Idle thought about a McCain v. Obama race

John McWhorter, who supports Obama, has pointed out what he sees as a profound problem with the Obama campaign, which is the way identity politics has made it impossible to treat Obama as an adult, rather than a child, for fear of being called “racist”:

Yet there is an element of surprise, a tincture of dismay, in how many view the sliming of Mr. Obama. If Grover Cleveland or John Kerry got slimed, what do you expect? But if Mr. Obama gets slimed, well.

There is a tacit sense that decent people would make an exception for him. Otherwise, why would so many think of it as news that the Clintons or anyone else would get nasty in trying to push past him?

Let’s face facts: People see this commonplace phenomenon as news because of a tacit idea that as a black man, Mr. Obama should be treated with kid gloves.

Lawrence Bobo, professor of sociology at Harvard, gives it away comparing the Clintons’ attacks on Mr. Obama to, specifically, the Willie Horton ad and the 2000 vote count. That is, events traditionally classified as “racist” — as if Republicans have not sought to best Democrats in ways disconnected to race. Upon which the Swift-boat thing is germane. Mr. Bobo appends that to his list, too — but misses that the guiding theme is not racism but hardball.

Welcome to reality: being judged by the content of our character means that we black people will not be exempt from hardball. We should not be seduced by the fantasy that we must pretend to be fragile.

Well, yes. This is what I’ve been saying all along. I recently wrote a post saying that one of my fears about Obama as a candidate is that it would be impossible to run against him in the ordinary rough and tumble way we’ve come to expect in a Democracy. Any negative comment would be deemed “racist,” and the Republican candidates, all carefully groomed and controlled by their handlers, wouldn’t even want to get near that.

It did occur to me, though, that McCain might be the candidate who would stand up to Obama, who would not fear being called a racist. He is a man confident and feisty enough to get into a fight on its merits, and not pull his punches for fear of collateral damage. I don’t know how well those qualities would serve in the increasingly surreal world of the White House, but it might be just what is needed to level the playing field against America’s first black presidential candidate (something that would be more fair to Obama, too, since it would treat him like an adult and not a child or a half wit).

UPDATE: I’ve switched to a new server, so you can feel free to look around here or check out my new site, which not only has the old stuff, but also will move forward into the future with all my new material.


34 Responses

  1. try… I know it will be hard…

    to actually pull down from his website his ACTUAL policy positions.

    Especially following the unfortunate speech by Mitt Romney that was totaly un-called for with respect to terrorism – read, analyse and if you have the courage discuss here openly his foriegn policy positions.

  2. If McCain cannot react by “standing up to Obama,” and we elect him President, the country is in real danger, not from the war that will eventually end, no matter who’s elected, but from a man who, like most on this blog, doesn’t really know what racism is. No one should have to wear “kid gloves” with respect to Obama, but if you recall, recent campaign’s have gotten very ugly. Maybe having to watch one’s words is a good thing. Calling each other names is not high ground.

  3. HelenL – you and I actually agree this time.

    I suspect that what we will see is people saying one thing to pollsters and pundits, and doing something entirely different in the voting booth.

    I have never failed to be shocked and disgusted by the undercurrent of racism that I have heard expressed by my most Liberal friends and family members. And Hispanics? I understand enough Spanish to know how many Hispanics, especially lower-income Hispanics, truly feel about black people.

    If McCain focuses on issues only, he will do just fine.

  4. Danny, I think I was unclear. You know that darn pronoun and antecedent thing. LOL

    I meant if we elect McCain the country is in real danger. Just so you know. Obama’s inexperienced and with him (Obama) only time will tell.

  5. We are indeed fortunate to have you checking in from time to time, Helen, from your vaunted perch, to let us scribblers at Bookworm know that we don’t (and McCain doesn’t!) know what racism is.

  6. “it would treat him like an adult and not a child or a half wit”

    Good point.

    Blacks in this country are condemned for being Republicans (Steele, Rice, Powell) as if Blacks aren’t ‘allowed’ to choose their political party, like the rest of us.

