The Impact of Racialized Attacks on Senator Obama

     The fivethirtyeight website reports on an analysis of the last month’s changes in voter preferences for Senators McCain and Obama:

Survey USA has now released polls in fifteen states that were taken at the height of the Jeremiah Wright controversy (this past Friday through Sunday). We can compare the demographic groups in these polls to Survey USA’s previous set of polls, which were conducted in the last couple days of February. . . . I’m merely comparing Obama’s net advantage against McCain between the February and the March surveys. If Obama was leading among whites in Oregon by 6 points in February, but he trailed by 2 points in March, that would be recorded as a “-8”.

What they call the “Wright effect” is significant. Summing the effects across the fifteen states, Senator Obama’s net advantage relative to McCain has dropped by 9 percent among whites, 4-7 percent among men and women, 3 percent among younger voters and 13 percent among older voters, 9 percent among Republican voters, 1 percent among Independents, 5 percent among Democrats, and 5-11 percent among liberal and moderate voters. In contrast, black support went up 6 percent, and Hispanic support up 5 percent.


        Of course, these data are early yet in the season, and the last polling was done close to the Dr. Wright story, with no impact yet from Senator Obama’s powerful speech, but they do suggest some impact not only from the negative and racially biased way the corporate media have spun the Wright story, but also from the impact of earlier racialized attacks this month by Representative S. King and the corporate media on Senator Obama’s Muslim “connections” and “optics.”

        As I predicted two months back, these racialized attacks on Senator Obama have come just as he appears to be the likely Democratic candidate and seem to have had their intended effect in backing off some white voters. There are at least two other somewhat similar, major political attacks on Senator Obama waiting in the political wings. Such intentional attacks, because of the deep white racial framing of the “dangerous black man” in many (especially white) voters’ minds, create major hurdles for Senator Obama in his pioneering attempt to win the presidency in the fall.


Surprising Words from Mike Huckabee

In a recent interview with conservative media commentator Joe Scarborough, former presidential candidate Mike Huckabee defended Barack Obama’s historic speech and the way Obama has handled the furor over his former pastor Jeremiah Wright’s recent statements. Even more surprisingly, Huckabee defended Wright himself (though, to borrow a phrase from Hillary Clinton, Huckabee made sure to “reject and denounce” Wright’s statements).

Huckabee stated that pastors frequently speak extemporaneously, and that this can often result in words said in the heat of the moment that the speaker may later wish he’d said differently:

Sermons, after all, are rarely written word-for-word by pastors like Rev. Wright, who are delivering them extemporaneously, and caught up in the emotion of the moment. There are things that sometimes get said, that if you put them on paper and looked at them in print, you’d say, ‘Well, I didn’t mean to say it quite like that.’

Huckabee also provides a rather thoughtful critique of those who would rush to rebuke Reverend Wright and minimize the impact that historic, systemic racism and discrimination have on present day experiences:

“And one other thing I think we’ve got to remember: As easy as it is for those of us who are white to look back and say, “That’s a terrible statement,” I grew up in a very segregated South, and I think that you have to cut some slack. And I’m going to be probably the only conservative in America who’s going to say something like this, but I’m just telling you: We’ve got to cut some slack to people who grew up being called names, being told, “You have to sit in the balcony when you go to the movie. You have to go to the back door to go into the restaurant. And you can’t sit out there with everyone else. There’s a separate waiting room in the doctor’s office. Here’s where you sit on the bus.” And you know what? Sometimes people do have a chip on their shoulder and resentment. And you have to just say, I probably would too. I probably would too. In fact, I may have had a more, more of a chip on my shoulder had it been me.”

Though I don’t remember Huckabee ever discussing the ongoing impact of racism during his time on the campaign trail, here he seems to demonstrate an understanding of how the history of racism and discrimination in the US has an ongoing impact on contemporary race relations. He also appears to show some understanding of what cultural critic bell hooks has described as “black rage” that is “non-pathological” and an “important response to injustice”. These are points that many of his conservative colleagues seem to want to ignore or downplay, and insights that have yet to be understood by those in the mainstream media who jumped to castigate Wright and refused to put his comments in context.