Feature

Race’s role in the campaign

How being the first black nominee helps and hurts Obama

"Given the long, ugly history of race relations in America," said USA Today in an editorial, "one of the most remarkable things about the 2008 presidential campaign is how small a role, at least on the surface, race has played." Both Barack Obama and John McCain have resisted playing the race card. The question is whether Obama's lead in the polls will hold up when white voters step into the privacy of the voting booth.

There’s no way around it, said Dawn Trice in the Chicago Tribune, race will be a factor in this presidential election. It’s racist to vote for Obama solely because he would be the first black president, and it’s racist to vote against him for the same reason. But if you like his policies and see the “symbolic nature” of his campaign as “icing on the cake,” there’s nothing wrong with that.

John McCain and Sarah Palin haven’t been content to simply let the chips fall where they may, said P. Sainath in The Hindu. The Republican presidential candidate and his running mate have fanned racism in their rallies by questioning his background and concocting associations between Obama and that “Pavlovian buzzword” of xenophobia, “terrorist.”

The Obama camp is the one playing the race card, said Charles Krauthammer in The Washington Post. Obama’s surrogates have repeatedly suggested that anyone who complains about his race-baiting pastor, Jeremiah Wright, or his radical friend Bill Ayers is somehow a “closet racist.” Clearly, Obama isn’t serious about moving the nation beyond the “guilt-tripping politics of Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton.”

Clearly, said Jay Nordlinger in National Review online, “there is an unease in this election, owing to race.” Some voters on both sides will make their decision based on race, and the pain for Obama’s supporters will be intense if he loses. But this election, however it shakes out, will put us a step closer to the day when a candidate’s race won’t be a factor, and “won’t that be a great, fresh-aired day?”

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