    Your point the other day, that if it’s racist not to vote for Obama because he’s black, isn’t it equally racist TO vote for him solely because he is black. Sexism parallel for Hillary. Interesting, since many of the efforts of the Democratic party agenda (entitlements) actually suppress others by keeping them dependent while pretending to help them. The handouts do assure an unenlightened voting block that is more easily manipulated.

    I agree with Danny about that racist undercurrent.

  7. Marguerite,
    I, too, used to suffer from such ignorance. Fortunately, Helenl provided us with the definition of racism the other day on this thread:

    Thanks to Helenl, I have learned that I am incapable of racism. This has lightened a heavy load from my heart, and I will be forever grateful.

    I feel that I may now sally forth into the light of a new day, secure in the knowledge that I have one less thing to worry about!

  8. Marguerite, You missed the “If.”

  9. Y’all — less sarcasm directed at HelenL, please. While I don’t agree with her viewpoints, I very much appreciate her willingness to come here and politely state and defend them. I think we owe her equal politeness — and the problem with written sarcasm is that it’s impossible to see the charming smile that I’m sure accompanies it (since I know, you my readers, are fundamentally nice people). In the absence of that smile, sarcasm can come off sounding a bit mean.

    If you do have a funny, snarky remark you want to make, you might want to use smilies, or whatever the heck they’re called, to denote the emotional content. For example, a colon followed by a right parenthesis will automatically convert to a smile, while a semi-colon followed by a right parenthesis will be a winking smiley face. Just a suggestion, mind you, to help keep the discussion here stimulating and respectful! 🙂 and 😉

  10. Thanks, Bookworm, And just for the record I did not say you folks are “incapable of racism.” That was someone’s misinterpretation of what I did say.

    And in case anyone’s interested, I just posted my candidate endorsement at my blog. Actually, it’s there even if you’re not interested. 🙂

  11. Tap – Helen didn’t say we folks at this blog are incapable of racism because that is not what she has been taught. She said that we don’t, and McCain doesn’t, know what it is. I find that extremely elitist and offensive and I’m very serious about that.

  12. Sorry, Book!

    Marguerite, she has said both. On this thread she stated most of us don’t know what racism is.

    On another thread, she provided this difinition:
    “Racism is unjustified prejudice against a given race backed by the power (political and/or economic) to keep them as “second-class citizens.”

    As I have neither the political nor the economic power to put or keep anyone in a state of second class citizenship, I am therefore incapable of racism.

    I’ve run across this definition before, and it includes the part about “backed by the power” for a reason. It is a definiton meant to deny the possibility of a black American being racist.

    While I’m not particulary interested in getting into a debate about whether a black is capable of racism, I do insist that we use the same defintion for everyone.

  13. Oh, and I forgot!! 🙂

  14. (that 🙂 wasn’t sarcastic)

  15. Insist away, Tap. Since when did insisting make someone right?

    But enough already. Life is too short.

  16. BTW, Tap and Marguerite — I agree with you guys and not with Helen (sorry, Helen), but I so much appreciate when the focus is, as here, on substance, which is very enlightening (especially for me, the proprietor of this blog).

  17. Helen: are you at least willing to admit that we should want the best possible President? And that skin color doesn’t qualify someone for the job? And that therefore we shouldn’t consider skin color when deciding?

  18. Trimegistus, No “at least” about it, we should want the best possible president. No, skin color doesn’t qualify one for the job. But we should consider skin color, because race is still very much an issue in this country. Interesting, among the blogs I visit (my person choices, not a cross section of anything), it seems more conservatives and Republicans are talking about race than liberals, left-leaning types, and Democrats. Wonder why that is. Couldn’t be racism, could it? 🙂 🙄

  19. I think, Helen, that you’ll see that, in fact, race is the important issue amongst Democratic, not Republican voters, probably because there’s so little substantive difference between Hillary and Obama. Republicans, though, are worried that, as John McWhorter, a black man wrote, Obama won’t be tested on his beliefs because everyone is afraid to be called “racist” by challenging him.

    As it is, I’m wondering if part of your great sensitivity to the issue of race is a generational one. I’m of the post-civil rights generation, and of the generation before affirmative action became a political hot potato as something that had been around too long. In other words, I was raised in a fairly race neutral time in San Francisco, which was then a fairly race neutral city. (That is, race hadn’t been raced to extraordinary political heights then, the way it is now.) To me, therefore, race is an issue only when other people make it so. I couldn’t care less what color or sex someone is. I care only what their beliefs and are abilities are.

