One of the major strains of reaction to Barack Obama's "More Perfect Union" speech is that those who are not persuaded by it are therefore racist or at least unreasoning fools. Poisoning the well in this manner may be an effective rhetorical device but it undercuts the very message of the speech, which is that race remains a very complicated issue in American culture and that we must tolerate a wide range of expressions on the subject.As good as Obama's speech was, it's naive not to also understand it as the political tool it was meant to be. And on that score, I'd say that the Obama supporters James points to are doing precisely what Obama intended: trying to take Jeremiah Wright's incendiary comments off the table by implying that anyone who still insists on talking about them must be either a simpleton or a racist. He's basically daring the Sean Hannitys of the world to continue demagoging Wright, and making a savvy bet that the rest of the press will line up behind him to agree that the real issue isn't Wright, it's racism and its complex historical legacy. And anyone who doesn't agree is either a partisan hack or a hopeless primitive.
....Unless he's a much dumber tactician than I give him credit for, Obama knew full well that yesterday morning's speech was merely the beginning of a dialog. Even those of us who are political junkies mostly missed the live presentation, given that it was delivered during peak working hours. But opinion leaders have or will read and/or listen to the speech and talk about it for the next week or more.
On James's second point, though, I disagree. I think Obama's fervent hope is that his speech pretty much closes the issue of race in this campaign. It just flatly doesn't help him in any way to keep it on the front burner. Like NAFTA, which dropped off the radar after Ohio, I expect that after a couple of days Obama will also drop the subject of race if he possibly can. We'll know by next week.