A chant often used by supporters of Senator Barack Obama is “Race doesn’t matter..” Well, I am sorry to disillusion them and the Senator, but in America, and especially American politics, race does matter and it will matter a great deal in November when Senator Obama squares off against Senator John McCain in the general election. As this political ad by the North Carolina GOP makes very clear, there are elements in the GOP that have no qualms about reying on the racial divisions in this country for political gain. Even if senator McCain denounces these tactics, as he did this ad, it is debatable whether the Senator can control his own party.
The hoopla surrounding the Reverend Jeremiah Wright, whether we want to admit it or not, is racially motivated. Had those remarks been made in a sermon by someone like Mike Hucjabee, one of McCain’s rivals for the Republican Presidential nomination, and an ordained minister, I seriously doubt that we would see the same fury that has surrounded Reverend Wright. It is interesting to note that Mr. Huckabee has come to the defense of Reverend Wright. But, not so surprising when you think of the close affinities, both theologically and “ritually” between African-American Christianity and evangelical Protestantism. They have many things in common, ibcluding trances, glossalia, fire-and-brimstone preaching, heavy use of the Old Testament, and gospel music. “That old time religion” of the pentecostal movement has its roots in the early African-American slave Christianity.
American culture places a great deal of emphasis on racial and ethnic classification. Even our national census tries to pigeonhole people into specific racial and ethnic categories. In a country that preaches, and to a certain extent, tries to practice racial and ethnic equality, that is a bit strange. If we want real equality in this country, we need to abandon those classifications and not make them such an integral part of our society and culture. I think that is the point that Obama has been trying to make throughout the primary season.
But, unfortunately, the reality of the situation is that race does matter and it will matter a great deal in the general election. My advice to Mr. Obama is to take the bull by the horns and preempt any attempts by any Republican element to use race against him.
In almost every primary, Obama has won overwhelming support from the black community. Mrs. Clinton, on the other hand, has always done very well among white blue-collar voters, the segment of the American population most susceptible to the racially-charged fear mongering of the conservatives. This fear-moongering, along with jingoistic nationalism, are the two most important political cards played by the Republicans since 1980. This has been their strategy for success, and I seriously doubt they will change that strategy significantly in November.
As the exit polls in Indiana and North Carolina show, there is a lot of concern among white blue collar workers about an Obama Presidency. In Indiana, 6 out of 10 blue collar workers who voted fgor Clinton said they would rather vote for McCain than vote for Obama. The ration is NorthCarolina was significant, but not nearly as large. These numbers should cause the Obama campaign to do some rethinking of their strategy.
A note here about Indiana: Mrs. Clinton won by only 2 per cent of the vote. Indian does not restrict primaries to only those voters registered as members of the particular party in whose primary they vote. Given that the Republicans already have their nominee, it is quite possible that a statistically significant number of Republicans voted in the Democratic primnary and they voted for Mrs. Clintom in order to perhaps derail the Obama campaign. Gicen the fact that a fair number of blue-collar workers in Indiana have boted and declared themselves to be Repulican the last two decades or more, that might explain the exit poll statistics.
However, prior to the reagan era, blue collar workers tended to idnetify themselves as Demo9crats and vote Democratic in Presidential elections. But, with the twin prongs of racial fears and jingoistic nationalism, an outgrowth of the Vietnam era, these votes switched their allegiance to the GOP. I suggest that the Obama campaign do some historical research and look at how the old Democratic coalition of blacks and white blue collar workers was forged. I suspect that many of the same issues that led to that coalition exist today and that coalition could be reforged by the right candidate – Barack Obama.
The overriding issue in this year’s election is the failing US economy – an issue that transcends racial lines. Both African-Americans and white blue collar workers have the same fears and concerns about the economy, as well as other issues like health care and education. As far as the Republican use of jimgoistic nationalism to muster support among whte blue collar workers for the war in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Obama campaign needs to develop a strategy to show these voters that the ridiculous amounts of money being diverted to the war effort are what is causing the economy to nosedive. They need to clearly demonstrate to the American voters that the only people benefitting from this war are the various military contractors and the big oil companies. I suspect many Americans thought the war would lead to more plentiful supplies of oil and lower prices for gasoline and fuel oil. However, if you look at the trend in gas prices since the war started, they have climbed steadily and will coninue to do so as long as we maintain our present strategy in the Middle East.
So, the Obama campaign needs to make a major shift in its approach to race in this election. They need to acknowledge that, for the Republicans at least, race is an issue. They need to show middle class white America that it has comman cause on may issues with the African-American community. They need to drive home that the Republicans will use race as a way to
divide and counquer” the American people so that the GOP can maintain its hold on power and perpetuate its policies that are detrimental to the average American as well as the people of the Middle East. More on that issue next time. Until then, peace.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly: Sources and Recommended Reading:
Huckabee Defends Rev. Jeremiah Wright – At first, this was a bit of a surprise, but after thinking about it, it makes a lot of sense and Obama should definitely use this in November to court white evangelicals.
Obama: EXPOSED! – you have to provide an email address to get their so-called expose.