    I also saw from the one, short-lived identity charged period in my younger days that it weakened me to focus on identity matters rather than on quality of the person. At my first law firm, the firm had gone on an affirmative action hiring binge, and it had hired a bunch of people — myself included — whom it would never have hired otherwise. In my own defense, I wasn’t dumb, I was just hopelessly immature.

    What was interesting was that, while the white men hired along with all the women and minorities just buckled down and worked, the women and minorities (myself included) whined: the firm wasn’t being nice enough to us, the work wasn’t good enough for us, the men were being mean to us. We were awful employees, not because we were stupid, incompetent, or uneducated, but because we viewed ourselves, not as young lawyers, but as women or blacks or gays. Since we couldn’t escape our “identity politics” definition and embrace our professional definition, we were, each and every one of us, doomed to failure.

    I only came into my own as a lawyer when I started working with a cantankerous old white guy who pish-toshed at any of my girlie defenses and made me work and think.

  20. I find this whole thing about racism and sexism, vis a vis the Presidency, to be silly. It’s one person in 300 million. Having a black man, or a woman elected to the Presidency proves nothing. It’s a false argument being used to bludgeon people.

    When opportunities are found to be equal for the other 299,999,999 folks in this country, then we can celebrate.

  21. And that, Allen, is an excellent point.

  22. Not many of us can choose our racial identity like Obama has.

  23. Bookworm, I don’t think it’s quite as simple as being sensitive because of my generation. I was a junior in college when King was killed. I was in a small school in a small town studying too hard to learn much. The interest came later. I’m posting a couple of links to blog entries you can skim.

    And BTW, February 18 is my second Blogiversary, so that’s when I’ll post an update on the State of My Blog.

  24. In a country whose past is deeply racist and sexist – our country – is it anathema to state that of course institutional racism and sexism continue to exist, to bubble along in undercurrents? It seems inevitable to me that racism and sexism continue to exist, and that only via the passage of time and the emergence of new generations do these kinds of problems slowly fade away.

    In an attempt to speed this process up, some have engaged in “reverse racism”, which is (to me) the deliberate use of power to enforce racist policies against the race that used to hold all the power. Having achieved some power, the former victim class immediately uses their new power to engage in… racism! Only someone who believes that Identity Politics are good can view reverse racism (or reverse sexism) as a good thing.

    I feel sullied even trying to discuss things in this manner, to walk in the shoes of someone who views their world through such a prism of Identity Politics. Fighting political battles against someone engaging in Identity Politics requires you to get down in the mud. Even discussing issues related to Identity Politics requires such a descent. I need a shower.

  25. I’d like to add a little more: Because I believe that undercurrents of racism and sexism continue to exist because of our racist and sexist past, what’s going on in this election doesn’t really bother me.

    This is the first time we have a female or a black candidate with a real shot at becoming President. Given such a “first”, I am giving people a free pass when it comes to voting for Hillary because she’s female, or for Obama because he’s black, because being “first” does mean breaking a barrier caused by our past.

    So I’m giving people a break this time. Perhaps I’ll continue to give them that break until the barrier is actually broken.

    But what about the second female or black candidate – after one such has succeeded in breaking the barrier? I am certain I will not be accepting of it at all then: Voting for a second female President because she’s female, or the second black President because he’s black… no way.

    I’m sure I shouldn’t be so accepting of the first either, for the breaking of the barrier, but I do feel that way, and I personally am giving them that break.

  26. For me, no breaks. The stakes are too high for vapid symbolism.

  27. O.

    Danny, thanks for “vapid symbolism.” It’s so cool I want to use it in a poem. (not Kidding, i just nabbed it.)

    The stakes are high. That’s why I support Hillary Clinton. She will work to give health insurance to all Americans and bring home our soldiers. Those are issues. And more than any other candidate, regardless of race or gender, she has said she will end Bush’s damn war.

    is that clear enough?

    Race and gender are issues (or no one would be talking about them): they are not THE issue.

