Saturday, September 20, 2008

Will Racists Cost Obama the Election?

Over the past few moths, I've heard many people complain that Barack Obama may lose the presidential election, not because of a lack of experience or good ideas, but because of racial prejudice. On the other hand, others have argued that this is an inappropriate complaint. Such individuals insist that the fact that Obama has gotten this far, with the help of white primary voters, is proof that if he looses, it will be the fault of the candidate, and not his skin.

As you can guess, I personally fall into the first category. This is because I believe that race is still a powerful force in our society, wielding an influence greater than most Americans are willing to admit. However, I have another, stronger, less abstract reason for felling this way: the facts.

The facts are as follows:

  • Barack Obama is running against John McCain. McCain is a Republican, the same party as George Bush, one of the least popular presidents in U.S. History.
  • John McCain also has a history as a senator of voting in line with Bush's policies.
  • Most Americans oppose the war in Iraq. Obama wants to pull troops out of Iraq, and has a plan to do so in a timely manner. McCain is more committed to long-term occupation of Iraq. He feels that leaving in equivalent to loosing (loosing what, I'm not sure).
  • Our economy is in the toilet. I mean a disgusting, unwashed, public toilet. Most Americans, especially in times like these, would support an Obama economic plan. Lower taxes for the middle class. Reward companies for keeping jobs in the U.S. Create more jobs. Regulate big business. You know, things that actually make sense.
I could go on all day, but I'll sum it up like this: on the issues, most Americans overwhelmingly agree with Obama, not McCain.

Yet, each and every poll shows a big gap between agreeing with Obama on the issues and actual support for Obama. In other words, people want a president who will do what Obama will do, they just don't want Obama.

This leaves one to question, what is it about Barack Obama that makes him so difficult for people to vote for? Well, what's the most obviously unique thing about him? What makes him different than any one who has ever held the office of President of the United States? HE'S BLACK! (actually he's brown. or some shade thereof, ask Crayola)

Of course, no one wants to attribute Obama's lack of a larger lead in the polls to race; that would be like saying Americans are racist. But, when one looks at the facts, one will find that we kind of are. No, not all of us, not even most of us, just enough of us.

I'm not making this up. Actual polling data shows that many Americans harbor negative opinions of blacks, and this could very well be a deciding factor in the election. Consider the following excerpts from this AP article appearing in Newsweek:
Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close, according to an AP-Yahoo News poll that found one-third of white Democrats harbor negative views toward blacks — many calling them "lazy," "violent" or responsible for their own troubles.

The poll, conducted with Stanford University, suggests that the percentage of voters who may turn away from Obama because of his race could easily be larger than the final difference between the candidates in 2004 — about 2.5 percentage points.
What does this mean? It means that 33.33333....% of white DEMOCRATS think that black people are bad things. No wonder he's having trouble “closing ranks.” Thats one in every three, folks. That can turn an election. Here's more:
Statistical models derived from the poll suggest that Obama's support would be as much as 6 percentage points higher if there were no white racial prejudice.
Wondering where the lead that Obama should have is? Well, there you have it. Get rid of prejudice, he's up 6 points (OK, its an estimate, but it's an educated estimate based on real, scientifically derived numbers).

What does this all mean? It means that this election is what I knew it would be from the moment it began: a gut-check for America. If we really value the content of a person's character rather than the color of his or her skin, than when a capable black leader comes along who reflects our view of the way a country should be run – the way a leader should act and the policy initiatives that leader should pursue – than that person should be elected. Right now, we stand at the threshold of failing that test.

I'll leave you with some more results of the poll. They should make voters' inability to value character over color less shocking.

Adjectives associated with blacks:
"We still don't like black people," said John Clouse, 57, reflecting the sentiments of his pals gathered at a coffee shop in Somerset, Ohio.

Given a choice of several positive and negative adjectives that might describe blacks, 20 percent of all whites said the word "violent" strongly applied. Among other words, 22 percent agreed with "boastful," 29 percent "complaining," 13 percent "lazy" and 11 percent "irresponsible." When asked about positive adjectives, whites were more likely to stay on the fence than give a strongly positive assessment.

The plight of black America is black America's fault:
The poll sought to measure latent prejudices among whites by asking about factors contributing to the state of black America. One finding: More than a quarter of white Democrats agree that "if blacks would only try harder, they could be just as well off as whites."

Those who agreed with that statement were much less likely to back Obama than those who didn't.
Among white independents, racial stereotyping is not uncommon. For example, while about 20 percent of independent voters called blacks "intelligent" or "smart," more than one third latched on the adjective "complaining" and 24 percent said blacks were "violent."

Nearly four in 10 white independents agreed that blacks would be better off if they "try harder."

Voting for Clinton because Obama's black:
Just 59 percent of her [Senator Hillary Clinton's] white Democratic supporters said they wanted Obama to be president. Nearly 17 percent of Clinton's white backers plan to vote for McCain.

Among white Democrats, Clinton supporters were nearly twice as likely as Obama backers to say at least one negative adjective described blacks well, a finding that suggests many of her supporters in the primaries — particularly whites with high school education or less — were motivated in part by racial attitudes.

No comments: