NY Times: NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF: The Push to ‘Otherize’ Obama

NY Times: NICHOLAS D. KRISTOF (9/20/08)

The Push to ‘Otherize’ Obama

Here’s a sad monument to the sleaziness of this presidential campaign: Almost one-third of voters “know” that Barack Obama is a Muslim or believe that he could be.

What is happening, I think, is this: religious prejudice is becoming a proxy for racial prejudice. In public at least, it’s not acceptable to express reservations about a candidate’s skin color, so discomfort about race is sublimated into concerns about whether Mr. Obama is sufficiently Christian.

The result is this campaign to “otherize” Mr. Obama. Nobody needs to point out that he is black, but there’s a persistent effort to exaggerate other differences, to de-Americanize him.

Raising doubts about a candidate based on the religion of his grandfather is toxic and profoundly un-American, cracking the melting pot we emerged from. Someday people will look back at the innuendoes about Mr. Obama with the same disgust with which we regard the smears of Al Smith as a Catholic candidate in 1928.

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