How “Race” is Destroying Obama’s Candidacy

January 15, 2008

Very rarely do I agree with the Washington Post editorial, especially after its jingoistic support of the Iraq war and its lame defense of its support later. But today is one of those rare times when I do agree with the Post‘s editorial. It wrote that

Supporters of Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) have taken remarks of Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) and former president Bill Clinton out of context and then unfairly criticized them for what they did not say.

and goes on to say:

Mr. Obama didn’t pick this fight. But he is abetting his supporters in their mischaracterizations when he says, “Senator Clinton made an unfortunate remark, an ill-advised remark . . . She is free to explain that. But the notion that somehow this is our doing is ludicrous.” This might help him secure a large majority of the black vote (just under half of registered Democrats) in the South Carolina primary on Jan. 26. But it isn’t good for his party.

But more than that it is not good for Obama’s candidacy to be in this fight. As a non-white, non-black, non-hispanic US citizen, I have no dog in this fight and can call a spade a spade without bias. Obama has allowed his campaign and surrogates to pick on a race card (given short-term views of the South Carolina primary, perhaps), and make it a major issue displays some political naivety. Despite disclaimers, the Obama campaign has sought actively to inject race into the 2008 campaign. Let’s face it, it was his campaign that picked up on Hillary Clinton’s MLK comment and misinterpreted it. Whether it was over-generalizing Bill Clinton’s remark, misattributing Hillary Clinton’s statement about MLK, calling he a “senator from Punjab”, or raising doubts about the “Bradley-Wilder effect,” Obama has not been politically savvy about race, and needs to take immediate corrective action.

Why “Race” is Politically Unsavvy for Obama

  1. It begins to falsely mark him as a “Black candidate” rather than a candidate who happens to be black. This incorrect perception will also make Obama out to be one more Jesse Jackson type of candidate who has no universal appeal
  2. Repeated mention of the “Bradley-Wilder” effect will make his electability an issue among Democratic voters who will now think that come what may, “White America” will not vote for a Black candidate, and hence view Clinton as more viable in the general election.
  3. White voters may react instinctively, and perhaps unconsciously, with a “circle the wagons” that will further nullify Obama’s universal appeal

What Obama Should Do Now

Obama should make it public that he does not endorse his campaign’s picking up on the race issue. His call yesterday for a truce will be seen as too little and as smacking of insincerity if his surrogates and campaign go on about race despite his call for a truce.

Today’s debate in Las Vegas gives him an ideal opportunity to practice the philosophy he so articulately puts forth on the stump. In today’s debate he should denounce the use of race in both campaigns, and he should publicly ask everybody who supports his campaign to refrain from race-related remarks.

To those to say. “What about Hillary?”, I say this: Obama is the one whose campaign is about change, Hillary has not promised any such thing. Why should Obama let Hillary steal the thunder of such an unprecedented move that will strengthen his universal appeal and make him rise above “Washington politics?”

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One Response to “How “Race” is Destroying Obama’s Candidacy”


  1. […] IMPOLITICO wrote an interesting post today on How "Race" is Destroying Obama’s CandidacyHere’s a quick excerptWhy should Obama let Hillary steal the thunder of such an unprecedented move that will strengthen his universal appeal and make him rise above “W ashington politics?”… […]


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