Commentary: No Racism in the Presidential Election?

Ruben Navarrette Jr., CNN, May 14, 2008

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Clinton sounded less like George Washington and more like George Wallace. Imagine a presidential primary where, after more than 16 months, almost two dozen debates, hundreds of speeches, millions of dollars, and countless chicken dinners, the rationale for electing someone boils down to this: Vote for me. I’m white. I can win because other whites will vote for me.

Why, this could be the new affirmative action. Whatever happened to merit?

Clinton’s message in West Virginia was smoother. “I’m winning Catholic voters and Hispanic voters,” she told supporters, “and blue-collar workers and seniors, the kind of people that Sen. McCain will be fighting for in the general election.”

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Some want to know why it isn’t racist when 70 percent of African-Americans vote for Obama but it is when 70 percent of whites vote against him.

The answer has to do with history. Over the decades, black Americans have had plenty of opportunities to vote for white people for president. And they have done so. But this is the first time that white Americans have a chance to vote for an African-American with a shot at the presidency. And what are they doing?

Many are responding quite well. Obama won the votes of many, to borrow a phrase, “hardworking white Americans,” in Wisconsin, Minnesota, Iowa, Nebraska and Wyoming. But, elsewhere, as Obama said in a recent interview, people may need to get their head around the concept of an African-American even seeking the presidency, let alone winning it.

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