Has Election Day Changed Race In Politics? Months ago, we invited some listeners to talk openly and honestly with one another about race in politics. Now that Obama is president-elect, the dialogue has changed. Two of those listeners return to reflect on the difference Election Day has made.
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Has Election Day Changed Race In Politics?

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Has Election Day Changed Race In Politics?

Has Election Day Changed Race In Politics?

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From the moment Senator Barack Obama started his campaign for president, Americans began debating the role of race in politics. We invited some of you to talk openly and honestly with one another about the issue. Some of you were reluctant to vote for a non-white candidate. Others said Obama's candidacy would reduce racial tensions. Now that Obama is president-elect, the dialogue has changed. Today two listeners from our original discussion on race and politics return to continue the conversation. First, Greg Harden is a white man from Rochester, New York. He joins us from member station WXXI. Greg, welcome back to the program.

Mr. GREG HARDEN: Thank you, Liane.

HANSEN: Trish Callahan has a black father and a white mother and was adopted by a white family. She's from Augusta, Maine, and joins us from the Maine Public Broadcasting Network in Portland. Welcome back, Trish.

Ms. TRISH CALLAHAN: Thank you.

HANSEN: Before we begin today's conversation, let's listen to some of what you all had to say the last time you were on our show. Trish is first.

(Soundbite of Weekend Edition Sunday broadcast, August 2008)

Ms. CALLAHAN: I think that everyone is hurt by this subject and very uncomfortable by this subject. So I think we all feel this wanting to move beyond it. And in Senator Obama, we see an opportunity to sort of move beyond it and say, look, a black man has achieved this office..

HANSEN: Greg Harden, why do you think race is such a big deal in this campaign?

Mr. HARDEN: Because it's a black man and a white man running against each other. If Obama is elected and he does a good job, I think people will accept that. But I think if he does a bad job, I think a lot of people - and I'm not saying this is right - but I think a lot of people will equate it with his race.

HANSEN: That's Greg Harden. And Greg, you made that comment three months ago on our program. Now that Barack Obama has been elected, do you still feel strongly that people will be critical of him because of his race?

Mr. HARDEN: I almost feel sorry for the guy. He's got so much riding on his shoulders and people have such high expectations for him. I don't know if it's going to come down to race or not. If he does a bad job, I'm sure it will hurt. You know, there will be people out there saying that's why. He's just - he's got his hands full.

HANSEN: Trish, you said Barack Obama represented an opportunity to make progress on racial issues. Do you still think that's true?

Ms. CALLAHAN: I do. Yes, I do. And it was sort of a divide between my sons and I. They were very much for Senator Obama at the end there. And I think it represented a lot to them because they are multi-race children of a single mom. So to them it represents on a lot of levels that many different kinds of people are going to be able to achieve high offices now.

HANSEN: You were reluctant. You didn't like some of the stands that Barack Obama took on some of the issues. You were undecided days before the election. Who did you end up voting for?

Ms. CALLAHAN: I have to say that right up until the day of the election, I had really fundamental reasons why I didn't feel either major ticket was exactly what I thought we needed for leadership at this time. So quite honestly, I will say that in that regard, I tossed my vote to Sarah Palin. Because even though I'm not a Christian conservative and have a lot of different views than she does, I am a mom, I'm in the same generation as she, and I thought that she took a beating by the media. And I really thought I'd just toss my vote to her.

HANSEN: It was your children, you said, you were talking to. And the last time both of you were on the show, you mentioned children as being a big factor in your reaction to race issues. Greg, what were you talking to your son about Obama's election? What have you said to him?

Mr. HARDEN: Well, he asked me who he should vote for if he was going to vote, the black guy or the white guy. And I told him, McCain. And he asked me if it was because he was white. And I said, no. He's got the background. He's got the knowledge. He's going to know how to run the country better than a first-term senator.

HANSEN: You had mentioned in our previous conversation that your son had been beaten up by some black kids.

Mr. HARDEN: Yeah. Well, he goes to a predominantly black school.

HANSEN: You know, you said you might not vote in this election last time because you didn't really care for either one of the candidates. What changed your mind?

Mr. HARDEN: Right. I like McCain. I think he's a cool guy. The fact that he was in the military, he was a jet pilot; he seems like somebody that I could - I'd get along with.

HANSEN: Did race figure at all in your vote?

Mr. HARDEN: No, it really didn't. Obama has - he just doesn't have any experience at this, and he's coming into a presidency at such an awful time. I really do feel sorry for the guy.

HANSEN: Trish, what about you? Since you've - your vote was basically inspired by Sarah Palin's presence on John McCain's ticket.

Ms. CALLAHAN: I hope that the country comes together behind our new president, I really do. But I think I have a hard time with the way both parties frame issues, so it's hard to agree with their solutions. So I guess I'm kind of indifferent and ambivalent, but hoping that the country unites and makes forward progress.

HANSEN: Has Obama's election changed the way you feel about race and politics, Trish?

Ms. CALLAHAN: I'm sort of moving on now to gender and politics. I'm really curious about how we've treated our female candidates. I was thinking that our next area to move forward on and make progress on is how we treat women in politics.

HANSEN: Greg, has the election of Senator Barack Obama as president changed the way you feel about race in politics?

Mr. HARDEN: I'm glad that 200 years of history has been broken. I'm glad that, like, we have a black president. And I hope Obama does a great job. I hope he is everything that the people think he is. And I'm just glad that it happened. It's been a long time coming.

HANSEN: Greg Harden is from Rochester, New York. Trish Callahan is one of our listeners from Augusta, Maine, and she joined from Maine Public Broadcasting in Portland. Greg joined us from member station WXXI in Rochester, New York. Thank you both.

Mr. HARDEN: Thank you, Liane.

Ms. CALLAHAN: Thank you very much, Liane.

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