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Voters want more than race

Aug. 11, 2008

by Roz Kohls

Up until recently, Sen. Barack Obama has been so confident he will be elected president in November, he acted as if the election was a mere formality, as his nomination by the Democratic Party in Denver will be.

Pollsters are wondering, however, if some voters are lying when they say they plan to vote for a black man, according to Juan Williams in the Aug. 4 Wall Street Journal.

Obama himself said Republicans will exploit the race issue by telling voters “he doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.” Playing the race card is something Obama claimed he wouldn’t do, that he was post-racial, and that our society had gotten beyond the color of the candidate.

He wanted to present himself as the Tiger Woods of politics, in whom race is irrelevant. When Tiger hits a golf ball awry or misses a putt, no one ever says he did so because he was black.

If Obama plays the race card, then it means he must be feeling nervous about criticism he is getting.

Some of his supporters are feeling nervous, too. Obama’s opponent, Sen. John McCain, created an ad allegedly showing how Obama acts more like an empty-suit celebrity than a president.

The ad contained a half-second image of two white women, Britney Spears and Paris Hilton. Obama’s supporters claimed McCain was appealing to white anxiety about black men and white women, Williams said.

Obama also seems to be implying that anyone who votes for McCain is racist.

No one can read minds. I’m sure there are at least a few people who will vote for McCain only because he is white, and against Obama, because he is black.

There are other reasons, though, why people vote the way they do. Details matter, said Lisa Schiffren in the Aug. 4 National Review.

“How many white Democrats would have no hesitation if the black candidate were 58 instead of 48, and had been a general and was a proponent of moderately liberal policies instead of very liberal ones? What if he had worked in the private sector for 15 years, made money, and gone into politics, instead of being a community organizer and second tier academic? What if the black candidate in question had been a two-term governor of a medium-sized state and had instituted significant, measurable reforms? What if his parents were both people most Americans could relate to, and he hadn’t gone to a radical church?” Schiffren asked.

It doesn’t help Obama either that he said properly inflating our tires would save more gasoline, than what we could get by expanding drilling for oil. Some voters will wonder if Obama can do math.

Obama’s former confidence wasn’t entirely misplaced. He still has a good chance of winning the election. In the meantime, Obama and his supporters need to realize all candidates are going to be criticized, regardless of race.