If Obama is re-elected, will it because of racism, not in spite of it?
posted at 1:19 pm on September 20, 2012 by Howard Portnoy
There is no question that Mitt Romney has run a less than stellar campaign so far. He reached his high point in the presidential polls on Sept. 5, when he and the President Obama were tied at 46.8%. Since that time, Romney’s numbers have slipped, mainly because of ill-chosen comments he made and/or the mainstream media’s slanted coverage of those comments.
Yet, Romney’s shortcomings as a candidate can’t alone explain why he is still trailing Obama. Other factors have to be at work. Before exploring one explanation for the current polls, some background is needed, beginning with the second installment of a two-part analysis of the state of the race by Sean Trende of Real Clear Politics. In it, Trende writes:
[M]ost years with economies similar to this one—1960, 1976, 1992, 2000, 2004—see party power transfer, albeit in a reasonably close election. The one outlier here is 2004, where an incumbent president won by a healthy share in a mediocre economy. But Bush lost voters who cast their ballots based on the economy by over 60 points that year.
Even if Obama’s poll numbers reflect, as Trende speculates, that voters might be grading him “on a curve here given the mess he inherited,”there is no escaping the dismal metrics of his first term or what similar numbers have portended for previous presidents seeking a second term. Consider: No incumbent since Franklin Roosevelt has won re-election with the unemployment rate over 8% at the time. Most prognosticators believe that the current unemployment rate, which has been above 8% for 43 consecutive months, is likely to change radically between now and the election. This fact alone would make an Obama victory in November truly historic.
Another way in which a second Obama term would be a first is that, despite his administration’s middling success in adding jobs to the economy, he has failed to keep pace with new entrants into the job market. On top of this, there are the crushing budget deficits under his administration. In 2011, the federal budget deficit was $1.087 trillion. At the current rate, it will be $1.139 trillion for 2012, a 4.75% increase in deficit spending.
There is more. Factory orders are down. Ditto for household income, which has in fact fallen more since the beginning of the recovery than it did during the recession itself. The cost of gasoline at the pump, meanwhile, is up, and so is the number of Americans on food stamps.
And yet Obama remains not only in the race but ahead, if by a statistically insignificant margin. Which raises the hypothesis: Could the factor responsible for this be the president’s race? Does he lead by 3.3% in the Real Clear Politics average because of—rather than in spite of (as so many have argued)—the color of his skin?
In April, MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, who has intemperately compared anti-Obama “fanatics” in the U.S. with Afghan murderers, asked on air:
Is there going to be a reluctance on the part of the voters and the political community that talks politics as we get into November about dumping the first African-American president?
Is there going to be something that just wretches [sic] people? ‘Wait a minute here, this guy is going to knock out the first guy who got aboard?’
Even the staunchest supporter of affirmative action should be stopped in his tracks by this galling question. Electing a man because of his race is no less bigoted than un-electing a man because of his race. Yet, racism that favors Obama seems to be a factor in the 2012 election. A recent Quinnipiac poll of Virginia voters found that black support for the president runs 93% to 6%.
In 2008, stratospheric support for Obama among blacks was explained away by many as racial pride. It was still without justification. This time around it seems at least to some degree to be blindness to any consideration but race, which is an outrage.
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- Chris Matthews: Anti-Obama “fanatics” in U.S. no better than Afghan murderers
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