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.
    Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trendi
    X
    May 27, 2016 5:57 AM
    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Chinese-Americans Heart Trump, Bucking National Trend

    A new study conducted by three Asian-American organizations shows there are three times as many Democrats as there are Republicans among Asian-American voters, and they favor Hillary Clinton over Donald Trump. But one group, called Chinese-Americans For Trump, is going against the tide and strongly supports the business tycoon. VOA’s Elizabeth Lee caught up with them at a Trump rally and reports from Anaheim, California.
    Video

    Video Reactions to Trump's Success Polarized Abroad

    What seemed impossible less than a year ago is now almost a certainty. New York real estate mogul Donald Trump has won the number of delegates needed to secure the Republican presidential nomination. The prospect has sparked as much controversy abroad as it has in the United States. Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Drawings by Children in Hiroshima Show Hope and Peace

    On Friday, President Barack Obama will visit Hiroshima, Japan, the first American president to do so while in office. In August 1945, the United States dropped an atomic bomb on the city to force Japan's surrender in World War II. Although their city lay in ruins, some Hiroshima schoolchildren drew pictures of hope and peace. The former students and their drawings are now part of a documentary called “Pictures from a Hiroshima Schoolyard.” VOA's Deborah Block has the story.
    Video

    Video Vietnamese Rapper Performs for Obama

    A prominent young Vietnamese artist told President Obama said she faced roadblocks as a woman rapper, and asked the president about government support for the arts. He asked her to rap, and he even offered to provide a base beat for her. Watch what happened.
    Video

    Video Roots Run Deep for Tunisia's Dwindling Jewish Community

    This week, hundreds of Jewish pilgrims are defying terrorist threats to celebrate an ancient religious festival on the Tunisian island of Djerba. The festivities cast a spotlight on North Africa's once-vibrant Jewish population that has all but died out in recent decades. Despite rising threats of militant Islam and the country's battered economy, one of the Arab world's last Jewish communities is staying put and nurturing a new generation. VOA’s Lisa Bryant reports.
    Video

    Video Meet Your New Co-Worker: The Robot

    Increasing numbers of robots are joining the workforce, as companies scale back and more processes become automated. The latest robots are flexible and collaborative, built to work alongside humans as opposed to replacing them. VOA’s Tina Trinh looks at the next generation of automated employees helping out their human colleagues.
    Video

    Video Wheelchair Technology in Tune With Times

    Technologies for the disabled, including wheelchair technology, are advancing just as quickly as everything else in the digital age. Two new advances in wheelchairs offer improved control and a more comfortable fit. VOA's George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Baby Boxes Offer Safe Haven for Unwanted Children

    No one knows exactly how many babies are abandoned worldwide each year. The statistic is a difficult one to determine because it is illegal in most places. Therefore unwanted babies are often hidden and left to die. But as Erika Celeste reports from Woodburn, Indiana, a new program hopes to make surrendering infants safer for everyone.
    Video

    Video California Celebration Showcases Local Wines, Balloons

    Communities in the U.S. often hold festivals to show what makes them special. In California, for example, farmers near Fresno celebrate their figs and those around Gilmore showcase their garlic. Mike O'Sullivan reports that the wine-producing region of Temecula offers local vintages in an annual festival where rides on hot-air balloons add to the excitement.
    Video

    Video US Elementary School Offers Living Science Lessons

    Zero is not a good score on a test at school. But Discovery Elementary is proud of its “net zero” rating. Net zero describes a building in which the amount of energy provided by on-site renewable sources equals the amount of energy the building uses. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, the innovative features in the building turn the school into a teaching tool, where kids can't help but learn about science and sustainability. Faith Lapidus narrates.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora