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Friday, October 10, 2008

The race stays close, and Obama isn't becoming any blacker

My strangely titled guest-post yesterday at HughHewitt.com compares Barack Obama to Bill Cosby/Cliff Huxtable in terms of his familiarity and, insofar as his race is concerned, non-threateningness. But I argue that it's fine, indeed appropriate, to be afraid of him, and to withhold one's vote from him, for reasons having nothing to do with race.

Within moments, of course, a comment appeared there accusing me of "spreading the hate."

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[Copied here for archival purposes on November 5, 2008, from the post linked above at HughHewitt.com.]

(Guest Post by Bill Dyer a/k/a Beldar)

The national media is filled with highly confident predictions that Barack Obama is about to win the presidency in a run-away. A good example is David Paul Kuhn's article today on Politico.com, breathlessly entitled Dem strategists see landslide in the making. I'm not quibbling about the accuracy of the headline — Mr. Kuhn is indeed describing what Democratic strategists are predicting. But if you actually read his article, it's filled with more of the "Why the Dems Ought To Win This Cycle" arguments we've been hearing since at least early 2007. Even with a massive and historic addition to those arguments — an economic panic that many people blame more on Bush-43 and the GOP than on the Democrats, fairly or (as I think) not — all of those "should and oughta" reasons have not yet lead to a pro-Obama breakout in the opinion polling.

Instead, as Hugh noted earlier today, the polls remain whisker-tight, vibrating like a high note being played on a violin string. The Democratic "strategists" being interviewed for these articles are all cooperating in a very deliberate expectations game — hoping to depress their opponents psychologically to depress their voting turn-out statistically — but at some point that vibrating violin string must begin to seem like those shrieking notes from the shower scene in Alfred Hitchcock's classic 1960 movie, Psycho. And — to stretch the analogy one delicious bit further — 1960 was the year in which the charismatic (but inexperienced) young Democrat was supposed to swamp the sweating and stubble-faced (but more experienced, especially in foreign affairs) Republican — and that race came down to a few tens of thousands of questionable votes in Daley-dominated Chicago and the Rio Grande Valley of Texas (in the latter of which, dead people who signed the election register all in the same handwriting famously voted in alphabetical order).

Writing in TIME, Joe Klein makes a very interesting observation that I think is partly true, and very revealing in ways that Klein very definitely did not intend. Klein argues (boldface mine) that

[McCain] is not the sort of person, in the end, that you want to invite into your living room for a four-to-eight-year stay.

Barack Obama is. We are witnessing something remarkable here: Obama's race is receding as he becomes more familiar. His steadiness has trumped his skin color; he is being judged on the content of his character....

Klein is exactly right that we are witnessing something remarkable here, and that Obama's race is "receding" in importance "as he becomes more familiar." And Klein's also right — unfortunately for Obama, and perhaps fatally to his campaign — that Obama is indeed being increasingly judged on the content of his character! And that's precisely why the polls aren't showing him breaking out to a big lead, despite all those "oughta be a Dem landslide" factors.

During the Democratic primaries, before Obama had clinched the nomination and solidified what the pollsters now paint as a monolithic voting block among black Americans, there were arguments about whether Obama was "black enough." I thought those were profoundly silly and insulting arguments — insulting not just to Barack Obama personally, not just to black Americans, but to all Americans of any race or political viewpoint. Now, however — while simultaneously arguing that Obama is heading for a "landslide" — Obama's admirers are pre-testing the meme that "if he loses, it can only be because of racism." Although he certainly didn't intend it, I think Klein's observation pre-explodes that premature argument.

With each debate, and with all the gathering attention as the election nears, any lingering negative significance of Obama's race is indeed fading, and he's being judged not as a "black man" but simply as "a man." And if the kind of fear that might have come into play was mainly of the "unknown black man" — the sort of fear that Obama famously attributed to his own (white) grandmother on seeing unknown black men on the street while waiting for a bus — Obama's simply no longer unknown. He is indeed a celebrity, whether because of or despite his race. In fact, with respect specifically to his race, I would wager that Barack Obama is now up into Bill Cosby/Cliff Huxtable territory in terms of his non-threateningness to all Americans regardless of his or their respective race.

