Monday, July 6, 2009

The Race Race

The Race Race

In a recent blog posting at CNN's website about Black Congressional leaders facing a loss in popularity for supporting Senator Clinton from their home constituencies, the real story was in the comments posted below it.

I had intended to do my next piece on McCain, trying to give equal time and all, but I feel compelled to write about the still lingering vibe of anti-Obama sentiments coming from former Hillary Clinton supporters. I was just perusing the comments of the political ticker on CNN's website, and I saw three under one story from former Hillary supporters swearing that Obama and Black Liberation Theology are going to bring about the ruin of the country and emphatically voicing support for McCain. Listening to AM talk radio, specifically the callers, I hear some of the same sentiments. Interestingly enough, the toughest challenge Obama faced during the primaries - in my opinion - was the contest here in Pennsylvania. A light, light blue state, it was during the weeks leading up to the primary here that the Rev. Wright story broke and it touched off largely unspoken, save for whispers, racial questions and criticisms.

I was in an inter-racial relationship that began in Georgia while serving in the military, but it continued back here at home. Never did the racial tension bubble over in the south, but here in Pittsburgh, it happened quite often in just our first few weeks of living together. Some came from my own family. Despite what the exit poll data said, Race played a very large role in that election. I personally questioned many of the Clinton supporters that I met who said that were Obama the nominee they would vote McCain. I would ask how they felt about the war and they all favored Clinton's vague withdrawal plan over Obama's vague withdrawal plan. When I then asked why they would vote for McCain who wanted to keep troops there for decades to come, the answer was never convincing -- even to themselves.

One of the Clinton supporters I discussed this with is a single, unemployed mother. A veteran, she trusted that her needs could be met by the VA and her son was covered under Pennsylvania's state child coverage. When I asked her about the difference between McCain and Obama's healthcare ideas she told me that on a federal level health insurance just wasn't important to her. Education benefits are vert important to her however; she has been in and out of school because of the aid available to her and it being insufficient for her chosen career path. When I highlighted the difference between Obama and McCain on education she cut me off by saying, "I just won't vote then!" An uncharacteristic outburst, there was something else there that even she did not want to voice.

The media speaks of the healing that needs to happen in the party and they speak of "introducing" Barack Obama to the country. The campaign appears to be struggling, but is it because they are administering treatments based on an incorrect diagnosis? There are a lot of things his campaign needs to do to make a success of this venture. It is possible for him to win, but success will not happen if the campaign does not again mention the elephant in the room. Only by addressing these very real fears, does Obama have hope to overcome what happened in Pennsylvania. The final protestation from these former-Clinton supporters is usually posed as question: why it must be racially-motivated if he or she does not vote for Obama? I always begin by saying that in the primary, it wasn't necessarily so. Yet, when that same voter, casts a vote for a candidate that is the polar opposite of their beliefs -- there is something else going on. Typically those motivated by race reveal themselves by bringing up the Rev. Wright, the theology, secret muslim allegations, or merely say "I don't want to make this about race,
but... .

It is an issue that remains undiscussed and one that it is increasingly more difficult to address because in the late nineties someone decided that racism was essentially a thing of the past. I still remember an 8th grade social studies book with that exact statement. Typically these issues are only brought up in our comedy or dealt with in person. Is what happened in Pennsylvania a localized thing? Will this be a problem on a national level that Obama should address? The answers to these questions are not easy and we may not know until after Election Day.

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