Wednesday, August 6, 2008

August 5th, 2008

     I've read forty-three columns this morning (okay, it only seems like forty-three) asking which presidential candidate has 'raised' the race issue in the presidential campaign.  Fact is, in a race with a white candidate running against a black one, the issue raises itself without needing any help.
     How many Americans, of whatever color, will vote for Barack Obama because he's black?  Or against him for the same reason?  Some, surely, but how many?  I have no idea.
     One thing we do know--this country, while not free of racism, is much less racist than it used to be.  When I was old enough to vote, whites and blacks both got drafted into the army, President Harry Truman had recently integrated the armed forces but, in the Southern states, only whites could vote.  The Voting Rights Act of 1966 changed that, of course.  Southern states now send blacks to Congress.
     This year, for the first time in our history, a black man looks likely to be the presidential nominee of one of our two major parties.  Obama did not get there by casting himself as a black victim.  As Eugene Robinson wrote in his Washington Post column, 'Obama understands that to be elected president, he has to come off as the least-aggrieved black man in America'   So, he won't be raising the issue.
     John McCain, whom I've interviewed a couple of times, never struck me as a racist.  But there are people in his campaign who believe the way to win is to tear down the other guy with any label they think may hurt--effete, elite, thinks he's superior, and so on.  It's the same technique they used against John Kerry four years ago.  It worked then so, of course, they're repeating it now.
     I hope it flops this time.
     I hope we all go to the polls this fall remembering a couple of lines the American poet Langston Hughes wrote:  'America, the land that never was and yet must be/ the land where every man is free.'   

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