Thursday, October 30, 2008

Why race won't prevent Obama's election----a guest writer

October 30, 2008 — By Tom Houck

Almost two years after a Kenyan/Kansan named Barack Obama stood on the steps of the old capitol in Springfield, Ill., proclaiming his candidacy for the president of the United States of America, voters both black and white next month are finally buying into the dream of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Barack Obama is positioned to become the first African-American elected to our country's highest office. In my judgment, Obama will be elected.

Despite there being nearly a quarter of the white population who still have difficulty voting for a black, a remarkable campaign and the sorry state of the mess left by George W. Bush has trumped race. Obama has run a race of non-race. He has become the non-threatening figure of stability on the national and international stage. You might say that Obama had all the right ingredients to make history: temperament, money, brains, looks, timing, message and, most of all, a country absolutely desiring CHANGE!

His journey has truly been remarkable in a country which, since its founding, has relentlessly plagued people of color. Most blacks couldn't register to vote just 43 years ago. The most segregated of conditions permeated neighborhoods from coast to coast. In many states, people of color could not intermarry by law, let alone run for office.

Yes, one would have to fess up to the incredible progress we have made on race relations. But -- does race still matter?

The hard-fought battles of the 1960's changed the laws of the land by ensuring blacks "equal rights" and access to the ballot box has made Obama's quest possible. The minds of a generation born after the obliteration of Jim Crow laws are not shackled to the taboos of the past, and they have helped set the stage to help the country break free from its dismal racial history.

Today, as Obama is on the eve of a monumental fete, we are a better country, but we are a long way from where we ought to be. The "N" word is still a household word in far too many homes. The left out and left behind are little, if any, better off than they were five decades ago. Schools are still segregated and the ugly elephant of race, while not as big a presence, is still in the room. We might say a mouse is in the room -- not as big and bold as the elephant, but still a nasty irritant.

Politically, 2008 marks a transformation not seen since Lincoln in 1865, FDR in 1932 and JFK in 1960. The Republican brand, tar and feathered by a "southern strategy" of the 60's, will need to search a new path come January. A Democratic Party with a majority in the Congress and a president in the White House can shape our country and the world for generations to come.

Yes, it all happened because one man had the "audacity to hope.” Not many gave Obama a snowball’s chance in hell 22 months ago. Most Democrats held the idea that a Clinton would be the one who would break the glass ceiling. But instead Obama ran a campaign like no other. Internet-driven and staffed by savvy campaigners, the message of change took off on a cold Iowa night. The Obama campaign never looked back, winning battle after battle with the well-oiled Clinton political operation glaring in the headlights. And before 75,000 change agents in Denver, the first part of the impossible mission was realized. Obama won his party's nomination.

However, distractions like race and class still unfortunately play a significant factor in America. Even with Obama winning the nomination, we have still not had the kind of dialogue or conversation where issues would trump race.

The mouse is still in the room with claims that Obama is “an Arab” that "pals around with terrorists,” and that "he's a socialist (who) wants to share the wealth.” Chants at McCain and Palin rallies have included shout-outs such as "kill him" and "terrorist.” Robotic phone messages try to link Obama with domestic terror and remind people of his color by linking him with the remarks of his former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.

Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley observed, "Obama has been running as a post-racial candidate from the start, and he has been doing it very well. But the fact of the matter is that some voters -- we can't know yet how many -- will not get past his race. And I believe the McCain-Palin ticket is tapping into that."

Then there is the claim of voter fraud ginned up by the McCain campaign to suppress the vote. With a wink and a nod, they talk about "Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck" voting and, more seriously, have questioned the legitimacy of hundreds of thousands of newly registered voters in key electoral battleground states.

But these tactics won’t work, not this time. The Obama campaign is the most sophisticated in my lifetime. The ground game to get out the vote will work. The atmosphere of hate and division will fail. The message of hope and change relegates old politics and old methods to incite to the back page.

Of course, with a few more days to campaign before what I predict will be a win for Obama, there is still time for mischief. His opponents will certainly try to reef up the red meat crowd by claiming he is not “one of us” and question his patriotism -- tactics that have worked in the past. Amazingly enough, we have not been subjected to as big a barrage of wedge issues like guns and gays, although Palin has tried her best to tie Obama to an abortion clinic and the rights of gun owners. But polls still show Obama with a significant lead.

