Thursday, October 2, 2008

121. Get beyond race and negativity

I cannot say that I am much of a Howard Stern fan; he does what he does and though he has done the same thing for many years- if people continue to be entertained by him, so be it.

However, he recently made a point by having one of his reporters interview people in Harlem. The interviewer asked people whom they supported for president- of which most, not surprisingly, favored Barack Obama. His point, however, was in the follow-up questions in which he asked if voters supported certain Obama policies and his choice for vice-president that were, in fact, those of John McCain. In other words, the reporter would ask if Obama supporters approved of his stance on pro-life, continuing the war in Iraq and selecting Sarah Palin as his vice-president. The supporters were, over and over, clueless, enthusiastically endorsing policies that Obama did not, himself, support.

It is a fair point, and it works both ways. Obviously there are those that are voting for Obama simply based on race, because he is black. Conversely, there are those that will not vote for Obama for exactly the same reason. The same applies to Sarah Palin. Many support her only because she is a woman, and there are probably some archaic beliefs among us that women should not be in a position of power.

All of these viewpoints are pathetic.

Increasingly, McCain and Palin, and their supporters, have made a similar appeal to American prejudices and fear- attempting to link Obama to terrorists, through affiliation and by emphasizing his middle name (Hussein) at every opportunity. Thus, not only does Obama suffer from the prejudices of race, he must also defend the insinuation that he is Muslim, and a dangerous Muslim at that.

The impact is clearly felt among white males, who do not show the same support for Obama as other groups. Furthermore, of additional concern for Democrats in this regard is the polling, known as the Bradley effect. As noted by Mark Blumenthal, "what pollsters fear is that in the context of a survey interview, some respondents may fail to tell the truth about their preferences due to some "social discomfort" arising from Obama's race." In other words, the fear is that some, in particular white males, will claim that they support Obama, as not to appear racist, but, under the comfort of the privacy of a voting booth, will choose McCain. Author John Grisham, rightly so I believe, suggested that if Obama were white, he would be leading in this election by double digits, perhaps 10-15 percent over McCain.

The obsession to some singular ideas extends to "hot button" issues, such as abortion. Many people vote for Republicans for one reason- their views on pro-life. This decision is, of course, a Supreme Court decision, and George Bush has already attempted to stack the court in hopes of changing it. It is fascinating, actually frightening, how many people are obsessed with the idea that Democrats (and Obama specifically) are "baby killers." Interestingly, when Palin was asked if there was an inherent right of privacy in the Constitution, the basis for the Roe v. Wade decision, she said she thought there was. Huh?

It is obvious, from all of these ideas, that there is much of the country that will vote the way they do, simply based on prejudices and biases. I look around my neighborhood, and the Republicans still support Republicans, even if it is obvious to most independents that Palin is grossly unqualified to serve as vice president, let alone the absurdity (but reality) that she could be president. A large segment of our population has lost its objectivity. Republicans vote for Republicans, Democrats vote for Democrats, blacks vote for blacks, women vote for women.

Furthermore, any objectivity is hypocritical. Consider Palin's "folksy" speech, with her "darn rights," the dropping of the "g" in many words- as well as her winks and "shout outs to third graders" Ask yourself, if you are a Palin supporter, if you would tolerate the same behavior from Obama. What would you say if he spoke in African-American slang, asking, "what's up dawg?" and giving a "hollar" out to his "homies in the hood"?

The recent attack on Obama by Palin and the McCain campaign is shameful. Frankly, if it was my party, I would be embarrassed; however, Republican crowds seem to be enjoying it- begging for more attacks, shouting "terrorist" and "kill him." The personal attacks and insinuations, specifically designed to appeal to prejudices and biases, are dishonorable and desperate, and I have a new lack of respect for Palin- even if acting as an "attack dog" is somehow part of her job as a vice presidential candidate.

This country needs to grow up and become informed. An educated and tolerant America would ignore such an appeal to prejudice- making these tactics obsolete. I am so tired of the negative advertisements, exaggerations, and misstatements. The report I am watching today from North Carolina reveals that McCain's advertisements are 100 percent negative; Obama's 34 percent. Again, if Americans were more informed, political parties, on both sides, would not resort to such strategy. The truth is that it works all too well, and politicians will continue to rely on American ignorance.

I like to think that, eventually, people get what they deserve. I spent eight years criticizing Bush, and with embarrassing approval ratings, both political parties attempting to distance themselves from his policies, and the condition he is leaving the country- he will have to live with his legacy of failure. McCain and Palin have gone almost exclusively negative, and while I cannot predict the outcome of the election, I can only hope their arrogant and reprehensibly offensive behavior will eventually come back to haunt them.

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