Primary race

Puzzling words from the New York Times political team:

Mr. Obama has resisted any effort to suggest that the presidential primaries were breaking along racial lines.

“There are not a lot of African-Americans in Nebraska the last time I checked, or in Utah or in Idaho, areas where I probably won some of my biggest margins,” he said Sunday in an NPR interview.

“There’s no doubt that I’m getting more African-American votes,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean that the race is dividing along racial lines. You know, in places like Washington State we won across the board, from men, from women, from African-Americans, from whites and from Asians.”

A Rhetorical Tightrope

David Axelrod, the chief strategist of the Obama campaign, said in an interview that although he and Mr. Obama did not map out a detailed strategy for dealing with race when plotting a presidential run, they were well aware it would weigh on his campaign.

As a consultant to several black elected officials, Mr. Axelrod has been steeped in racially charged elections. And he said Mr. Obama had faced the challenges of racial politics in the campaign that propelled him to the Senate, where he is only the third black elected since Reconstruction.

Mr. Axelrod said he had learned there was “a certain physics” to winning votes across racial lines. Previous campaigns by African-Americans — the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton — had overwhelmingly relied on black support that wound up defining, and confining, their candidacies.

By contrast, from the moment Mr. Obama stepped onto the national political stage, he has paid as much attention — or more, some aides said — to a far broader audience. “He believes you can have the support of the black community, appealing to the pride they feel in his candidacy, and still win support among whites,” Mr. Axelrod said.

While Obama resists efforts "to suggest," he is powerless against the very suggestive authors of this article (notice later: "Mr. Axelrod has been steeped in racially charged elections"–oh so suspicious, isn't it?).  I would add that the more proper way of characterizing Obama's position would be this: "The facts do not bear out that this primary race is a racially charged one."  After all, that's basically what Obama said.

Perhaps instead of framing Obama's position as a strategic denial, they could do some investigating, you know, research, and see if perhaps the racial issue warrants very suggestive front page coverage. 

5 thoughts on “Primary race”

  1. Just to throw another view out: having read your except, I didn’t come away feeling that the author was insinuating that the race was, in fact, “breaking” along racial lines. Whatever that even means.

    Even Mr. Axelrod’s “steeping” doesn’t seem overdone. I read it as, “has experience with.” Which was appropriate background information for his comments on how the Obama campaign has (or hasn’t) dealt explicitly with race.

    Besides, (warning, incoming fallacy) every time I “steep” a teabag in water, before long, it’s no longer in water but tea. So obviously, “past steeping” has little to do with future environment.

  2. Thanks for the comment–but two things–the thesis of the article is that the race is breaking along racial lines, or that there is some indication that it is–as those words are the words of the author of the article. Second, steeping implies–to me at least–soaking entirely in. You’re right about the tea bag, but I don’ t think that’s the point of the analogy.

  3. I think this is an attempt by the NYT to assert that race is breaking down racial lines (or we can simply come out and say what the NYT seems to be saying, or at least insinuating, “blacks are voting for Obama because he’s black”). If this is what the NYT is expressing here, (and anyone else who makes this point without some kind of empirical evidence) I think it makes them racists. Critical race theory isn’t my area of philosophy, but suggesting that blacks are voting for Obama because he’s black, , carries the assumption that blacks are not smart enough to understand why they should or should not vote for a candidate. The same goes for women voting for Clinton, which we’ve heard talk about as well, which of course means women are not as intelligent as white men, who we do not pose these questions to. I can’t remember ever hearing even the slightest hint that white men voted for McCain because he’s a white man. When the press interviews white male voters for McCain, it’s all about the issues; issues blacks and women et. al. can’t understand.

  4. An important part of my reply did not show up.

    Critical race theory isn’t my area of philosophy, but suggesting that blacks are voting for Obama because he’s black, WITHOUT ASKING BLACK VOTERS WHY THEY VOTED FOR HIM , carries the assumption that blacks are not smart enough to understand why they should or should not vote for a candidate.


  5. Just lazy, lazy analysis in place of actual reporting. There is nothing Obama can say or do to end this “racial analysis” frame for the next 9 months. It is unfortunately the quickest, easiest, and most obvious way to oversimplify the election for 90 second television segments.

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