Talk Talk Talk Talk Talk Myself to Death: Racial Undercurrents

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Racial Undercurrents

A while back, Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell was taken to task for suggesting that some white voters "are probably not ready to vote for an African-American candidate." I was in a couple of conversations today in which that viewpoint was raised. It seems odd that this is somehow a subject we shouldn't discuss. We can hope that the number of such people is small, but we can hardly deny that they exist. We want to acknowledge that race is a factor in the election this year, but we don't want to admit that this is one of the ways race will manifest itself as an issue.

One response I've heard to this point is that, yes, such voters are certainly out there, and they're likely to come out to the polls. But their numbers won't be overwhelming (because if they are, we've got far larger racial issues than we're willing to recognize), because in the locations where they might be a strong enough minority to affect the vote against Obama, the Democratic candidate wouldn't be expected to take the day, anyway. So although they would bring Obama's nationwide vote down, they would be unlikely to make any difference to the electoral vote. Could that be little more than wishful thinking? I certainly hope so, but I suppose we can't really tell until we have a black candidate in the first place.

Rendell did seem to be floating the idea as part of the Clinton campaign, but it has always seemed like a strange point to make in Clinton's favor. If these theoretical voters aren't enlightened enough to vote for an African American candidate, what makes anybody so sure that they wouldn't have exactly the same reaction to a female candidate for president? Many people are willing to vote for a woman for governor or senator, but are they really prepared to vote for one to be the leader of the free world?


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