It's no secret that conservatives have spent most of their energy since McCain wrapped up the nomination attacking Hillary Clinton. There's a simple, if somewhat ugly, logic to this: They know Obama can't win.
I decided to write about this topic today after reading Geraldine Ferraro's much-reviled comments about Barack Obama's candidacy. In essence, Ferraro said Obama would not be in the position he occupies today were he not black. A lot of ink has been spilled on this topic, but not too many people are saying what really needs saying: In essence, Ferraro is right, and not in a good way for Obama.
There's no question that America contains a subset of serious anti-black racists. This is just a fact, as is the reality that nearly all of those people will vote Republican come hell or high water.
It's also pretty clear that 90 percent-plus of blacks will vote for Obama, based on the polling data and the extremely high propensity of blacks to vote for the Democratic candidate.
Then there is the much larger group of non-blacks who will have to make up their minds about Obama. Some will vote for him, and some are like me. I'm a white guy who will most likely vote for McCain because of his policy views on things like health care and government spending, and his wealth of foreign-policy experience.
But there's another important set of people that I believe will vote for McCain over Obama. These are the non-blacks who might tend to agree with Obama on the issues, but are concerned about, for lack of a better term, the fact that he is black.
To the casual observer, this might appear to be garden-variety racism. And maybe it is racism. I think people could have an educated debate about that. But it is most decidedly not garden variety.
I believe the non-blacks in this case will not be voting because of some visceral dislike of blacks. Instead, I think they will be acting out of a concern that Obama will make decisions which pander to his black constitutents, possibly to the detriment of the country as a whole.
This is ironic considering that Obama has, in my opinion, made a strong case that he is not bought and paid for by the traditional set of special interests which perennially plague Washington. The problem is that he may be beholden to a set of interests which haven't previously played such a major role in government.
An astute observer might point out that in the past several elections, blacks have overwhelmingly voted for the Democrat, so in that sense nothing's changed. This is where the racism question comes into play. I suspect that for most non-black undecided voters, the fact that Obama is black will mean everything has changed. Unlike previous Democratic presidents who paid lip service to their black constituents without adopting many policies explicitly aimed at their goals, Obama will likely put blacks front and center in his administration.
I've noticed several ways in which I believe mainstream media, Republicans and Obama himself have all conspired to keep this worry on the front burner for most voters. Republicans have done their part by taking aim at Hillary. I'm pretty sure they've done this in the hopes that they'll run against Obama, regardless of poll numbers suggesting Obama would do better than Hillary against McCain.
Obama has selected blacks to serve as key advisers in a number of roles. He attends a predominately black church, led by a pastor known for his anti-white diatribes. He occasionally targets themes in speeches and debates which highlight his heritage. These are all fine in the Democratic primary process, where he needs to mobilize the black vote in order to win. But in the general election, I believe it will turn out to be a mistake.
The mainstream media is also a culprit here. I can't tell you how many times I've turned on various of the cable news channels to see a political show with, say, 3 or 4 folks discussing the election. Inevitably, they've set up the situation so that one of the analysts is black, and that analyst seems to be a steadfast, almost fanatical, supporter of Obama.
Now I understand identity politics, and I understand the excitement in the black community about Obama. I personally think it would be great to have a black president, and if I agreed with Obama's politics, I'd vote for him. But these commentators aren't doing Obama any favors. To the non-blacks watching, they're personifying the monolithic support he enjoys from the black "interest group." I think this makes many non-blacks worried.
Returning to Ferraro's comments, I think it's pretty clear Obama has attracted an overwhelming amount of support and votes from the black community because he is black. People may call that racist, but that's kind of an odd thing to say considering there are no non-black people involved in the entire equation. Unfortunately for him, that same formula will be his undoing against McCain, a moderate Republican who will appeal to conservative Democrats.
I do think we will have a black president one day. He or she will have to focus earlier on crossover appeal, without relying so heavily on the black vote to get the nomination. In fact, I think he or she may wind up being a Republican.