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Hullabaloo


Sunday, August 03, 2008

 
The Jackie Robinson Rules

by digby

It turns out that a majority of Americans think that Obama was racist for saying what he said but McCain's ads weren't. It would seem that the most recognizable form of racism for most people is from those who "play the race card from the bottom of the deck." I suppose that's progress of a weird sort.

Sixty-nine percent (69%) of the nation’s voters say they’ve seen news coverage of the McCain campaign commercial that includes images of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and suggests that Barack Obama is a celebrity just like them. Of those, just 22% say the ad was racist while 63% say it was not.

However, Obama’s comment that his Republican opponent will try to scare people because Obama does not look like all the other presidents on dollar bills was seen as racist by 53%. Thirty-eight percent (38%) disagree.

[...]

Not surprisingly, the McCain ad generates significantly different perceptions along racial and ethnic lines. Most African-American voters—58%--saw the McCain ad as racist. Just 18% of white voters and 14% of all other voters shared that view.

As for Obama’s comment, 53% of white voters saw it as racist, as did 44% of African-Americans and 61% of all other voters.

There were also significant partisan divides. Democrats were evenly divided as to whether the McCain commercial was racist, and they were also evenly divided on the Obama comment. Republicans, by an 87% to 4% margin, rejected the notion that the McCain campaign ad was racist. But, by a 67% to 26% margin, GOP voters believe that Obama’s comment was racist.

Unaffiliated voters, by a five-to-one margin, said the McCain ad was not racist. By a much narrower 50% to 38% margin, unaffiliateds viewed Obama’s comment as racist.

Overall, just 22% of voters believe that most Americans are racist. That view is shared by 32% of Democrats, 20% of unaffiliated voters and 12% of Republicans. African-American voters are evenly divided on the question.


I should note that I think the Britney ad worked on a number of levels, the racial aspect being the most subtle and easily dismissed. I can understand why most people didn't see it as racist. That is, after all, the whole point of dogwhistles. But I confess that it does surprise me that 53% of whites and 44% of blacks think "They're going to try to scare you. You know, 'He's not patriotic enough. He's got a funny name.' You know, 'He doesn't look like all those other presidents on those dollar bills,'" is a racist comment.

I have no doubt that the campaign has learned the proper lesson from all this. McCain and his nasty surrogates can dogwhistle themselves hoarse all the way to November and nobody can call them on it. If the "liberal" media does, they will be portrayed as in the tank for Obama and part of the problem. It's a brilliant inoculation. Indeed, it may be such a thorough inoculation that it means that Obama is now in a bit of a straitjacket, having to second guess all criticism of McCain to ensure that it can't be taken as "racist." He's on notice from the great civil rights crusader himself:


“We’re not gonna allow racism to come into this campaign in any form,” McCain said. “And so I’m gonna respond if it comes up again.”


What a neat twist that is. They've already managed to hamstring Obama with the silly "confusion" flap and McCain's national security credentials are sacrosanct since he was a POW, so the field for criticism is narrowing significantly. McCain's people whine about the campaign being racist and ageist and unpatriotic and then they accuse liberals of political correctness. It's quite effective.

I know the last thing Obama wants to do is talk about race all the way to November. It's a minefield. To me that, in itself, says that the issue is still live in our culture. But I guess most people have shifted their view to suggest that even mentioning race is a sign of racism itself.

So, Obama is going to have to be a modern day Jackie Robinson and stoically endure the more subtle forms of racial ugliness that the right throws at him without ever fighting back or even mentioning that it is happening. If he's as good a politician as Robinson was a baseball player, he'll do it by sheer talent and force of will (and by boldly stealing home in the world series ...)


This ain't fun. But you watch me, I'll get it done.
Jackie Robinson



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