March 12, 2008

Here We Go Again

by PG

Geraldine Ferraro has taken up Ramesh Ponnuru's cry that one can't criticize Barack Obama without being called a racist. Like Ponnuru, she cheerfully ignores that one only opens oneself to the accusation by bringing up race at all. For example, McCain's attacks on Obama for being ignorant about Al Qaeda in Iraq have not been countered by saying they are racist. Obviously they're not, because McCain never mentioned race in this criticism, nor at any other time.

Perhaps the one good thing about Republicans' insistence that we should all be color-blind is that their candidates have thus far been quite good about not seeing race in this campaign. Both their praise and criticism of Obama have been for non-racial qualities: his charisma in the plus column, his inexperience and liberalism as minuses. If the Republican nominee can make cutting, sarcastic remarks about Obama without getting into race, I begin to wonder why Obama's opponents within the Democratic Party can't do the same. Obama's campaign is well aware that he needs to win a large percentage of white votes, so they don't bring up race much themselves, because it's not a winning issue for him with undecided white voters. However, if someone else makes any reference to race in a criticism of Obama, then the campaign's asking why race is being raised is logical, because the criticizer did it first.

Thus far, the only significant commentator who I have heard make a wrongful claim of racism has been Orlando Patterson, of whom Ferraro also complained. In a NYTimes op-ed, he questioned why there weren't any black kids in Clinton's 3 AM ad and said, "In my reading, the ad, in the insidious language of symbolism, says that Mr. Obama is himself the danger, the outsider within." While Patterson may be right that the Clinton campaign along with conservatives is trying to portray Obama as an outsider to America, especially white America -- supported only by blacks, unpatriotic, possibly Muslim, etc. -- this specific ad was at most an unconscious attempt to do so. As we've seen over and over with Republicans' amusement that Democrats would run two, TWO minority candidates, many whites' default idea of America is that it's white, and of power is that it's male. Presidential candidates' race and sex only become an "issue" if they're not white males. Even assuming Patterson is correct that none of the children are black (they're so dimly lighted, I couldn't tell), it probably just didn't occur to anyone in the Clinton campaign that it would be nice to show a black kid to communicate that the danger against which Clinton will protect us is a danger to all Americans, regardless of race. It was not an intentional effort to exclude African Americans.

March 12, 2008 5:30 PM | TrackBack
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