Racism wildly overblown in presidential campaign

Racism wildly overblown in presidential campaign

But this othering is more diabolically potent this time because it’s about race, right? No, actually, that’s wrong. The assumption that an inner racist demon lurks latent and uncontrollable in the souls of all white Americans, waiting to jump to the Republican dog whistle, is simply untrue.

Europeans, so easily prone to condescension when talking about Americans, should not throw stones from inside their glass houses. Nor should journalists, who too often use the lazy cliché that, in the privacy of the polling booth, white Americans will do the opposite of what they say they will do.

Barack Obama is not the black candidate. He is the Democratic candidate. He is not just the representative of an ethnic group that has never even been close to winning the presidency. He is also the nominee of a party that has become something of an expert at losing it. That is the reason why, next Tuesday, American voters face a double choice – electing a president of a race they have not previously voted for and, at least as important on the day, electing a president from a party they rarely vote for in modern times either.

Look at it this way. Obama may or may not have a problem getting white Americans to vote for him. But he is doing much better than most of his recent Democratic predecessors ever managed among such voters. In 2004, white Americans split 61 per cent for Bush and 38 per cent for Kerry. Four years before that, they went 57 per cent to Bush and 40 per cent to Gore. In both 1992 and 1996, Bill Clinton had a one-point lead among white people. Four years before that, George Bush Sr beat Dukakis by 20 points. Against that historical backcloth, Obama’s onepoint lead over McCain among white voters in the most recent New York Times-CBS poll looks pretty significant, while his bigger leads among white women, white men under 45 and, especially, white independent voters look potentially like a set of decisive turnabouts from recent Democratic experience.

Yes, there is a lot of evidence from things like implicit association tests that racist assumptions still lurk in millions of white American minds (and European minds too, of course). But that doesn’t mean that racism is the only thing you need to know about such people or that it dominates their minds or that they are incapable of overcoming it.

In particular, it doesn’t mean that, when asked to vote for this black man at this time, they will not do so. Americans have spent a long time getting to know Barack Obama. The evidence is that they like what they see and that they are about to do something both right and great.— Dawn/The Guardian News Service

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