Posted in Main Blog (All Posts) on July 6th, 2008 4:28 am by HL
Obama’s Candidacy is a Test
“They’re going to try to make you afraid of me,” Barack Obama told the audience at a Jacksonville fundraiser last month. “He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?” Obama was doing here by inference what many of his supporters do more explicitly. Obama’s candidacy, in their view, puts American voters to the test: Are they open-minded enough to vote for a black candidate? Or are they still so overcome by racial prejudice as to reject the first black candidate with a serious chance to win? There are obviously problems with this. In a nation of 303 million, there are surely some people who won’t vote for Obama because he’s black. But there are a lot more Americans who aren’t willing to vote for him for other reasons that have nothing to do with race — because he’s a Democrat, because he’s taken liberal positions on many issues, because (to quote his own words) he’s young and inexperienced. In any case, Obama’s candidacy by itself is not a test of whether Americans are unwilling to vote for a black candidate; to determine that, you would have to take into account whether those unwilling to vote for him would be willing to vote for a different kind of black candidate. And as it happens, there is such a test case. In the fall of 1995, Colin Powell, fresh from a boffo book tour, was (or was widely thought to be) contemplating running for president. There were plenty of polls matching him as the Republican nominee against incumbent Democrat Bill Clinton. And running well: A typical Gallup poll had him leading Clinton 54 to 39 percent.