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Charges That Racism Could Doom Obama's Candidacy Are Unfair

If Obama loses, will it be because of his race? Answering that question in the affirmative, or suggesting it may be the case, are Jack Cafferty of CNN, Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas, and Mahoning County, Ohio, Democrats quoted by the Youngstown Vindicator (what a wonderful name for a newspaper!). As some conservative bloggers have pointed out, this is not a good campaign tactic for Democrats: You're telling voters who are not yet on your side that you think they're racists. Contra Cafferty, there are also plenty of nonracist reasons voters might have for not voting for Obama (just as there are plenty of nonracist reasons voters might have for voting for him). Does anyone doubt that the vast majority of those who won't vote for Obama would vote for Colin Powell if he were the Republican candidate for president?

Obama is in any case not a generic black candidate; he is a well-known candidate with specific characteristics that attract some voters and repel others. Indeed, the 2004 convention speech that introduced him to voters nationally was anything but a generic black appeal: It emphasized what all Americans have in common. The fact that Obama won the Democratic nomination and has been in the lead in most general election polls since last spring shows that almost all American voters are willing to give him a hearing. Yes, there are some voters who won't vote for him because of race, just as there are some voters who won't vote for John McCain because he is 72 years old. But spreading the meme that the only reason Obama can lose is because of voters' racism strikes me as a libel on the American people.

By Michael Barone

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