This Politico story depressed me horribly, not because I don't want John McCain to win, but that it measures the number of people unwilling to vote for a black person at 15%.
I was talking the other day to a prominent Republican who asked me what I thought John McCain’s strongest issues would be in the general election.
Lower taxes and the argument he will be better able to protect America from its enemies, I said.
Republicans have a pretty good track record with those two.
The Republican shook his head. “You’re missing the most important one,” he said. “Race. McCain runs against Barack Obama and the race vote is worth maybe 15 percent to McCain.”
The man I was talking to is not a racist; he was just stating what he believes to be a fact: There is a percentage of the American electorate who will simply not vote for a black person no matter what his qualities or qualifications.
How big is that percentage? An AP-Yahoo poll conducted April 2-14 found that “about 8 percent of whites would be uncomfortable voting for a black for president.”
I don’t know if 8 percent sounds high or low to you, but I was amazed that 8 percent of respondents were willing to admit this to a pollster. And I figure that the true figure is much higher.
The contrarian in me almost wants to vote for Obama just because of this poll (I said almost). I've said from the get-go that Obama would be a difficult candidate to run against because, regardless of his record, challenging him will be seen as racism.
Unfortunately, there's enough real racism left in the country that we don't need the gotcha politics of "You didn't vote for Obama? You must be a racist!"
I've said before that I'm about the same age as Obama, so I think I have a pretty good handle on the attitudes of my generation of Americans regarding race. When I was just out of high school, it was still pretty common to hear people use the N-word, then act shocked if someone were offended by it. Most people who felt that way then wouldn't say that now, but I'm not entirely sure they don't still feel that way. My attitude about racism (that it is a disgusting blight that has poisoned us throughout history) hasn't really changed, either. It's just that I was always offended by it.
I won't vote for Obama, but I guess I'm in the 85% who can find credible reasons for picking John McCain over him.
UPDATE: And this stuff doesn't help. If Obama loses, we'll all be tarred as racists.