  28. You’re welcome, HelenL. Sorry about your pending vote for Hillary, however.

    I respect your right to vote your conscience, of course however mistaken it may be. However, let’s keep the language honest.

    Hillary doesn’t have any health insurance to “give”.

    However, if elected, she and Congress may assume the power to confiscate monies from people who have worked for it to force others to accept health insurance from the State, many (most?) of whom have voluntarily chosen not to have health insurance.

    Of course, she will have many fine examples to follow – many progressive leaders such as Bismark, Mussolini, Hitler, Lenin, Mao and Castro made State-mandated and controlled national health care a center piece of their Utopian visions. The soft-socialist states of Canada and Eutopia did the same and the quality of their health care has been in sharp decline ever since. Hillary, of course, is much smarter than all these other collective minds.

    As economic theory and countless examples all over the world have demonstrated, she will also destroy our health care system in the process if allowed to succeed. National health care is rationed health care ergo declining health care. And HelenL, when your dream national health care system comes to pass, to whom exactly will you turn when you fail to obtain what you expect or need – 1(800) Washington? Think about this.

    As far as ending “Bush’s damn war”: I suspect – based upon thousands of years of historical record – that those that wish to destroy us will only be emboldened in their efforts.

    You yourself admitted in a previous post that you could not think of a single historical example of how your pacifist views had ever avoided war. However, there are plenty of historical examples of how those views not only emboldened enemies but led the wide-spread destruction of entire peoples and nations.

    Your turn.

  29. “As far as ending “Bush’s damn war”: I suspect – based upon thousands of years of historical record – that those that wish to destroy us will only be emboldened in their efforts.” Interesting point, that, and one I’ve made frequently regarding Gandhi. His pacificism worked only because Britain was not a nation that was going to respond in a bloody, violent fashion. It wasn’t Gandhi’s morality that won India’s freedom, it was England’s. The same holds true for MLK’s non-violent protest. While the South may have had profound racist problems, it was the fact that America as a whole was a moral nation that his tactics work.

    When one has an enemy that revels in blood and conquest, that makes no secret of its desire for world domination, and that is vocal in its hatred and disdain for you, whether that enemy is Nazi Germany, Iran, or your average Islamist, your restraint and morality is not only irrelevant, it is a red flag before that blood-thirsty bull.

  30. I’d like to further Book’s point that it wasn’t Gandhi’s morality that won India’s freedom, it was England’s.

    England did respond with violence to the Indian resistance. England responded violently frequently. Yet in the end, because England was a moral country, they eventually recoiled from the violence. The nature of this morality is that they accorded the Indians basic human rights and human dignity and in the end that impulse won.

    The worst opposite example is, as usual, the Nazis, who viewed others a subhuman and as worse than animals, and they were near-joyous in their genocidal slaughter. A culture such as the Nazis has no problem continuing the slaughter down to the very last person. The hundreds of Indians that the British killed does not compare to the millions that the Nazis killed, and remember that the Nazis did not stop themselves.

    The nature of the Islamofascists is much closer to that of the Nazis than that of the British Empire. The Islamofascists will not stop themselves either.

    My biggest worry: The Nazis did not stop themselves… nor did the German people stop the Nazis. What if all the “good Muslims” do not stop their Islamofascists? I see no signs that they are interested in stopping them.

  31. I finished reading Book’s posts on Dennis Prager. Makes we wonder just how dangerous my impulse is to give people a break, for them wanting to vote for Obama because he’d be the first black president, or Clinton because she’d be the first female president. Maybe I should be more alarmed and disgusted by it…

  32. […] tenderness . . . but only if you have a death wish Posted on February 10, 2008 by Bookworm A repeated thread in the comments lately has been the claim that the reason the terrorists are mean to us is because we’re mean to […]

  33. Unfortunately, a McCain vs Obama election will be all about race. In the end, McCain will prevail because of race because the hispanic vote will flock to McCain in November given his amnesty bill and hispanic/black relations. In fact, it might be a surprising landslide.

    On the gender side, we probably won’t have a female candidate for president for another fifty years.

  34. Do you know of any colon cleaning tips that I might be ready to use that would help me clean out all of the toxic stuff in my body?

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