Will Racism Prevent White Americans from Voting for Barack Obama?, Part 2: WSJ Doesn’t Think So; Republicans Do.

In the previous post (Will Racism Prevent White Americans from Voting for Barack Obama?, Part 1), I spoke about concerns that whites might not vote for Obama because he is black.

There are some who are skeptical of the idea that race will be a decisive factor in the election. Count the Wall Street Journal among them. An opinion piece by WSJ titled The Racism Excuse begins by saying “Things are supposed to be looking rosy for Democrats this November. But in case Barack Obama loses the Presidency, an excuse is all ready to go: America’s too racist to elect a black man. ”

So it’s worth noting that Republicans themselves are factoring racism into the way they view and manage the election. Consider this comment on polls, from reporting at the Republican National Convention by Southern California Public Radio:

(At a brunch for Californai delegates to the Convention) Republican Pollster and author of “Words That Matter” Frank Luntz was the featured speaker. He openly spoke of the “BRADLEY EFFECT.” That refers to the 1982 California gubernatorial election when then Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley was leading in the polls against George Deukmejian. Bradley lost the race. Analysts believe voters lied when they said they’d vote for Bradley, when in fact they were unwilling to vote for a black man. Luntz predicted the same thing would happen with Barack Obama. He told California delegates not to get discouraged if John McCain is trailing in the polls, because the Bradley effect will make up for some of that.

A more pointed comment comes from a unnamed Republican source in this article from Politico.com:

I was talking the other day to a prominent Republican who asked me what I thought John McCain’s strongest issues would be in the general election.

Lower taxes and the argument he will be better able to protect America from its enemies, I said.

Republicans have a pretty good track record with those two.

The Republican shook his head. “You’re missing the most important one,” he said. “Race. McCain runs against Barack Obama and the race vote is worth maybe 15 percent to McCain.”

The man I was talking to is not a racist; he was just stating what he believes to be a fact: There is a percentage of the American electorate who will simply not vote for a black person no matter what his qualities or qualifications.

So, Republicans know what we all know: race is a factor in the election. A bigger question is, are Republicans using overt or subtle appeals to race in this campaign? I have some thoughts on that here.

PS: See also: this article in USAToday dated 9/3/08: Armey: ‘Bubba vote’ to hurt Obama

The “Bubba vote” and underlying racism will hurt Democrat Barack Obama in key battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, Republican and former House majority leader Dick Armey said Wednesday.

“The Bubba vote is there, and it’s very real, and it is everywhere,” Armey told USA TODAY and Gannett News Service. “There’s an awful lot of people in America, bless their heart, who simply are not emotionally prepared to vote for a black man.

“It’s deplorable, but it is real,” said Armey, adding that he believes “Republicans would not encourage” such prejudices. He said the “Bubba vote” is “invisible” in pre-election opinion polls, because voters do not admit they would oppose a candidate because of race.

The “Bubba vote” is shorthand in politics for white, working-class voters who often live in rural areas — a group Obama did not dominate in state primaries.

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2 comments

  1. Black Political Analysis

    If anyone believes race won’t play a major factor in this election, they are kidding themselves. It most certainly will. But, we don’t know how much it will matter and I’m inclined to think the 15% figure cited in the post is off the mark.

    The real question is, how many of those folks are Democrats? Republicans, presumably, wouldn’t vote for Obama because of his policies anyway. But, how many Democrats, who normally would support the more liberal candidate, will not support Obama because of his race? That number matters much more than the number of folks who wouldn’t vote for him anyway.

  2. lunchcountersitin

    “If anyone believes race won’t play a major factor in this election, they are kidding themselves.”

    Believe it or not: I visited a forum on the net where several folks said that the idea of people voting against Obama due to race issues was a racist smear that was apparently invented by liberals. No lie.

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