Thursday, September 11, 2008


National Public Radio is running a program on both Morning Edition and All Things Considered entitled Does Race Matter in '08. The series talks with 13 persons. 7 persons are white and 6 persons interviewed are of color. Here is a little bit about York, PA. York has about double the national average of people living under the poverty line. York also has a manufacturing economy (hard to believe that in an Eastern state, huh?). This should be fertile ground for the democratic candidate since we have lost more jobs overseas than ever before. These folks talk about why they are voting for who they are voting. It is a fascinating series but it made me think about why John McCain would pick Sarah Palin. As a caveat, these are 13 people, hardly a representative sample that would hold up statistically -- but, they are, I believe, representative of the "culture wars" that are going on in many of the battleground states like California, Texas, New York, Florida, etc. And, the style and technique of the Republican strategy is reminiscent of the same swift boat techniques used last presidential go around.

Let's start with this quote from the series:

"I don't think there is a problem with a black man," says Don Getty, a retired police officer, who is white. "I personally don't think Obama is the right one. He doesn't have the experience."

Margie Orr, a black receptionist, takes exception to Getty's view of Obama's experience.

"My thing is, though, what would make you think Palin would be — OK — we know John McCain has medical problems, God forbid that this man is elected, and this white female, so what you're saying is, though, the United States would rather see — as long as they're white — they don't care if she's even a female, but as long as it's a white person ..."

"No, I don't think that's the case," Getty responds. "She has more executive experience than he does. He was a community organizer. Nobody's ever told me what a community organizer is."

Then there is this exchange:

"I look at Obama, and I have a question in my mind," she says. "Years ago, was he taken into the Muslim faith? And my concern is the only way you are no longer a Muslim is if you are dead, killed. So in my mind, he's still alive."

Although Barack Obama has said repeatedly he is not a Muslim and has never been a Muslim, Moreland is still unconvinced.

"There is something about him I don't trust," she says. "I don't care how good a speaker he is, I just can't trust him."

This is the same person who just a few minutes earlier says this:

"I can't recall any privilege that I got because I was white," Getty says. "I mean, I went to city schools. But I don't know of anything that I got because I was white that the black kids couldn't have gotten the same thing."

So lets think about at least one way Sarah Palin may have been selected to the VP slot. Karl Rove gets a panicked call from the McCain staffers. We want to win but we are losing by anywhere 4 to 6 percentage points what can we do? Rove says, "No problem." You guys saw how close the tough lady, Hilary Clinton came to getting the nomination, right? let's capitalize on a couple of issues. You need 4 to 6 points, right? We put a white woman on the ticket. It gives the white folks a chance to vote for change and without voting for a black. It eases the conscience and allows people to think that they are not racist. It gives voters the chance to say, "But I voted for change, I voted for a woman. Isn't that a good thing?" Sarah Palin gave McCain all that plus change and plus the religious right which needed a reason to not vote for a black. In addition, she has executive experience and isn't that better than a US Senator?

Is McCain a racist? Does the McCain camp use racist tactics to divide and win? Well, you decide for yourself.

One of the most telling parts of the program allows us to each answer this question clearly for ourselves:

Of the seven white voters and six voters of color, the majority of white voters are supporting McCain. All of the people of color are supporting Obama.

What does that say? Coincidence? Or is something else at work?

"I only heard one person even say or even think the reason they were voting that was because of race," says property manager Charlotte Bergdoll, the sole undecided voter.

She said she didn't see a connection between race and political choice, and in that assessment she wasn't alone.

But after the voters spent more time debating that divide — again, all the voters of color behind Obama, and almost all the white voters behind John McCain — most came to a reluctant conclusion.

Does race matter on a subconscious level? There was a series of exasperated utterances of "Yes."

I Remember

Something very special is happening at the Pentagon today, a dedication. Sacred Ground: The Pentagon Memorial

Please remember those left behind, particularly the family of LTC Neil Hyland. He was my tenant, and then my next door neighbor. He died in the Pentagon on September 11, 2001. Rest in peace, Neil - and all who died with you that day. And so today, I remember.