“Senator Obama, you’re black. So get over it already.”

Give me a break.
Sunday, August 10, 2008

When the McCain campaign ran the ad that featured Senator Obama with Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, the Obama campaign and many of his supporters immediately declared it racist. It was because the Senator was portrayed next to two young white women – as if it would have been okay if they’d been black.

So let me get this straight. Is it racist of the Republican Party to be running a white candidate because, during the inevitable debates and town meetings when the two standard bearers are standing next to each other, the juxtaposition of the two will emphasize that Barack Obama is African American – while no one would have noticed if they were both black?

Will Senator Obama refuse to pick a white person – heaven forbid, a youngish white female person – to be his running mate for fear, whenever they appear together, that voters will be reminded that he’s black, or not white, whichever is the worse point of view for his prospects?

No doubt about it, Senator Obama – perhaps as a service to those of us whose only contact with his campaign is via radio – has been reminding us, again and again, that he’s black, daring us not to vote for him. He’s the one who has been instigating the issue of race. The not so subtle strategy is to make those of us who don’t care what color he is, which describes by far and away the vast majority of the electorate, feel bad about not voting for him. Guilt and embarrassment, even on behalf of generations past, die hard. It’s a replay, but on a much grander scale, of what John Kennedy did when he was the first Catholic to run for President. Rather than let his Catholicism be an unspoken, even subconscious issue, he was the one who raised the subject to associate a vote for his opponent as a vote against his (Kennedy’s) religious affiliation.

Will it work for Senator Obama? Not if he overdoes it, a milestone he may have already passed. Beyond that point, he risks a negative reaction, not because he’s black, but because it’s fast becoming a nuisance issue, distracting from whatever positive advantages an Obama Presidency might have to offer. Racism is a negative message which underestimates the intelligence of the American voter.

Why keep pressing the issue of race? Because he thinks he needs it to distract the public from the real issue: his lack of experience. (Just between you and me, I’m not sure I like what this strategy implies about how Senator Obama would run our government, and our foreign policy in particular. It’s not behavior that encourages my confidence or trust.) No one cares what color he is, certainly not enough voters to cost him the election. The question is, does he know what he’s doing? Will he make a good President of the United States? It’s a question that deserves 100% of his and our attention.

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