Monday, October 13, 2008

Criticize Obama? You're a Racist

“If the election were held today who would you vote for: Obama or McCain?” I asked them.

By a margin of greater than four-to-one, my students favored Obama. They indicated their choice enthusiastically - shooting their hands straight up without hesitation. McCain supporters, however, kept their elbows on the desk and shyly showed their palms while pulling their head down into their shoulders and glancing around to see who was watching. When I asked the Obama supporters why they chose him, most told me it was time for America to have a black president. Others said McCain was too old, or that Obama was cool.

That was last spring when my current students were finishing seventh grade and were in my classroom on “Step-up Day” to meet their future teachers. I asked why they thought it was time America had a black president and they said it would be proof that Americans are not racists. In September I asked them again with the same result. It’s very clear that they chose their favorite candidate on the basis of race and style over substance. Not one of the Obama supporters mentioned any of his positions on the issues as a basis for their choice. When I pointed this out, most just shrugged. A few then said they liked Obama because he would bring American soldiers home from Iraq. That was all they knew about what he planned to do if elected.

These, of course, were fourteen-year-olds and we don’t expect them to discharge their civic responsibilities maturely. Until I teach them, they’re not likely to understand many of the challenges facing our country. Very few understood differences between Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, or left-wing and right-wing political philosophies. After learning a few of those things, some of their choices have changed. Most still support Obama over McCain, but only by a two-to-one margin or less.

My circle of friends is mostly conservative, with a few liberals. The political philosophies of people in my wider circle of aquaintances is unknown to me for the most part, but most seem to be Obama supporters if I were to extrapolate based on overheard snippets of conversation or seeing their bumper stickers. When meeting new people, I avoid bringing up politics, but it comes up often in this election year. When it does, I usually listen rather than talk. If I’m drawn in, I prefer to ask questions rather than state my positions. What I’m learning dismays me.

Perhaps it was always thus, but I’m noticing that many adult voters are not very different from my fourteen-year-old students in that race and style are much bigger factors in their considerations of whom to vote for than substance. They’re excited about the prospect of a President Obama because he’s black, or says he is. That his mother was white and his father was mixed Arab and black (they’re both dead) is immaterial. Obama has chosen to think of himself as black and presents himself thus. That choice is a major subject of his two auto-biographies and it’s working well for him so far if opinion polls are any indication. Spoken or unspoken, it looks like the biggest single dynamic in the presidential campaign. Many voters who think of themselves as white are troubled by the notion that, if they were to vote against Obama, others may think them racist for doing so.

This notion is strongly encouraged. According to a Washington Post article last Sunday by Anne Kornblut: “In Youngstown, Ohio, last month, two Democratic state legislators accused swing voters who were not backing Obama of being racist. ‘Race - that's the only reason people in the Valley won't vote for him,’ state Rep. Thomas Letson said.”

Is that so, Representative Letson?

Philadelphia Daily News columnist Fatimah Ali wrote: “If McCain wins, look for a full-fledged race and class war, fueled by a deflated and depressed country, soaring crime, homelessness - and hopelessness!”

A “race war,” Ms. Ali?

According to the New York Times, Georgia Democrat Congressman John Lewis accused McCain and Palin of “sowing the seeds of hatred and division” for their criticism of Obama’s close association of terrorist Bill Ayers. Lewis said it could lead to racial violence like the 1963 Alabama church bombings that killed four girls. Apparently, that Obama is black should insulate him from criticism of any type in Lewis’s view. “Senator McCain and Governor Palin are playing with fire,” he said, “and if they are not careful, that fire will consume us all.”

Really, Congressman Lewis?

According to the Wall Street Journal, Obama stoked it himself in a speech last summer, saying: “What they're going to try to do is make you scared of me. You know: ‘He’s not patriotic enough. He’s got a funny name.’ You know, ‘He doesn't look like all those other presidents on the dollar bills.’ ” He made similar remarks in three different speeches.

Who is “they,” Senator Obama? Anybody who criticizes you?


Anonymous said...

Right on, Tom. I used to think it was great that each citizen of this country had a vote in elections. I'm not sure I think that is a good idea any longer. I think too many people out there are too stupid to vote intelligently.They have no idea what they are voting for and only know what the liberal media tells them.

Harvey in North Baldwin

Anonymous said...

Is it racist to be annoyed at Obamas cohorts at ACORN, LaRaza, stealing an election? Is it racist to have 12% of the electorate to feel that by virtue of not being white, their votes should supercede the majority? Is it racist to object to paying reparations when you have never done a thing to any of these people? Apparently so.

Anonymous said...

"Full-fledged race and class war", huh?
Why is it, that liberals ALWAYS threaten people with different opinions. Aren't they supposed to be the intelligent ones, the sophisticated and peaceful ones?

I am so disgusted by and tired of these people, that I sometimes think, I wish Ms. Ali were right.

I have seen this kind of rethoric in Europe, before I left, seven years ago. In the meantime the EU has abolished all free speech and made it a crime to criticize islam or multiculturalism. Under penalty of substantial fines, company seizures and prison sentences.

If that's the way we want to go, we're on the right path!

Anonymous said...

You may not be a "f-ing racist, Tom, but you sure are a f-ing moron.

Tom McLaughlin said...

The Obama campaign's actions so far in Illinois trying to stifle radio talk shows airing critical material, in Missouri threatening critics with legal action, and the efforts listed above through surrogates, are indications of what we can expect should he be elected.

