>Yesterday, I came across an op-ed by NY Times columnist Bob Herbert titled “Running While Black.”
There was nothing subtle about that attempt to position Senator Obama as the Other, a candidate who might technically be American but who remained in some sense foreign, not sufficiently patriotic and certainly not one of us — the “us” being the genuine red-white-and-blue Americans who the ad was aimed at.
Herbert goes on to trash Sen. John McCain’s campaigning style. He also compares McCain’s usage of Paris Hilton and Britney Spears in a recent ad to a 2006 Republican National Committee ad targeted at Rep. Harold Ford. Towards the end of the ad, the scantly-clad white woman whispers, “Harold, call me.”
Both ads were foul, poisonous and emanated from the upper reaches of the Republican Party. (What a surprise.) Both were designed to exploit the hostility, anxiety and resentment of the many white Americans who are still freakishly hung up on the idea of black men rising above their station and becoming sexually involved with white women.
The racial fantasy factor in this presidential campaign is out of control. It was at work in that New Yorker cover that caused such a stir. (Mr. Obama in Muslim garb with the American flag burning in the fireplace.) It’s driving the idea that Barack Obama is somehow presumptuous, too arrogant, too big for his britches — a man who obviously does not know his place.
Mr. Obama has to endure these grotesque insults with a smile and heroic levels of equanimity. The reason he has to do this — the sole reason — is that he is black.
So there he was this week speaking evenly, and with a touch of humor, to a nearly all-white audience in Missouri. His goal was to reassure his listeners, to let them know he’s not some kind of unpatriotic ogre.
Mr. Obama told them: “What they’re going to try to do is make you scared of me. 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, you know. He’s risky.”
The audience seemed to appreciate his comments. Mr. Obama was well-received.
But John McCain didn’t appreciate them. RACE CARD! RACE CARD! The McCain camp started bellowing, and it hasn’t stopped since. With great glee bursting through their feigned outrage, the campaign’s operatives and the candidate himself accused Senator Obama of introducing race into the campaign — playing the race card, as they put it, from the very bottom of the deck.
The issue of race has not been injected into the campaign by Sen. Obama. The topic of race has been in this campaign since Obama announced his intentions to seek the Democratic nomination and the presidency. It’s been on the minds of voters, political pundits and the media.
I find it ironic that McCain would even claim Obama is playing the race card. It’s not Obama who’s using the subconscious fear of black men who, once they gain some power, lose control and take advantage of hapless white women. It’s not Obama who’s using celebrity pop tarts and scantly-clad white women in his ads to try and instill fear of black men’s sexuality in the minds of voters.
The Republican Party and its operatives have long used the race card when it comes to campaign ads. The most famous is the late Sen. Jesse Helms, whose ad about affirmative action sparked controversy in North Carolina and across the state.
Herbert’s analysis is dead on: Obama has been painted as an “unknown.” The Republican Party, expounding on Obama’s limited political experience, are seeking to paint him as unpredictable, radical (a term used almost always to describe black activists and politicians on the left) and questions his patriotism.
What do you think of Herbert’s analysis?