News

    Relative Absence of Race Debate in US Presidential Race Surprises Analysts

    Multimedia

    Audio

    Professor of politics at the University of Virginia Larry Sabato says race has “surprisingly” not been as prominent so far in the U.S. presidential campaign as many analysts expected. When Barack Obama won the Democratic nomination in June, some commentators thought his bid to be the U.S.’s first African American president would provide massive impetus to the race debate in the United States. Sabato is the director of the university’s Center for Politics and the author of more than 20 books on U.S. politics.

    He says while some analysts are relatively surprised that the race question hasn’t featured to a great degree so far in the presidential race, it’s clearly still a factor.

    “Let’s not forget that in the Democratic primaries, the overwhelming majority of African Americans voted for Obama, while about two-thirds of the Hispanics voted for Hillary Clinton, and a large majority of whites did as well,” Sabato recalls.

    Another close watcher of U.S. politics, from an African perspective, is the South African Broadcasting Corporation’s Washington bureau chief, Manelisi Dubase. He agrees that most racial messages put out by both the Obama and McCain campaigns so far have been “subliminal.”

    But he’s also convinced that the “politics of race,” which he says up until now have “shadowed” this election campaign and have mainly been “unspoken,” are set to become more apparent. He points to events a few weeks ago, when McCain accused Obama of “playing politics with race.” This was in response to the Democrat’s claim that Republicans were trying to frighten voters away from him by saying that he “doesn’t look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.”

    Dubase says, “Up until this happened, the subject of race was a hot potato, almost taboo, in this campaign. This was the first time that the skin color issue exploded into the open, and I think it’s an indication of things to come. Things are going to get dirty, and there’s nothing more dirty than racism or even suggestions thereof.”

    But Sabato is of the opinion that the McCain campaign is “smart enough to know that if they overtly use race against Barack Obama, it will backfire in probably a fatal way for McCain.”

    He agrees, though, that the Republicans, including McCain support groups, may be tempted to use Obama’s race against him but adds that the “most important aspect” with regard to race in this campaign may well only emerge on Election Day itself.

    “The question that all pollsters and analysts have is this: Will there be racial leakage? Will you have a certain percentage of whites who have told pollsters in advance that they’re voting Democratic, who go into the polls, and, once they’re alone, end up voting for the white candidate because they just can’t pull the lever down for the African American nominee?” Sabato asks.

    The analyst says this has indeed happened in some races for governor and mayor all across the United States “for decades” – although to a lesser degree in recent years.

    Sabato’s convinced that some whites will not be able to bring themselves to vote for Obama, simply because he’s black. He says it’s “anybody’s guess” as to what extent this happens, but says it could ultimately be the “difference between victory and defeat.”

    Sabato has a history of successfully predicting political outcomes. In the 2004 U.S. campaign, he correctly predicted the fate of 525 of the 530 political races in the Electoral College. In 2006, his forecast that the Democrats would win a majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate was again spot-on.

    “There’s no question about it; African Americans are going to give Barack Obama at least 95 per cent of their votes, in a large turnout. Now, that could also generate a large white turnout…come November the 4th,” says Sabato.

    But Dubase says “simple demographics” are the reason why Obama will not concentrate too much on the politics of race. He points out that in 2004 about 15 million African Americans registered to vote, in contrast with about 140 million white Americans. African-Americans make up a mere 13 per cent of the U.S. population of just over 300 million. Dubase says in this context it makes “far more sense” for Obama to try to gain the support of the white majority than for him to emphasize the color of his skin and racial inequality in an attempt to “curry favor with those he already has in his pocket.”

    However, Dubase also highlights the fact that the candidate who wins the popular vote in the United States doesn’t always win the presidency, and the African American vote could prove key in swinging certain states – and possible victory in the election – Obama’s way.

    “The Obama camp is in a dilemma. They cannot afford to concentrate too much on race, because then they risk antagonizing or alienating whites. On the other hand, they cannot afford to ignore race, because they want a large African American turnout, especially in certain states. So, it’s a delicate balancing act.”

    Dubase says many older Africans remember U.S. civil rights leader Jesse Jackson’s unsuccessful campaigns for the Democratic presidential nomination in 1984 and 1988 and are concerned that “white America is still not prepared to be led by a black man.” Some analysts say the abrasive Jackson failed in his bids because he emphasized race excessively, and Obama wants to avoid that.

    “Obama couldn’t be more different than Jesse Jackson, who is exceptionally confrontational,” says Sabato. “He (Jackson) was a black candidate for president; Obama is a candidate for president who happens to be black. The contrast could not be more dramatic.”

    Dubase says the fact that Obama isn’t part of the U.S. civil rights generation and seems to be “all about appeasement rather than confrontation” is working at the moment because it’s in line with Obama’s “message of change,” and his desire to be considered a “statesman for all Americans” and a “peacemaker rather than a warmonger.”

