The election of America’s first black president represents many things. It represents a feeling of national atonement after hundreds of years of racial discrimination. It represents a clear benchmark in our nation’s quest to move beyond race in our politics.
Barack Obama’s election should also signal something to all those who have made race baiting their raison de ‘etre: dust of your résumés — it’s time to find new work.
That includes Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton, whose race baiting has done a disservice to the black community by turning every grievance into yet more evidence of America’s endemic racism.
It also includes the political Left and its media allies, who have made a living off identity politics. The Left’s knee-jerk reaction to any political issue in which race, gender or ethnicity are even remotely involved is immediately to split the two sides, pitting one against the other. Then they watch as substantive debates over policy degenerate into bitter and often superficial feuds over identity.
When race and politics mingle, the Left-wing media know they can generate big ratings simply by confusing correlation (conservative opposition to a black candidate) with causation (conservative opposition to a black candidate because he’s black). Television and radio are the perfect formats to showcase the media’s feigned confusion.
I was reminded of this in the days before the election when I appeared on National Public Radio to debate Michael Coleman, mayor of Columbus, Ohio. Coleman, who is black, alleged that the McCain campaign had stoked racial tension by running an ad that referred to Obama as a “risky” choice for president.
This was the best Mayor Coleman could come up with. Most people would agree that electing as leader of the free world a man with less than four years experience and an objectively left-wing record indeed is “risky.” But according to Coleman and the Left, “risky” is some sort of racial coding that conveys to white voters that Obama is risky because he’s black.
Coleman’s baseless accusation was in the same spirit as those made by persons, including New York Governor David Paterson, who accused John McCain and Sarah Palin of racism for disparaging Obama’s past as a community organizer. (Never mind the real point: that Obama’s days as a community organizer, a part of the candidate’s resume that the Obama campaign repeatedly highlighted, were irrelevant to the position to which he aspired.)
And it was in the same spirit as those on the Left who fanned the flames of racial grievance by labeling as “racist” anyone who discussed Obama’s association with unrepentant domestic terrorist Bill Ayers, who is white.
The Left and its media allies desperately wanted to make racism a major component in Tuesday’s election. But the exit polling told a different story.
Eighty percent of voters said race was “not a factor” in their choice for president. Interestingly, Obama beat McCain among the 20 percent of voters who said race was either a “minor factor,” “important factor” or the “most important factor” in their decision. This suggests that race may have been a net benefit to Obama.
The liberal media need to come to terms with the fact that America has turned a sharp corner on race. Once they do, with less time to devote to identity politics, perhaps they will find more time to do their job — to report real news and evaluate political candidates on their ideas and records.
In a post-election interview on Fox News, Martin Luther King Jr.’s son, Martin Luther King III, reflected on the significance of Obama’s victory. As someone who has worked his entire life to fulfill his father’s dream of racial equality, King explained that one of the most exciting aspects for him was the realization that his daughter will now be able to grow up in a world where a black president is “the norm.”
King added that “race relations clearly will be advanced…because of President-elect Obama.” America agrees. According to exit polls, nearly half (47 percent) of voters said they thought race relations will improve over the next few years. Only fifteen percent thought race relations would get worse.
King also suggested Obama’s victory represented a big step ahead toward the achievement of his father’s dream — the day when race will be put behind us forever. It’s time for needlessly bitter left to move on and live the dream.