Staying Above The Muck

by Chris Bodenner
Eli Sanders thinks he's nailed down McCain's formula for the general campaign:

Here’s how it goes: Inject race into the campaign. Then, when everyone starts to wring their hands about it, claim that it was actually Obama who injected race into the campaign first. (This is not very hard to do since Obama’s presence ipso facto injects race into the campaign.) Then, take it a step further: Claim that Obama is “playing the race card,” position yourself as the victim of reverse racism and white-guilt-tripping, and then wait for the disgruntled white masses to say: “Yeah, me too! I hate it when that happens!”

I have no doubt that the increasingly-desperate McCain campaign, bereft of any affirmative arguments for their candidate, will try to subtly inject and amplify identity politics in order to corral white, working-class voters (McCain all of a sudden opposes AA in Arizona?  What a coincidence!).  But I think Obama's in the wrong here.  For a while now, he's oh-so-subtly insinuated on the stump that Republicans will highlight his race to portray him "out of the mainstream."  He's right, of course -- some will, and some have (including McCain).  But that shouldn't be an excuse for Obama to point it out directly, as a way of eliciting sympathy from voters.  If he wants to call out Republicans for their cynical use of cultural warfare, stick with sound-bytes like "he's got a funny name" or "he's not patriotic enough."  But if Obama really wants to be a "post-racial" candidate who "transcends race," he should abstain from offering up any reference to how others will portray him as black.  Everyone knows he's black, and everyone knows that some people won't vote for him because of it (though I believe, like Clinton with gender, there's a net gain of people who see his race as a plus).  So there's no need for Obama to invoke it himself.  Doing so will only give the McCain campaign an excuse to cease upon it, distort it, and feed it to the black hole of identity politics.

The modern GOP was largely founded on racism, but the party over the past four decades has shown steady progress towards scrubbing it away. The more liberals who assume that Republicans are racist by default, the slower that progress will be.  Douglas Mackinnon elucidated that argument in a great op-ed last week, writing:

I am a Republican and conservative who finds much about Barack Obama to admire. ... [But] Obama has sold himself to the American people as someone who is a cut above the average politician and will never employ the politics of destruction. He, like everyone in the black community, understands the damage that can be caused by words, be those words direct, code or even just barely hinted at. Words matter, words hurt and words destroy. I am not a racist. I, like Obama, am simply an American who wants the best for my country and its people. As the campaign progresses, it is my hope that the gifted and caring senator from Illinois will choose his words a bit more carefully.