February 12, 2008


How 'blackness' has figured in the Obama campaign (Ginger Thompson, February 11, 2008, NY Times)

Glimpses inside the Obama campaign show, though, that while the senator had hoped his colorblind style of politics would lift the country above historic racial tensions, from day one his bid for the presidency has been pulled into the thick of them.

While his speeches stay focused on unifying voters, his campaign has learned the hard way that courting a divided electorate requires reaching out group by group.

Instead of following a plotted course, Obama's campaign has zigged and zagged, reacting to outside forces and internal differences between the predominantly white team of top advisers and the mostly black tier of aides below them.

The dynamic began the first day of Obama's presidential bid, when white advisers encouraged him to withdraw an invitation to his pastor, whose Afro-centric sermons have been construed as anti-white, to deliver the invocation at the official campaign kickoff.

Then, when his candidacy was met by a wave of African-American suspicion, the senator's black aides pulled in prominent black scholars, business leaders and elected officials as advisers.

Aides to Obama, who asked not to be identified because the campaign would not authorize them to speak to the news media, said he stayed away from a civil rights demonstration and rarely visited black churches when he was struggling to win over white voters in Iowa.

When Representative John Lewis's endorsement of Clinton set off concerns about black voters' ambivalence toward Obama, the campaign sprinkled his stump speeches with African-American idioms and deployed his wife, Michelle, whose upbringing on the South side of Chicago was more similar to that of many blacks than Obama's biracial background.

The campaign's early-state strategy left Obama vulnerable with Latinos, which hurt him in California and could do the same in the Texas primary March 4. Faulted by Latino leaders for not being visible enough and understanding what issues resonated with immigrants, the campaign has been trying hard to catch up, scheduling more face-to-face meetings with voters, snaring endorsements from Latino politicians and fine-tuning Obama's message.

Obama has resisted any attempt to suggest that his success is a black-only phenomenon or that presidential primaries are breaking along racial lines.

If he were white he wouldn't be running. He'd be Dick Durbin.

Posted by Orrin Judd at February 12, 2008 12:07 PM

2 questions:
1) Who would you rather seen John McCain go up against in November? Senator Clinton or Senator Obama? I know, it's kind of like asking, "What's the tastiest turd in the bowl?" but humor me.

2) People keep saying that, if Senator Obama wins in November, that will mean that we have moved beyond our racist past. But won't it mean precisely the opposite? Given that he's got less political experience than my pet hen and given that he's an (albeit very well tailored) empty suit, won't that mean that we're still as racist as ever?

Posted by: Bryan at February 12, 2008 1:42 PM


If Durbin had Obama's charisma and speechifying he'd have been president...

Posted by: Benny at February 12, 2008 2:35 PM

Bryan: I can't yet decide who is the worst candidate: Hillary with her high negatives, all the Clinton baggage, her unpleasant demeanor and her ability to unify Republicans, or Obama with his thin resume, dodgy associates and very left-liberal record. (E.g.: He wants drivers' licenses for illegals, which aligns him against 3/4s of the country, though OJ probably sees that as a plus.)

Posted by: PapayaSF at February 12, 2008 3:23 PM

Papaya: Only if the illegals are over 30.

Posted by: Bartman at February 12, 2008 5:13 PM

Over half the electorate is female. Under 10% is black. Do the math.

Posted by: oj at February 12, 2008 6:09 PM

If Durbin had more melanin folks would claim him a brilliant speaker.

Posted by: oj at February 12, 2008 6:09 PM

Obama won Virginia and most of the white female vote!

Posted by: erp at February 12, 2008 7:15 PM

If he is the nominee, Obama is going to be skewered like Dukakis was. On defense. On foreign policy. On crime. On taxes. And, because he is so pro-abortion, on abortion. His indifference to the legislation for infants born alive (those that lived through the abortion) is just devastating.

Somebody should ask Barack about Margaret Sanger. He's got to know, doesn't he?

Posted by: jim hamlen at February 13, 2008 12:54 AM