Well, another primary Tuesday came and went, and with it Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) came even closer in gaining the Democratic nomination. He won North Carolina handily and barely lost out in Indiana, but gaining enough delegates there that
Clinton’s victory was pretty much meaningless. While Clinton has stated that she will go on and still try to seek out the nomination, it is all but clear that Obama will be running against McCain in November and has the chance to make history by becoming the first black President of the Untied States.
Barack has tons of support within his party, has picked up important endorsements from the entertainment sector and newspapers, as well as other politically important people and organizations. His fundraising is through the roof and he can only expect his coffers to get even fuller once he snags the nomination.
As a people, America should be celebrating that we have come far enough that we are on the cusp of electing our first minority President, and that to get there he had to fight it out with the potential first female President. Yet, are we really on the cusp of something like this happening? Will white America allow itself to put aside personal prejudices and vote for someone of a different color?
While polls show that Obama could very well win in a heads up election with McCain, is this really the case? Even with 8 ineffective years under a decidedly incompetent, unpopular Republican leader, it should be telling that McCain (who would become the oldest President ever if elected) is even close to Obama (or Clinton) at all in the polls.
The main reason I bring this up is because of something I experienced a few days ago at a local bar here in St. Louis. While I could describe the place as rustic, I would probably be more accurate by stating that it is a dive. The majority of the clientele are working men, white, who live within walking distance so as to stumble back home after one too many Budweisers.
Anyway, the point being is that in this working class bar that I frequent occasionally, the conversation worked its way to politics. Now, to a man, the guys who discussed politics all described themselves as long-standing Democrats, which is not shocking based on the demographics and the historical context of the area. The (somewhat) shocking thing is what came out of their mouths next as they discussed the upcoming primaries and the likelihood of Obama being the Democratic nominee.
For the most part, none of them really had a problem with voting for Hillary Clinton, a white woman who also is the wife of ex-President Bill Clinton. They all loved Bill and stated how much they would love to see him back in the White House, even if he wasn’t ‘officially’ President again. However, when the discussion came to Obama, the conversation got uglier and more sordid, and made me wonder if this is happening in other areas outside of the seedy bar I was sitting in.
Even before any ugly racial slurs were uttered, falsehoods and things that they read on the internet or heard on talk radio were presented as gospel. First off, it was the plain, honest truth that Obama was definitely a Muslim. Not only that, he was good friends with Louis Farrakhan and conversed with him on a regular basis. Of course, the real truth is that Barack attended a Muslim school as a child while living in Indonesia (a Muslim-majority nation), from the ages of 6-9, and then studied Islam for another year at the age of 10 at a secular school in the same country. That, however, does not make him a Muslim, much the same way that you aren’t automatically Catholic if you attended a Catholic (or other parochial) school as a child.
As for Farrakhan, it is true that he tried to endorse Obama for President, but Obama rejected the endorsement and is on the record as denouncing Farrakhan’s anti-Semitic stance. And don’t get me started about what they said regarding his middle name!
After that, it got sillier and contradictory, as they then discussed the Reverend Wright controversy. Despite Obama not only denouncing the reverend’s statements but later distancing himself from him, it didn’t mean anything to the men and women sitting around the bar. While nobody acknowledged that Obama gave a stirring speech about race relations in the midst of the stirrup, where he gave context for the reverend’s views while also detailing his interracialness, they also didn’t realize that they had just accused Obama of being Muslim and were now ripping on his former pastor and church, which happened to be Christian.
After more silly things were brought up about Obama that were completely false, the real gist of it came out: none of these people could bring themselves to voting for a black man. Pure and simple. They all agreed they would vote for McCain over Obama because McCain is a white man. They just couldn’t bare the thought of a you-know-what in the White House.
Now, this is purely anecdotal and I should use some context with this. St. Louis has historically had racial issues and ad still struggles with divisiveness. This was a small sample size of lower middle-class white people who were all experiencing different levels of inebriation.
There is a good chance that many of these people won’t even vote in November. However, I wonder, what percentage of white Democrats actually have some doubts and thoughts along these levels? I wonder how many would support Clinton, a white woman, but would turn around and vote for McCain based purely on racial prejudice? And I wonder, how many of these people would lie if polled just so they don’t have to reveal their own deep-seated prejudice? We may not know until November.