In 1982, just days before the California gubernatorial election, polls showed that African-American L.A. mayor Tom Bradley was in the lead to win the race against the white George Deukmejian. On election day, though, Bradley lost because many white voters lied to pollsters, claiming they planned to vote for Bradley but instead cast their ballot for Deukmejian once behind the curtain.

But in this age of the cell phone and internet, 24-hour news cycle and the unprecedented reach to Americans suffering the greatest economic hardship since the great depression, millions of middle class white voters -- especially proud white "dudes" -- will find their circumstances inextricably aligned with Obama will free themselves, many for the first time, to vote for a black.

This is indeed a significant breakthrough in race relations. This year, a man of color was assigned a Herculean task; a good beginning, but only a start.

The discussion on race does not simply melt away like an ice cream sundae in the noonday sun. Under a Barack Obama presidency, progress will be judged by the way the leader of our country conducts business for its citizens. I believe that our new leader, President Obama, will make us proud.

Race unfortunately still matters, but the face of the debate come January led by a talented, thoughtful leader -- full of charisma, ideas and ways to bridge the cultural divide -- will change the game. I can see Dr. King, A. Phillip Randolph, Fannie Lou Hammer, Ralph Abernathy, Rosa Parks and scores of truly brave heroes and heroines of the civil rights movement looking down and saying, “Job well done.” Now let's take it to the next step -- building a country and world where race doesn't matter.

Tom Houck is an Atlanta based political and media consultant and is currently writing a book "Driving Dr. King: Chasing the Dream," which is due out in 2009.

This came to you from Insider Advantage and Southern Political Report

Oh now I am back with a question---does race matter----your thoughts?


steelcowboy said...

Personally, I could care less what his race is. I'd rather see Powell running than ANY of the choices we 'don't' have, but that ain't happening.
I'd just like, for the love of God, to NOT HAVE TO CHOOSE the lesser of two evils... if you no what I mean? Picking the one that won't screw up as badly as the other...

Susan said...

It matters not to myself. I think here in Canada, race is much less an issue. We have a much smaller black popululation here that the states. However, we do have many folks from asia, Phillipines and India. Their numbers are well represented in our political leadership. I am proud to live in a country considered a Cultural Mosiac. We celebrate the many different cultures and embrace our differences as a unique qualities.

I say, may the best man win whether black or white.
Good post, I enoyed the read. Thanks to your guest poster.

phoenix said...

The post I wrote about being horrified at the way kids have been pulled into this has a surprising twist. It is the white kids afraid of the black kids. It has been the Obama supporting kids that have been bullying the McCain supporters. Makes you stop and think, eh? Counties like Dekalb and Fulton will have extra security officers on hand to stop any fighting.

Walker said...

Boy can I leave a comment here on the whole shitbang.
Personally I am tired o f it all.
Obama will win, I'm almost sure of it but shit does happen.

Color shouldn't be an issue because if any president turned out to be a bad one they can just impeach his butt or what ever you guys do when you want to get rid of a president.

We claim to be a society where all are equal and that should be the same on the ballot.
Over a hundred battle fields around the world there are where white and black Americans died side by side so why should it be any different when it comes to running the country.

Blacks have just as much to loose as Whites do with each and every president elected no matter what color or sex he or she is.

Any white person who doesn''t vote for Obama because he is black shouildn't call himself an American and any Black person who votes for Obama because he is Black is not an American either.

An American or any citezen of any country should look at what you think is best for the country and vote that way.
If you;re black and McCain sounds appealing then vote for him.
If Obama ticks the boxes you need ticking then do it but do it for the right reason.
This is what's missing in this election.
It's all about knocking down the other guy and not about how do we fix the problem.

There are to candidates in Detroit I think it is.
They are actually saying nice things about the other person during their campaigning and eating at the same diner every night.
What a novel idea that is.
Being nice to each other and trying to win through thier ideas on how to make Detroit a better place.

Cowboy Joe said...

Wow, what an incredible post. Truly thought provoking in itself. Race doesn't matter to me personally. I was rooting for him all along. Not that it matters since I'm from north of the 49th. But still, it will have an effect on our lives up here too.