Politics of Race in 2012 Presidential Campaign

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    A recent Associated Press survey showed that since America elected its first black president Barack Obama, people’s racial attitudes have not changed in the last four years. In fact it got worse under Obama. That is there is increasing prejudice against blacks and the survey says more Americans now express prejudice towards blacks whether they recognized it or not.

    In practical terms those racial attitudes now account for why Obama’s challenger Gov Mitt Romney is pulling ahead among white men and as Republican strategist Mike Murphy said on “Meet the Press” on NBC last week of Romney can pull ahead among white voters in Ohio he’ll do well.

    So cast aside the content of the president’s character, the content of his policy and score himn on the content of his skin color. That is the subtle message some of Obama’s critics are pushing and obviously gaining ground in battleground states.

    The most prominent reason that could cost Obama his reelection is if majority white voters switch to Romney and few people of color come out to vote. The needs to get at least 38 percent of the white vote.

    In fact Romney’s top surrogate John Sununu confirmed this line of racial thinking when he suggests this week that the reason Republican General Colin Powell endorsed Obama for the second time is because of his race.

    “Well, I think when you have somebody of your own race that you’re proud of being president of the United States, I applaud Colin for standing with him,” Sununu told CNN. Sununu was a former governor of New Hampshire. I wonder what his racial policies were toward equity and addressing discrimination often found in government?

    Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh made a similar suggestion when General Powell endorsed Obama in 2008.

    If endorsements are based on race by prominent African Americans what happened to all the other white presidents that blacks have been voting for?

    To remotely suggest that an intelligent and highly decorated general like Powell will support Obama now only because of his race is insulting to the intelligence of not only Powell, but also blacks who have long voted for Democrats and Republicans. Powell gave explicit reasons for not supporting Romney citing his clear lack of foresight on foreign policy, unexplained economic policies etc.

    But this is the game some of Obama’s critics want to play because it appeals in the south and in the heartland. This kind of game does affect votes. What the Republican establishment have not done is to rebuke the racial smears that comes from those who represent and speak for the party. Silence is consent.

    When Donald Trump goes on his racial tirade questioning Obama’s background and education no one from the GOP stopped Trump. That the first black president with superb academic credentials becoming the first black president of the Harvard Law Review still comes under attack by a man like Trump – who has a lot of money- but can’t match Obama’s education background says something deeper about race in America today.

    But despite the racial attitudes expressed in the AP survey it doesn’t change the fact that a lot of people in America today are not looking at their clock through race. They believe that America can be better than that. Romney nor his surrogates should not exploit racial attitudes. Instead Romney should stand on his record. And the same for Obama and let the voters decide. But don’t play on the fears of voters about a black president having a second term after 43 white men have been elected president.

    The true test of America’s character is whether race can be cast aside in this crucial presidential election and voters decide exclusively on policy and the issues that resonate with them not how a person looks.

    Bankole Thompson author of “Obama and Christian Loyalty,” is a distinguished journalist and presidential author. Since 2008 he has been a member of the weekly “Obama Watch” Sunday evening program on New York’s WLIB-1190AM. You can tune in every Sunday to hear his take on the Obama administration from 9-10:30pm and simulcast in New Jersey and Connecticut. No part of this blog must be republished without the appropriate designation or expressed permisison of the author. http://www.bankolethompson.com

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