Don't assume racism if Obama loses - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Don't assume racism if Obama loses

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Posted: Monday, September 15, 2008 6:50 pm | Updated: 9:14 pm, Fri Oct 7, 2011.

What a strange country.

Last month, one of our two major political parties nominated an African American as its candidate for president of the United States.

Historic progress to be celebrated?

Apparently not. A few weeks and polls later, and some are already bemoaning the rampant racism that might keep a black man from ascending to the presidency.

Hey, Barack Obama could not have clinched the nomination without votes from white Americans. The other party isn't supposed to just concede the election based on skin color. Voters shouldn't have to choose based on race when they disagree on issues or believe a candidate isn't up to the job.

But expect to see the bemoaners looking to the heavens and saying, "We're not ready."

Baloney. Maybe it's Obama who's not ready and the people who recognize that - men and women, whites and blacks, Hispanics and Asians - are just fine.

There was no racial angst when three black Republicans fell short in statewide races in 2006. No "Shame on you, America" when Ken Blackwell and Lynn Swann lost for governor in Ohio and Pennsylvania, respectively, and Maryland Lt. Gov. Michael Steele was defeated in his U.S. Senate race.

Republicans and conservatives don't count on the racial scorecard?

They should, because they put the lie to the claim that people won't vote for a candidate because of race. That includes Republicans and conservatives.

All three black men lost decisively in 2006. Swann's and Blackwell's opponents won with 60 percent of the vote, Steele's with 54 percent. Swann was an untested political newcomer. Blackwell's party at the state level was embroiled in corruption scandals. The three ran in the worst year for Republicans since 1974.

Was race the deciding factor in these unsuccessful campaigns? Probably not. Look at how mixed the CNN exit-polling data are.

Blackwell had twice run successfully statewide, but he was beaten badly in '06, losing almost across the board, regardless of voters' race, economic status or religion. He took only 40 percent of the white vote.

Steele, who had also won statewide before, did considerably better, winning 50 percent of the overall white vote. He took 54 percent of the white male vote, 46 percent of the white female vote, 63 percent of the white Protestant vote and 58 percent of the white Catholic vote.

Swann received 43 percent of the white vote, 46 percent of the white male vote, and 40 percent of the white female vote. He lost white Catholics 42 percent to 58 percent, but won white Protestants, 56 to 44.

Among African American voters, Steele won 25 percent; Blackwell, 20 percent; Swann, 13 percent.

Swann won some rural and upstate Republican counties, but was crushed in southeast Pennsylvania. He lost Philadelphia 89.4 percent to 10.6 percent.

What, 89 percent of Philadelphians don't like black guys?

Or is it that they couldn't support a candidate - who happened to be black - whose resume didn't measure up to the office he sought?

Don't assume racism if people question Obama on the company he keeps: a 20-year membership in a church where anti-American rhetoric was spewed and then sold in the gift shop; boosting his political career from the home of an unrepentant domestic terrorist from the '60s.

Don't assume racism because voters don't think a junior senator with great potential but no major accomplishments is ready to be leader of the Free World and a wartime commander in chief.

Don't assume racism if voters question his military acumen. Yes, a 16-month drawdown of forces looks doable - now. But to get to the point where winning seemed possible, others had to make tough decisions on troop levels and strategy. In the meantime, Obama glibly sang the same tune for years, even when his plan would have meant certain victory for al-Qaida in Iraq.

Yes, it's a strange country, but Americans have shown they will vote for the person they believe is ready for the job, the one who will best represent their interests, regardless of race. Don't blame them if Obama loses. Blame his poor judgment and lack of experience.

Kevin Ferris (kf@phillynews.com) is commentary page editor of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

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