But contrary to Klein's wistful thinking that voters will see "steadiness" in Obama's phlegmatic and professorial personality, what more and more voters are actually coming to recognize is that he's a young man, an inexperienced man, an untested man, a leftist man, a pro-government man, a tax-raising man, a spending-raising man, an overconfident and smug and elitist man, a reckless man who underestimates our enemies, and — therefore, based on the combination of those qualities — a very dangerous man.

His race simply has nothing to do with the growing doubts about him in the still very large number of voters who are just now finally focusing on the details of Barack Obama. To the extent that his being black was ever supposed by anyone to be "scary" to white voters, that's now disappeared for all but the most entrenched, most irredeemable outright racists.

In short, Barack Obama is not "getting any blacker" even to the limited number of people who may still find even some blacks scary simply because they're black. But he's becoming very, very scary to a great many other people for other reasons altogether.

Here's my message, then: America, you need not feel guilty for being afraid of Barack Obama. It's not racist to doubt his character and experience and judgment. It's not racist to conclude that they're lacking. He has already proved that a black man can run an entirely viable campaign for the presidency of the United States. Every one of us who looks forward to a post-racist, post-racial society — one in which we've ended racial discrimination because we've stopped discriminating on the basis of race — can be proud. But we can also refuse to vote for Barack Obama for reasons unrelated to race, and we can do so without feeling any guilt whatsoever.

In his own mangled metaphor from the second debate, Barack Obama is still "green behind the ears." Being scared of him for that reason doesn't have anything to do with the rest of him being black.

— Beldar

Posted by Beldar at 10:23 AM in 2008 Election, Obama, Politics (2008) | Permalink

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Comments

(1) Paul_In_Houston made the following comment | Oct 10, 2008 1:12:27 PM | Permalink

"Within moments, of course, a comment appeared there accusing me of "spreading the hate."

I will admit to not knowing how to set up a bot, but would be very unsurprised if I were to learn that some of those commenters were bots.

On a Tom Clancy newsgroup, I remember one Fred McCall once disputing that someone might be a bot:
"Because no programmer would write a piece of software as buggy as Mr.****.
Hell, he's ALIVE, and fails the Turing test."

(2) Dai Alanye made the following comment | Oct 10, 2008 6:37:16 PM | Permalink

McCain is doing his best to come out of this election as a nice, honorable loser. Today he admonished a crowd that Obama is a decent person, and that they should not fear his Presidency.

When he attacks Obama he does it with half measures, saying on Fox News that he's not concerned about "an old, washed-up terrorist." But Ayers isn't "washed-up." He's still in the same business of radicalizing the U S, simply dropping direct violence in exchange for boring from within the education establishment.

Nor is he an "unrepentent terrorist" who "never killed anyone." He is a failed terrorist who only killed his own people. His last bombs were to be aimed at a Fort Dix dance--two bombs: one to destroy the building with the soldiers and their dates and wives, and a follow-up to get the rescue workers. Another bomb was to go off in a Columbia University library.

Instead the bomb-makers, working to Ayers' designs, blew themselves up, destroying a Greenwich Village townhouse and three lives.

Fortunately for Ayers, the FBI screwed up the investigation, and via his wealthy father and contacts he was able to come out of hiding and transfer his mischief into education.

But if McCain fails to get this across, along with Obama's willing assistance to Ayers' attempts to radicalize public education, voters are going to ignore it. If John McCain can dismiss Ayers as washed-up, why should voters stir themselves?

To the credit of some Republicans, when McCain today attempted to defend Obama, he was booed. But if he is determined to become an honorable loser he'll easily get his way. Figure the next debate to be another snoozer, with McCain failing to seriously attack his opponent, contenting himself with a few snide remarks.

I could go on about his economic political approach as well, but let's leave that for now.

In 2004 the Swiftboat Vets were able to save us from Kerry, but I don't see any such miracle occurring this time around.

