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Commentary: Race and the 2008 Presidential Election

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‘Entitlement politics’ appears to be the theme of the 2008 presidential campaign on the Democratic side of the ballot.

It began when Hillary Clinton got pegged with the label, running for President out of the gate with a swagger that made her seem like she was the ‘inevitable’ Democratic nominee. This inevitability also informed her campaign strategy, which failed to organize and mobilize in smaller, caucus states, which Barack Obama began to pick off one by one.

As a result, Clinton received a strong media backlash when Obama’s early caucus and primary victories demonstrated quite clearly she was not ‘entitled’ to a trip back to the White House. Many Clinton supporters interpreted this backlash as sexism, and some, to this day, are not supporting Obama’s candidacy as a result.

In the spring, once it became clear that Obama would likely be the Democratic nominee, a shift took place and the dominant message among Obama surrogates and components of the media was that the Democratic Senator from Illinois who was now ‘entitled’ to victory over Clinton.

This display of entitlement was manifested in the wake of several primary wins by Clinton late in the primary campaign – from Ohio to Texas to Pennsylvania to Indiana to West Virginia to Kentucky to South Dakota. Some Obama surrogates, and some left-leaning media commentators, chose to interpret Clinton’s victories as at least a partial by-product of racism. Or, the way it would be sanitized in the media, ‘having a racial component.’ We soon forget Obama’s own failures during that period as a candidate: his “guns and God? comment, his very slow response to the Pastor Jeremiah Wright issue, etc.

For those who thought Obama was entitled to the nomination, the reasoning was this: any victories for Clinton with an inevitable nominee-in-waiting on the ballot must not be because of actual support for Clinton – there must be another reason. And race was the convenient answer.

Fast forward to late August when Slate’s Jacob Weisberg wrote the provocative piece "If Obama Loses: Racism is the only reason McCain might beat him.? The seed of racism in America had now firmly been replanted in the general election matchup.

Fast forward another month, and the racism issue is revived with a twist when last weekend the blogs had a feeding frenzy over an AP-Yahoo News poll in which one-third of white Democrats displayed having ‘negative views’ towards blacks. The opening for that article: “Deep-seated racial misgivings could cost Barack Obama the White House if the election is close.?

While the press release accompanying the poll itself, as well as right-leaning blogs, have addressed some of the tough issues and counterpoints this poll raises, Smart Politics asks the following questions of those who genuinely believe an Obama loss will be due to racism.

1. To what extent was racism in play when Republican African Americans Michael Steele, Kenneth Blackwell, and Lynn Swan lost statewide offices in November 2006, and why was there no battle cry by the Slates of the world at that time?

2. Temple University’s Assistant Professor of Urban Education and American Studies Mark Lamont Hill dismisses the notion that Obama’s overwhelming (90+ percent) support among blacks is a countervailing force to racist whites in America, as he notes blacks usually vote in that percentage for Democratic candidates anyway. But Hill does not address the question as to how many more blacks (and young voters generally) are now registered and mobilized to vote because of the candidacy of a black American? Where were they when White Democrats like John Kerry and Al Gore were on the ballot? Why didn’t blacks turn out in the numbers we see now to support their candidacies?

3. If Obama is elected president by the American people in November, does that on its face prove the absence of meaningful, functional racism in the United States, just as a loss by Obama would supposedly prove its existence? Or would that merely indicate that Obama would have won by an even larger margin if there were no racism in America?

4. Is it inconceivable – despite the national political environment that favors Democrats nationwide – that an Obama loss could be attributed to the fact that he is simply not a great candidate? Despite the conditions that favor Democrats today, and favored them back in 2006, they are not entitled to victory in 2008. Back in 2006 in Minnesota, DFL-er Mike Hatch learned this the hard way in his loss to Republican Governor Tim Pawlenty in the face of a Democratic landslide across the nation. Candidates matter. In 2008, in the Democratic leaning State of Washington, Democratic incumbent Christine Gregoire is locked in another tight battle with challenger Republican Dino Rossi. How could this be if the landscape is such that Democrats should roll to victory? Candidates matter.

Of course, if McCain should win, Obama is not going to publicly attribute the loss to his skin color, whatever his private feelings may be on the matter, even if that flies in the face of the message his surrogates and loyalists are feeding the political culture at the moment.

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3 Comments


  • As someone who registered voters in Mississippi in 1962 I have seen racism up close and personal. While the institutional changes that the nation has experienced since the 60s are real and measurable, I don't think it's clear yet how the personal, internal feelings about race will impact this election. There are those who will readily admit they are not voting for Obama because of his race, or will offer opinions that use the code words associated with those attitudes. The other, more insidious, racial vote is the exit poll-measurable "Bradley" discrepancy where voters will claim they voted for the black guy, but the numbers suggest differently.

