Jonathan Chait

Is Obama A Racist?

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President Obama appealed to supporters to help turn out blacks, Latinos, and women in the midterm election. The conservative Washington Examiner reported the story with this headline:

(Dave Weigel has this on his blog.) Of course it's true that Democrats try to rally non-white people to the polls, since non-white people are a core Democratic constituency. It's also true that Republican party attempts to mobilize white voters. Of course, the GOP can't be indiscriminate about it -- they don't want to mobilize Jews or white college professors -- but they do target white groups. Karl Rove bemoaned the fact that George W. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000 because fewer than expected "white, evangelical Protestants" showed up at the polls. Was he dissing non-whites and members of other religious faiths? In 2004, Bush campaigned in overwhelmingly white areas and said things like, "I believe the heart and soul of America is found in places right here, in Marquette, Michigan." Marquette is 95% white and 0.8% black.

The conservative outrage over Obama's attempt to rally minorities is, in part, pure partisanship. But it also reflects the idea that it's okay to target overwhelmingly white voters, and to suggest that overwhelmingly white areas are more genuinely American than diverse locales, because in some sense they assume whiteness is the lack of an ethnic identity.

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