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Race and Politics

Race and Election '08

Faye Anderson, citizen journalist

As the presumptive Democratic presidential nominee, Barack Obama is the first African-American standard bearer of a major political party.

While Obama received 9 out of 10 black votes, his victory was also powered by young people and high-income whites. So race no longer matters, right? Wrong. Race still matters.

The fact is, Obama racked up an insurmountable delegate lead before snippets of sermons by the Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. exploded on Americans' TV screens and computer monitors. While he has since severed ties with Wright, the political damage was done.

Indeed, Obama lost six of the last 10 contests. At the same time, his weakness with white voters was exposed. While he won 57 percent of the white vote in Oregon, white folks in the Beaver State are a different shade of white. Portland is arguably ground zero for latte-drinking liberals.

In a recent column, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman wrote about the "de-racialization of U.S. politics" and asked:

"But why has racial division become so much less important in American politics?"

Krugman must be reading exit polls through rose-colored glasses. Polls show one in five white Democrats would rather drink muddy water than vote for Obama.

The latest Gallup poll shows a stark racial divide in voters' presidential preferences. While 90 percent of blacks support Obama, his support among whites is only 39 percent.

In this "de-racialized" presidential election, voters use coded language such as "comfort level" and "he's not one of us." Rev. Jeremiah Wright, patriotism and the American flag pin are proxies for race.

At a recent forum on media coverage of the presidential campaign, Dr. Ronald Walters, director of the African American Leadership Center at the University of Maryland, said Obama wanted to run a race-neutral campaign. "His avoidance of specific issues was accepted by the black community."

Walters added:

"Reverend Wright became the hallmark of race for the Obama campaign and he had to speak out about race."

Over the years, I've noted that race is the Republican Party's Achilles heel. Well, folks, the shoe is now on the other foot.