    It will be interesting to see just how deeply ingrained into the voting population the issue is.

    Jim Miller
    Honolulu (by way of Hopkins, MN)


  • U.S. Cultural Diplomacy for the 2008 Elections, Broken International Laws and Endless Natural Disasters


    I think that we are in a period of cultural diplomacy in the U.S. presidential elections, which the entire world is observing how we conduct the U.S. election. It is amazing to have the first black presidential candidate and the first lady vice-president to compete for White house in 2008.

    My friends, fellow citizens and the international community, we are eager to see how really wins the U.S. elections in a free and fair contest in regard to national interests, socio-economic development and diplomatic recovery in foreign policy.

    We are also in very bad public and diplomatic crisis that make daily political dictions nationally, regionally and internationally, and others countries have the same or mote than we have.

    The world with corrupted leaders, and their crew can develop more humanitarian catastrophe if they use or distribute more harmful weapons such sophisticated atomic bombs, intercontinental and other long-range missiles of nuclear.

    According to the current national, international crisis, and natural disasters, it replies that the mankinds are grateful in peace and friendly co-existence in this planet because we are making feuds in wars for geopolitical interest in dictating domination, polluting the environment with excessive chemical wastes and rubbish.

    It is very wise to educate young global academicians and politicians how to carry out more national, regional and international think-thank policies which each country abide by its principles and governing laws.

    Today’s decision-makers have constantly violated laws set up to limit any form of problem, issue or etc

    The international laws are not working currently because if the international laws are working then these international laws works only to the superpower countries, and they definitely break them any time during there may be arising political and economic interest in natural resources such mining and petroleum.

    As Americans, and the people of this planet, we are deeply concerning who is gone being our next commander-in chief or president of the United States of America? What are real issues ahead?

    I also personally request to the members of the local, regional and international press/media companies to broadcast honestly the common interests of the American people for the presidential elections in 2008 and the globe at large.

    This matter of cultural diplomacy for the U.S. elections in 2008 also needs more attention whereby the international community, and the African continent waiting to get compensation and to discard the longtime discrimination of unequal rights.

    There is a possibility; if Barak Obama becomes the 44th president of the United States of American then I will be the seventh president of the Islamic Democratic Republic of Somalia where I shall govern the pure monotheism of Allah.

    I can not wait but we shall wait to figure our where the country is heading. Degradation of economic versus dignitary superiority in the geopolitical planet, the people of America has chose to elect honorable John McCann or honorable senator Barak Obama

    If John McCann wins the U.S. elections in 2008 as the 44th president of the United States of American then I shall be U.S. diplomat to Africa by 2011.

    I am very sorry for corporate America, and its subsidiaries not helping the economy, and the people who have been suffering from constant natural catastrophes such heavy storms and torrential floods.


    We still have time to fix national and political interests, and bring efficient bi-partisan collation for the common developmental safety and stability of the U.S. economic institutions internally as well as externally by approving the presidential request in regard to transparency and accountability otherwise we will have more job losses, decreased GDP, the pros and cons are equal to the Republican Party and their Democratic Counter-part.

    These presidential candidates are not certainly addressing the basic needs of American families who lost beloved members of the Army personnel, neither to the general population nor to the international community.

    Russia and its Latin Allies are restoring unknown weapons in this continent while we are also signing bilateral and military deals with former states of the USSR, we thought that the cold war was over but it was not. This new retaliation of global military diplomacy in bilateral and multilateral relation can damage and invent a suspicious friendly fire for atomic bombs.

    There are economic terrorists, and who can destroy them? It concerns everybody to solve this puzzle. These economic terrorists are always looking for tax-payer money for personal wealthy, let us get rid of them and elect somebody who is more confident and can contemplate the future of this nation by returning the beautiful and lost American image of prosperity and humanity.

    It is not too late to intervene by electing the right presidential candidate in 2008 who listens and consults to his political advisors, cabinet, the senate, the congress and finally the general population.


    God bless America!

    Best Wishes,

    Prof. Dr. Badal Kariye BA, BSIT, MA, MBA & PhD

    Visiting professor of Political Sociology, Linguistics and Liberal Arts
    The President of the University of Hamar (UOH)
    Email: prof.badal@policsci.universityofhamar.com



  • hey badal kariye you talk too much and I don't realy understand your motive to write such article that you know tehre is no benificery things. why would right such things which you don't have any evidence and unknowlegable . please be advice and stay warn position that will keep your tongue left out in desert world

  • Leave a comment


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