     

     

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clownsi
    X
    February 09, 2016 8:04 PM
    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Valentine's Day Stinks for Lebanese Clowns

    This weekend, on Valentine's Day in Lebanon, love is not the only thing in the air. More than half a year after the country's trash crisis began, the stink of uncollected garbage remains on the streets. Step forward "Clown Me In," a group of clowns who use their skills for activism. Before the most romantic day of the year the clowns have released their unusual take on love in Lebanon -- in a bid to keep the pressure up and get the trash off the streets. John Owens reports from Beirut.
    Video

    Video Rocky Year Ahead for Nigeria Amid Oil Price Crash

    The global fall in the price of oil has rattled the economies of many petroleum exporters, and Africa’s oil king Nigeria is no exception. As Chris Stein reports from Lagos, analysts are predicting a rough year ahead for the continent’s top producer of crude.
    Video

    Video Foreign Policy Weighs Heavy for Some US Voters

    VOA talks to protesters in Manchester, New Hampshire who sound off on foreign policy issues such as the Guantanamo Bay Prison, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, Middle East Affairs and national security.
    Video

    Video 'No Means No' Program Targets Sexual Violence in Kenya

    The organizers of an initiative to reduce and stop rape in the informal settlements around Kenya's capital say their program is having marked success. Girls are taking self-defense classes while the boys are learning how to protect the girls and respect them. Lenny Ruvaga reports from Nairobi.
    Video

    Video New Hampshire Voters Are Independent, Mindful of History

    Once every four years, the northeastern state of New Hampshire becomes the center of the U.S. political universe with its first-in-the-nation presidential primary. What's unusual about New Hampshire is how seriously the voters take their role and the responsibility of being among the first to weigh in on the candidates.
    Video

    Video Chocolate Lovers Get a Sweet History Lesson

    Observed in many countries around the world, Valentine’s Day is sometimes celebrated with chocolate festivals. But at a festival near Washington, the visitors experience a bit more than a sugar rush. They go on a sweet journey through history. VOA’s June Soh takes us to the festival.
    Video

    Video 'Smart' Bandages Could Heal Wounds More Quickly

    Simple bandages are usually seen as the first line of attack in healing small to moderate wounds and burns. But scientists say new synthetic materials with embedded microsensors could turn bandages into a much more valuable tool for emergency physicians. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Bhutanese Refugees in New Hampshire Closely Watching Primary Election

    They fled their country and lived in refugee camps in neighboring Nepal for decades before being resettled in the northeastern U.S. state of New Hampshire -- now the focus of the U.S. presidential contest. VOA correspondent Aru Pande spoke with members of the Bhutanese community, including new American citizens, about the campaign and the strong anti-immigrant rhetoric of some of the candidates.
    Video

    Video Researchers Use 3-D Printer to Produce Transplantable Body Parts

    Human organ transplants have become fairly common around the world in the past few decades. Researchers at various universities are coordinating their efforts to find solutions -- including teams at the University of Pennsylvania and Rice University in Houston that are experimenting with a 3-D printer -- to make blood vessels and other structures for implant. As VOA’s Greg Flakus reports from Houston, they are also using these artificial body parts to seek ways of defeating cancerous tumors.
    Video

    Video Helping the Blind 'See' Great Art

    There are 285 million blind and visually impaired people in the world who are unable to enjoy visual art at a museum. One New York photographer is trying to fix this situation by making tangible copies of the world’s masterpieces. VOA correspondent Victoria Kupchinetsky was there as visually impaired people got a feel for great art. Joy Wagner narrates her report.
    Video

    Video German Artists to Memorialize Refugees With Life Jacket Exhibit

    Sold in every kind of shop in some Turkish port towns, life jackets have become a symbol of the refugee crisis that brought a million people to Europe in 2015.  On the shores of Lesbos, Greece, German artists collect discarded life jackets as they prepare an art installation they plan to display in Germany.  For VOA, Hamada Elrasam has this report from Lesbos, Greece.
    Video

    Video E-readers Help Ease Africa's Book Shortage

    Millions of people in Africa can't read, and there's a chronic shortage of books. A non-profit organization called Worldreader is trying to help change all that one e-reader at a time. VOA’s Deborah Block tells us about a girls' school in Nairobi, Kenya where Worldreader is making a difference.
    Video

    Video Genius Lets World Share Its Knowledge

    Inspired by crowdsourcing companies like Wikipedia, Genius allows anyone to edit anything on the web, using its web annotation tool
    Video

    Video In Philippines, Mixed Feelings About Greater US Military Presence

    In the Philippines, some who will be directly affected by a recent Supreme Court decision clearing the way for more United States troop visits are having mixed reactions.  The increased rotations come at a time when the Philippines is trying to build up its military in the face of growing maritime assertiveness from China.  From Bahile, Palawan on the coast of the South China Sea, Simone Orendain has this story.