(3) Obama's Neighbor made the following comment | Oct 10, 2008 9:32:12 PM | Permalink

Obama was considered "not black enough" when he ran against and lost to ex-Black Panther Bobby Rush for US Rep. In fact, he did not win any election until he knocked the legitimate competition off the ballot three times -- the incumbent State Senator, then the toughest Dem competitor for the US Senate nomination, and the very good, also-Ivy League educated Republican. Both of the senate candidates withdrew due to opened divorce files. The dem's ex-wife then got a VERY cushy job with the governor.

(4) Carol Herman made the following comment | Oct 12, 2008 2:07:11 PM | Permalink

Meanspirited-ness. They say the race between John Adams, who was our 2nd president, and Thomas Jefferson, who became our 3rd, is, historically speaking, considered the worst mud-slinging event EVER. (It's where the charge that Jefferson slept with a Black woman and "made babies." Got to stick.) Overlooking that he was sleeping with his dearly departed wife's half sister.

Yes, he was! His wife inherited her slave from her father! Who had slept with a mulatto slave. Meaning that Sally Hemmings was 3/4 White.

Plus, she followed him to Paris. Where she could have chosen her freedom. And, did not. Women's lot.

We are in a new kind of race, here. And, it seems McCain's become McNasty. What's his plan? Can he point to anything? Well, not necessarily. He's been part of big government, and voting for big government, a lot longer than Obama!

Why the mean streak?

Could be both Dubya and McCain, sons of "well-positioned" fathers; always enjoyed the benefits of "connections."

Well? So did John Quincy Adams. If you're a history buff. You'd know the 2nd President of the USA, had a son, Quincy, who STOLE the 1824 election! Yes, he did!

In 1824, Andrew Jackson won. But in the HOUSE, with Henry Clay in charge. And, Henry Clay "paid off" with the Secretary of War's cabinet chair, the Florida count suddely went into John Quincy Adams' court. Last one term.

Andrew Jackson came back, and won again. 1828. And, again. 1832. While Henry Clay's career, and the WHIG PARTY, set a course to get flushed down the toilet.

Abraham Lincoln had been a protoge of Henry Clay's. And, of course, you know what happened in 1860, don't cha?

I've had a hard time coming to terms with the way Dubya's people have "invaded" McCain's campaign. Taking over the best posts. And, they're directing this ugly traffic! WHy? Well, since the elder Bush showed up in Nixon's White House, he's been imbedding people in the CIA. And, probably at State. And, these suckers don't want to let go of their jobs!

Meanwhile, up ahead, wouldn't be the first time that hatred for Blacks can backfire. We've been at it since 1860. With a very bleak history in America's "southern parts."

But it's gotta win enough votes.

I think McCain, like Dubya, has gone where most politicians do not go. They've gone into negative legacy territory.

And, worse. Palin's bought into this bitter pill! Remember this! In 1964 Ronald Reagan (not yet Governor of California), but a beginner on his GOP trajectory; was "told by Goldwater" to go NEGATIVE. Couldn't. Wouldn't. And, the rest is history.

Yes, Reagan had to fight monumental battles to be accepted. But he won 'em. And, he didn't throw away his personna on negative bullshit.

Something very rich kids, just like these two petunias, Dubya and McNasty, seem to thrive on.

And, you thought Dubya was coming close to the end of his line?

What will the "numbers" kick out when America goes to the polls on 11/4?

Wouldn't you have preferred a plan? Something that made some sense, with a feel on how government would function?

NO PLAN? NO SALE. I'd be surprised if "getting ugly" did much good for the Adams' family either!

But yes. George Washington chose to step down. And, we got our presidency locked into our US Constitution. But only a few people know ... it was a "set aside." For only those aristocratic kids who went to the right schools. And, had "well connected fathers."

Boy, does history ever go to great lengths to show ... it's certainly not true "all of the time."

Perhaps, that's the door that opens on 11/4? Can't say it didn't happen, already.

Be funny if this is what's called "BIG CHANGE." Big changes are part of our history, and lore, as well.

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