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It Always Comes Down to Racism

By Betsy Newmark

Why can't the know-it-alls get it through their heads that it's perfectly possible to not want to vote for Barack Obama for reasons that have nothing to do with the color of his skin? This Sunday we have Maureen Dowd rambling on with some inexplicable comparison between Mr. Darcy of Pride and Prejudice and Barack Obama. She meanders about from complaining about Clinton dead-enders to those women in the Wall Street Journal article who were wary of Obama because he's too fit.

But Dowd's insight this week is that Obama is actually Mr. Darcy, good-looking and cool, but proud. And the Elizabeth Bennets in the electorate out there find him just too full of himself. And that's where the rest of the extended metaphor come in - you guessed it - people don't like Obama because they're prejudiced. Not prejudiced against Mr. Darcy's arrogance, but against Senator Obama's race.
In this political version of "Pride and Prejudice," the prejudice is racial, with only 31 percent of white voters telling The New York Times in a survey that they had a favorable opinion of Obama, compared with 83 percent of blacks.

And the prejudice is visceral: many Americans, especially blue collar, still feel uneasy about the Senate's exotic shooting star, and he is surrounded by a miasma of ill-founded and mistaken premises.

So the novelistic tension of the 2008 race is this: Can Obama overcome his pride and Hyde Park hauteur and win America over?

Can America overcome its prejudice to elect the first black president? And can it move past its biases to figure out if Obama's supposed conceit is really just the protective shield and defense mechanism of someone who grew up half white and half black, a perpetual outsider whose father deserted him and whose mother, while loving, sometimes did so as well?
Oh, please. I'm not sure which poll results Dowd is referring to. This July 15 poll from CBS and the New York Times finds that 37% of white registered voters polled say that they plan to vote for Barack Obama. This Pew poll from May 29 finds Obama with a 41% favorability rating from whites polled. Even with Dowd's figure of only 31% favorability from whites polled, that is not all that different from John Kerry's share of the white vote in 2004 at 41%. The Democrats haven't won the white vote since LBJ's landslide in 1964. Even in 1996, Clinton still only won 43% of the white vote. OSo, rather than jumping to the conclusion that people aren't warming up to him because of his race, Dowd might want consider the possibility that he's facing a bias against Democrats rather than one against his race. In fact, considering that McCain is only getting 2% support from registered black voters in the CBS/NYT poll, perhaps it's time to talk about racist black voters who won't support a white candidate. OR when asked if John McCain's age would make the job too difficult for him to do the job, 55% of the Democratic respondents said yes compared to 13% of Republicans. Why not talk about the ageism of Democrats? Of course, if the Democratic candidate were the one who is 71 what do you want to bet that those numbers would be reversed?

And was it racist when Democratic white voters wouldn't vote for Michael Steele in Maryland or Ken Blackwell in Ohio? How come it is only when the black candidate is a Democrat that we have to tug on our chins and talk about racism among the voters?

And Maureen Dowd better watch out when she talks about Obama being proud. Apparently, that is code language and it takes David Gergen to translate that for us. Today on ABC's show This Week, Gergen told us that everyone with a southern heritage knows that when the McCain campaign juxtaposes Obama with Moses and calls him "The One" (something both Maureen Dowd and I have also done) that every southerner knows that that is just code for calling him "uppity." Really!? Does that mean that no one can ever point out that Obama seems quite arrogant and full of himself without Gergen saying that we're playing to subliminal racism? Baloney! Remember the trouble that Biden got in for saying that Obama was articulate? Apparently, that was also racist. What is it when a white guy like John Kerry was ridiculed for being arrogant? And just as there is no defense against this sort of attack where every word is a hidden attack of racism, there is no arguing against Gergen's logic here. He knows this because he's from the South so that gives him an extra spidey-sense to detect this sort of thing. If you disagree, it's either because you're not from the South and don't know whereof you speak or you're from the South and probably just sublimating your inner racist.

This is quite a gig that these people have. Basically, they've drawn the rules so that whatever you say about Obama, you can be called out for catering to racism. I know that the Democrats would like to make Obama immune from all criticism, but this is an election, dang it! Candidates criticize each other in elections and Republicans refuse to unilaterally disarm just because Obama had an African father.

And why won't pundits such as Dowd and Gergen and all the rest worried about hidden racism keeping white voters from supporting Obama show enough respect for voters who just might not like Obama or his policies. Basically Dowd and Gergen and their liberal talking-head buddies are calling about half the public out there racist. Maybe that is why they have their own trouble identifying Obama's elitist attitudes - because they share it.

John Hawkins
sums it up,
As evidenced by Gergen's bizarre criticism, we've gotten to the point where almost any criticism aimed at Obama for any reason is now being treated as some sort of racial attack.

So, let's see; Obama was a member of an anti-white church for 20 years, talks about "typical white people," only won the Democratic primaries because he was black, and now he and his supporters are trying to rule all criticism off limits because of his race.

Some "post-racial" candidate Obama turned out to be.

I'm so tired of these talking heads telling me that it must be racism for me not to like Senator Obama. Let me repeat it again slowly. Not every criticism of Obama is racist. Just as sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, sometimes a criticism is just that, not a secret racist attack.

Betsy blogs daily at Betsy's Page