as I am certain that they'll go sexist against Hillary. The Republicans don't have a really good nominee of their own lined up. They are going to have to work triple time cultivating the "anyone but" vote if they want to get their people motivated.

In this respect, no Democratic primary frontrunner has an advantage or disadvantage - neither Clinton, Obama nor even Edwards (the GOP has already started insinuating he's "swishy" i.e. the expensive hairdresser, the Breck girl comments, Coulter calling him a particular epithet). Things are going to get ugly no matter who is our nominee.

Of course, an attack like this would unify and energize a lot Democrats - myself included. Nothing would turn me into an Obama supporter faster than the first salvo of dirty GOP campaigning.

The only distinction I might draw is that I think Hillary's supporters know to expect this - I'm not sure Barack's supporters do.

No comments: