There has been a lot of talk flying around lately about racism in politics, and most of it seems to be centered around the birth certificate issue with President Obama. Now that he has presented the document and we have had a few days to mull it over, I wanted to take a moment to reflect on the general question of the alleged racism that drove the issue. I addressed this issue once before when it arose, but now Whoopi Goldberg has weighed back in on the subject, and Tavis Smiley has made an ugly prediction about the upcoming 2012 presidential campaign.
"I said over a year ago that this was going to be, this presidential race, Lawrence, was going to be the ugliest, the nastiest, the most divisive, and the most racist... in the history of this republic. I did not know that race to the bottom would begin so quickly."
If this election is to be "the most racist in the history of this republic" it has quite a hill to climb. After all, we had a black and a white candidate last time, and while it is arguable that race was to blame, we can surely see that one candidate was treated differently than the other. There were questions as to both peoples eligibility to hold the office, yet only one had to go through a legal process to defend his "natural born" citizenship. And while one candidate was able to reach across racial lines, the other one seemed unable to connect with the race of his opponent.
But it just might not be the way you are thinking. It wasn't the white candidate who got the seemingly preferential treatment, it was the black one. While John McCain had to submit to a Senate investigation that ultimately led to the Senate determining that he could legally hold the office, Barack Obama was never forced to answer the questions about his citizenship until now. Yet President Obama continues to call the questions that were asked about his citizenship "silly", claiming it is not a serious matter and the nation has more important business. He didn't seem to think it was silly, however, when the same questions were asked about McCain. He co-sponsored the House Resolution that recognized Senator McCain to be a natural born citizen. How could it be racist to merely ask the President to show his Birth Certificate when it literally took an act of congress to get his white opponent on the ballot?
The voting booth showed signs of what may have been a little racism as well according to exit polls. While 54% of young white voters sided with the black candidate, 44% of white voters overall went for Obama. This is almost the same number that went for the last Democrat to win the highest office, Bill Clinton. Yet 96% of black voters voted for Obama, compared to the 83% that helped Clinton to his victory. Once again, these numbers could be explained by something other than racism, but I firmly believe that if 96% of the white vote had gone to McCain we would not only be seeing the charge made, but you would be hard pressed to find a Republican commentator with the audacity to deny it.
My desire here is not to make a charge of racism against any group of people. The numbers that I have given are purely fact, and as I pointed out, there could be other explanations. As for Whoopi Goldberg, I firmly believe that she is likely unaware of the process that John McCain was submitted to before he was allowed to run. But Tavis Smiley, as a journalist for PBS, doesn't have that excuse. It is his job to know. If he is so outraged, then there are a couple of legitimate questions that he should be asking.
- Why didn't President Obama request a Senate hearing into his eligibility? Since he, as a co-sponsor, was clearly aware of the questions asked of McCain. Could it be that Obama knew he couldn't survive such scrutiny? It was, after all, the sworn testimony before the Senate that "if you are born of American parents, you are naturally a natural-born American citizen,". President Obama, on the other hand, had only one parent who was a citizen. Could this be why he didn't want the extra scrutiny that McCain got?
- Why doesn't President Obama, who campaigned on being a "post-racial" candidate, dispel this notion that he is being treated unfairly due to his race? Once again, as a cosponsor, he is aware of what McCain went through. Could he be avoiding the topic because exposing it would highlight the fact that there are still unanswered questions about his eligibility?
My disagreements with President Obama are, and have always been, on the substance of the issues, not on the color of his skin. But when my Party is the victim of such horrible and unfounded accusations that are thrown around by people like Tavis "Can I Buy A Consonant" Smiley and Whoopi Goldberg, I must stand up and defend myself and my party from the charges. For us to ask that the same process that Senator McCain had to go through to be applied to President Obama is hardly racist. Insisting that we have no right to ask him the same questions that we asked of a white candidate, however, stinks of bigotry. If these individuals were not aware of that process, I would challenge them to educate themselves on a subject before they speak out on it. If they are aware of that process, I would suggest they deal with the beam in their eye before they start looking across the aisle in hopes of finding a moat in someone else's.