Middle East studies in the News
McCain Says the Politic but Nonsensical Thing about Race [incl. Rashid Khalidi]
by Patrick McIlheran
Will race determine the election, Larry King asked John McCain, who promptly said the politic thing, which happens to be utterly wrong.
No, no, no, race will have nothing to do with it, McCain says: "I am totally convinced that 99 and forty-four-one-hundredths percent of Americans are going to make the decision based on who is best to lead this country."
King's question itself is a little sleazy, sort of a continuation of the notion floated primarily by left-leaning commentators – see here for a recent example – that if white people do not vote for Obama, it implies racism. It couldn't possibly be because these voters are made nervous by his talk a few years back about "redistributive" justice or the way his definition of the rich, for eat-the-rich purposes, has now trended down into middle-class country.
Nah, if you're not on board, you must be a bigot. Or, for instance, if you bring up any of Obama's inconvenient old friends – his old race-baiting preacher or, the notoriously anti-Israel academic hack and PLO mouthpiece Rashid Khalidi, whom Obama calls merely an ex-neighbor and former university colleague – then you're a racist, too.
Couldn't be, of course, that Obama actually was no mere former colleague of the toxic Khalidi but a featured speaker at the going-away dinner the faculty threw for the guy. This counts because while Obama has recently said he'll staunchly back free and democratic Israel against its perpetual attackers, the LA Times reported last spring that "the warm embrace Obama gave to Khalidi, and words like those at the professor's going-away party, have left some Palestinian American leaders believing that Obama is more receptive to their viewpoint than he is willing to say."
True? Not? You'll never know, since the Times is now suppressing the video it has of the affair.
And if you bring it up, it's got to be because you're hating Obama's "otherness," instead of, oh, questioning his foreign policy preferences.
So anyway, we're left discussing this "Bradley effect," in which white voters tell pollsters they'll vote for the black guy but don't. It's been debunked in the case of ex-LA mayor Tom Bradley, though what's really interesting is how it's presumed to be a matter of white racism – see, they're bigots, so they just can't pull the lever.
What an enormously jaundiced view. I don't doubt at all there is a tendency of voters who don't like Obama to not say so to pollsters, and why not? As Arnon A. Mishkin put it in the Weekly Standard, "call it ‘the Social Effect.' Where there is a perception that there is a ‘socially acceptable' choice, respondents who do not articulate it, are likely not to agree with it." Read enough race-baiting columnists who say that only racism could make you oppose Obama, and of course you're not going to tell a pollster your true feelings. This has nothing to do with racism; it has everything to do with the power of a false accusation of racism.
That's why those commentators pulling for Obama have unleashed it – they are trying to delegitimize any thought of voting against the guy. Note the corner Larry King backed McCain into: McCain ended up saying that only the tiniest, most inconceivable share of his vote would come from racists. He didn't say none. Ah-ha, will shout the partisans: McCain appeals to racists!
McCain has assiduously avoided anything that could be interpreted as a racist appeal, so much that partisans hoping to use the charge on him are reduced to saying that calling Obama "socialist" is somehow racist code. He has striven to tamp down anti-Obama sentiments at his rallies. He won't touch Wright. None of this helps, however, because a conviction that the rest of America is rife with racists is so firmly part of the left's self-definition that it must see opposition to its candidate as driven by race.
The irony is that McCain was wrong, that the election will turn on race and significantly. Obama has virtually sewn up the votes of Americans of African descent – 17 of 20, by some counts – and the prospect of electing a black president has elevated black turnout already. Beyond that, the appeal of proving one's good faith by voting for the first black president has enormous appeal among whites of varying political stripes.
One can say this is the right kind of voting on race, but voting on the basis of race it remains. It brings with it all the foolishness and divisiveness of any such race-based voting.Note: Articles listed under "Middle East studies in the News" provide information on current developments concerning Middle East studies on North American campuses. These reports do not necessarily reflect the views of Campus Watch and do not necessarily correspond to Campus Watch's critique.
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