Even now, the idea that white swing voters might pass on him because of his positions or campaign performance is considered a peculiar notion, likely from someone unhip to the gospel that America remains all about racism despite Colin Powell and Oprah. The money question is considered to be why our Great Black Hope isn't polling tens of points ahead of John McCain and his discredited party. But Obama has been a sure shot only with Blue America college-town sorts, animated not only by Obama's intellect, but also by his "diverseness" and its symbolic import for showing that our nasty past is truly past....He means this:
The Wisconsin chairman of the Republican Party notes, then, that for lunch pail whites, "I don't think race is an issue at all. A bigger problem is that Barack Obama has a sort of show pony style. The speeches and the classic double speak and being a great orator, that kind of thing doesn't play well in Wisconsin." That is, there are plenty of non-racist whites who need a candidate to show them something more than I.Q. and a poignant multicultural provenance. In not finding Obama's dreams of his father worthy of a vote, they are evaluating him as Dr. King would have counseled.
These are transitional times. In a recent Bloggingheads dialogue, Ta-Nehisi Coates admitted to me that Iowa had forced him to "reassess" his pessimism as to how far America has come on race.
Continuing the TNR piece:
If Obama loses, people like Coates will desist in their reassessments, and settle back into their cognitive comfort zone. Whites will cheer on the sidelines: Nothing would establish a Good White Person's bona fides on the race thing more than assenting that the racism "out there" is "still around" and has vanquished the audacity of hope.(Don't you just hate it when fetishization puts the kibosh on an upsurge? Note: McWhorter is a linguist.)
The grievous result of this fetishization of racism would be that it would put a kibosh on the upsurge in black voters' political engagement amidst the Obamenon.
Newspaper articles would quote blacks disillusioned from getting excited about any future black candidate--e.g. "I thought maybe America was finally getting past racism but it turned out not to be true." 2009 would be a year of countless panel discussions, quickie books, and celebrated rap couplets wallowing in the notion that the white man wouldn't let Obama into the Oval Office where he belonged, urgently reminding us that to be black is still to be a victim.A true vision?
Promising black politicians like Cory Booker, Deval Patrick, Adrian Fenty, and Harold Ford would find it harder than Obama did to attract support for presidential runs: No matter how stirring their speeches, the good word would be, "Look what happened to Obama!" And for years to come, professors would teach the 2008 election as a lesson about racism rather than about a heartening near-victory that no one could have imagined as recently as 15 years ago.
Weird analogy: If Obama loses, you can say it was racism the way you can say "pneumonia is often what kills AIDS patients."
No one would claim that this means that pneumonia... is a grievously urgent medical crisis in America. Yet black America's shorthand consensus will be founded upon just such a logical fallacy: that "Obama lost because America remains a deeply racist country."McWhorter asks: "Why would such an athletically pessimistic conclusion be so attractive to black people?"