It’s not even quite August yet and he’s still ahead in the polls, but Barack Obama has played the race card, claiming that he expects Republicans to inject race into the campaign. In Missouri, he told a crowd:
Nobody [ed: nobody?] thinks that Bush and McCain have a real answer to the challenges we face. So 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 the dollar bills.”
The Obama campaign denied that the comment about “presidents on the dollar bills” was a reference to race. It claimed that Obama was referring to the fact that “he didn’t get here after spending decades in Washington.” But, of course, neither did the presidents on the dollar bills (Washington, Jackson, Lincoln, Grant). Thus, the campaign’s spin does not pass the straight face test.
Moreover, a month ago, Obama explicitly claimed, without evidence, that the Republicans will attack him on racial grounds:
The choice is clear. Most of all we can choose between hope and fear. It is going to be very difficult for Republicans to run on their stewardship of the economy or their outstanding foreign policy. We know what kind of campaign they’re going to run. They’re going to try to make you afraid. They’re going to try to make you afraid of me. He’s young and inexperienced and he’s got a funny name. And did I mention he’s black?
It seems clear, therefore, that the race card has become a permanent part of Obama’s hand, a wild card to be played whenever the spirit, or the circumstances, so moves him
What does Obama’s latest play tell us about the current circumstances? I think it tells us that, despite Obama’s presidential preening, he senses he may be in trouble. The “world tour” bounce appears to have been a short-hop only, and his pretentiousness and arrogance are beginning to grate even on some in the MSM. The McCain campaign is ridiculing Obama as a celebrity and little more. There’s enough truth in this suggestion to make the candidate uncomfortable. He doesn’t feel he can ignore the attack, but he also cannot respond with “I am too a man of substance who deserves my celebrity.” Hence the whining; hence the race card.
Shelby Steele has divided African-American public figures into two categories: bargainers and challengers. Bargainers state, in effect, “I will presume that you’re not a racist and by loving me you’ll show that my presumption is correct.” Challengers say, in effect, that whites are racist until they prove otherwise by conferring tangible benefits on them. Oprah is a bargainer; so was Louis Armstrong. Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are challengers.
Barack Obama made his political breakthrough as a bargainer. By constantly referring to the national yearning (including, he said, by many Republicans) to “come together” as blacks and whites, Obama presumed we are not racists. His reward was an almost magical appeal to broad portions of the electorate.
However, Steele (who believes that bargainers are masking their real, more subtle, view of whites) predicted that Obama would not be able to maintain his bargainer status. That prophecy began to come true when the tapes of Rev. Wright surfaced. Now, as Obama feels the heat of the campaign, he continues his transformation to challenger. In Steele’s terms, he no longer offers us the assurances, required of bargainers, that he knows we’re not racists; we now have to prove it to him. Having issued this challenge, Obama can no longer receive our unconditional love.
Of course, Obama doesn’t need our unconditional love; he just needs 50 percent plus one of the vote. Straining to get to that number, his mask is coming off, probably to his detriment.
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