Friday, October 17, 2008

If Obama wasn't black ...

I heard George Lee on Today with Pat Kenny say that while watching the debate the other night (no, I didn't watch) the thought occurred to him that if Obama weren't black (he actually said "colored", but I can't kill him for that) he'd be well in front by now (or something to that effect). If this was the only time I'd heard this, I'd ignore it, but I hear it all the time - on the radio/t.v. and in conversation. I don't buy it at all.

First of all, if Obama were a white guy he would never have won the nomination. No similarly urbane, cosmopolitan white guy would have won the black vote against Hillary as Obama did. For example, Obama won 80% of the black vote in South Carolina. There's just no way that a 'white Obama' would have had similar success among black voters. Therefore, if Hillary had run against 'white Obama' Hillary would be the nominee right now.

But, what about the general election? Would Obama be further ahead if he were white? Let's face it, the underlying assumption when people like Lee make this point is that there are a large number of racist white Americans who won't vote for Obama because he's black. Is that true? I doubt it.

First, I'm sure there are some white people who are drawn to Obama because he's black. How many? Who knows?

Second, it's obvious that Obama is inspiring greater interest among black people in this election than in any previous presidential election. And he's going to get their votes in greater numbers than a 'white Obama' would. He's currently out-polling McCain among like black voters by 91% to 3%. That's a good deal better than Kerry did against Bush in 2004, when Bush won 11% of the black vote.

And, last, you have to expect that Republicans were always going to vote for the Republican candidate. So the only possible segment of the electorate that Lee and others could be talking about are those Democrats and Independents who are voting for McCain, and McCain has an appeal for independents and some Democrats. He always has. So to pin a 'racist' tag on all non-Republican McCain voters is wrong, ugly and irresponsible.

I'm sure there are some people out there just waiting to go to the polls on Nov. 4 to vote against the black guy, but I honestly doubt they outnumber those who are equally keen to vote for Obama because he's black.