Thursday, 16 October 2008

The Effect of Race in the US Presidential Election

I like to think I'm post-racial, and I also like to think the US election has progressed beyond considerations of race. But this comment by Realista over at has startled me into understanding just how potent a factor race still is.

Essentially, it's a set of hypothetical questions - what if certain characteristics of Sen. Obama and his Republican opposite numbers (McCain and Palin) had been switched around? Would people still look at the two candidates the same way?

I'm going to repeat those questions verbatim here, because they're so hard-hitting:

What if the Obamas had paraded five children across the stage, including a three month old infant and an unwed, pregnant teenage daughter?

What if John McCain was a former president of the Harvard Law Review?

What if Barack Obama finished fifth from the bottom of his graduating class?

What if McCain had only married once and Obama was a divorcee?

What if Obama was the candidate who left his first wife after a severe disfiguring car accident, when she no longer measured up to his standards?

What if Obama had met his second wife in a bar and had a long affair while he was still married?

What if Michelle Obama was the wife who not only became addicted to pain killers but also acquired them illegally through her charitable organization?

What if Cindy McCain graduated from Harvard?

What if Obama had been a member of the Keating Five? (The Keating Five were five United States Senators accused of corruption in 1989, igniting a major political scandal as part of the larger Savings and Loan crisis of the late 1980s and early 1990s.)

What if McCain was a charismatic, eloquent speaker?

What if Obama couldn’t read from a teleprompter?

What if Obama was the one who had military experience that included discipline problems and a record of crashing seven planes? (My note: I understand it was 3 planes, not 7)

What if Obama was the one who was known to display publicly, on many occasions, a serious anger management problem?

What if Michelle Obama’s family had made their money first bootlegging, then from beer distribution?

What if the Obamas had adopted a white child?

Amazing, isn't it? Any or a small set of the negative aspects of McCain/Palin might have ended Obama's candidacy prematurely if they had been his flaws. Conversely, any of the positive things about Obama might have been trumpeted far more loudly had it applied to McCain/Palin.

What's often said about women (i.e., that they have to work twice as hard as a man to get the same recognition) may also apply to minorities.

I'm afraid we're still in Kansas, Toto.

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