Friday, August 01, 2008

Race Is Back (But It Has Never Really Been Gone)

Eugene Robinson has the cleverest take on the latest accusations and counter-accusations from the presidential candidates. Seems the McCain camp is accusing Obama of “playing the race card” (an all-encompassing charge that truly means next to nothing except that somehow someone referred to race, however vaguely or innocuously) for suggesting that the McCain campaign will try to scare people away from Obama (they already are trying) instead of focusing on their own positive attributes (which they don’t seem able to locate).

Eugene Robinson’s take? McCain is right: Obama DID inject race into the campaign…by being black. And of course Robinson is right. This is the nature of American politics. If there is a candidate running who is not white, race is in the race. Just as--if there is a candidate who is not male--gender is in the race.

Those factors do not have to dominate, but they do matter; they are factors. The candidates and their campaigns have three choices: Pretend that race isn’t there or doesn’t matter, exploit the race factor, or call it out so that it is openly acknowledged rather than being the elephant (or donkey) in the room. Obama and his campaign have consistently tried to do the latter. His opponents (both Democratic and Republican) have mostly tried some subtle or blatant forms of exploitation. And their tactics have been effective, but ugly. Still Obama won the primary season.

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