Dissent is going to be difficult. I agree with Anonymous from Europe who warns us of what the multiculturalists have done there. Look out for the resurrection of the "Fairness" Doctrine to stifle talk radio. Get ready for attacks on the First Amendment. We'll see if the ACLU is ready to defend conservatives like me.

Anonymous said...

PBS ran its documentary on Nixon last night (10/13)... Though not directly related to the treatment of Obama and race in this article, I could certainly understand if McCain, at a press conference after this election, told the media they'd no longer have "[him]" to kick around anymore."

The negagive coverage McCain has received is actually quantifiable (if someone had the inclination to tally the hours of "news" that is presented), and it goes without saying that, when all else fails when trying to get Obama elected, the media's going to play the race card FOR him.

Just for fun, go out and rent "Network" and see how relevant the 1975 portrayal of the media is today... CNN/MSNBC/NYT/etc. will sell whatever radical ideas are out there, as long as there's a profit in it.

Anonymous said...

You think our average American, who works hard during the day and night, has a family to support, bills to worry about but yet doesn't have the money to go to college to further themselves shouldn't vote? You once asked what a community organizer did, well they go to the average Americans door, they call them on the phone just to speak with them and let them know that despite their hardships and busy lives their voice still counts even if their opinions are in broken english. At least the community organizer doesn't turn them away because they don't have a high school diploma or a degree to back up their opinions even if its blind enthusiasm as to why they are voting for Senator Barack Obama maybe that's all the time they have in their day to know about him. By the way his father wasn't mixed, he is a true African who was trying to get educated to bring change for his people. Barack doesn't play into being Black either, when he was growing up he was confused who he was because he was half black and half white. I understand this confusion, we call it living in two worlds, don't twist my words either, I know this is one world, it's just the same as being poor looking at how the rich live.--Shirley

Unknown said...

"Anonymous said...
You may not be a f-ing racist, Tom, but you sure are a f-ing moron."


...umm glad to see our token Liberal making a cameo appearance.

(dang, forgot my other login name)

Anonymous said...

Anybody who wants to know, why blacks vote for Obama, check THIS out:

Indeed, Ms. Ali might be right in a different way than she thinks.


Anonymous said...

@ Shirley

"Some 48 percent of all black children live without their fathers in the home, nearly double the rate of any other ethnic group in the United States." (source: Washington Post)

Are those the hardworking ("day and night") fathers, you mention in your comment?

The poor, looking at the lives of the rich?


Anonymous said...

Speaking as a lifelong conservative who has never voted for a Democrat on the national ticket, this time around I am voting for Obama.

The reasons are several. Obama is a highly intelligent guy who remains calm regardless of the barbs that are directed at him. McCain may be intelligent but he sure doesn't remain calm. God knows what he would do in the White House when he gets into one of his moods. Obama seems to have an idea of what needs to be done to get us back on the path to economic improvement and also seems to understand that a strong middle class is essential for the stability of the country. McCain doesn't.

McCain appears to say what he thinks needs to be said to get elected; anything goes. All pols do this we know, but John seems on the same wavelength as Hillary in this regard. He also gets disgusting at times with his sniggering and sniping at his opponents, like Romney and now Obama. Anyone with the the drive and courage to run for President should be treated with respect but he pours scorn on those who are the biggest threat to his success.

He also drives me crazy when continually saying how courageous, passionate and patriotic he is. I have known many WWII veterans who went through hell and none of them speak in this manner. Using his service as ammunition to get elected is uncalled for, we all know of his abominable treatment in Vietnam.

An aside.
There used to be a condition for having the right to vote which may return: to vote you had to own property. It was believed that those people had a real stake in the country and therefore would vote for the good of it and not just out of self-interest.

Gordo in N.Conway

Anonymous said...

Don't waste your time with this kind of nonsense. You're readily doing just what the McCain/Palin campaign is doing... misquoting snippets of news, and sensationalizing what truly is (or should be) a non-issue in this campaign. As the republican death rattle grows louder with the countdown to election day, transparent and ignorant arguments like this only ensure that Obama will rightfully become our next president. Your commentary is not infectious... it's toxic. Shame on you.

Anonymous said...

are you winning the minds of your students? how proud the parents must be to have your objective unbiased tutelage. with so many uneducated parents, we all need your superior political intelligence. your school administration and fellow employees are fortunate to have your good judgement and indepth analysis of how intricately politics are connected to social studies. also glad to read your coverage on how race and ethnicity have affected the current presidential race. our nation must not fall prey to political theatre. we must focus on the substance of the candidates policies not on race. we must focus on the grave challenges that face our nation such as poverty, which leads to crime, increased high school drop out rates, and poor health. we have a crumbling infrastructure, increased corporate control and subsidizes, declining working class wages and decreased U.S. manufacturing jobs due to our corporations shifting them overseas to avoid paying taxes. a great book, Free Lunch, by David Johnson addresses how corporate wealth welfare is corputing the U.S. democracy. we as a nation need to work together to protect our democracy and human rights, such as anti slavery, child labor laws, women's right to vote, right to education, right to own property end to facsicm.

Tom McLaughlin said...

I'm not trying to win the minds of my students so much as I'm trying to expand them. My job is to stimulate critical thinking. I like teaching this age level because they're capable of learning anything, but relatively unencumbered by preconceptions. Not many have to unlearn things before they learn new things.

Many come with the opinions of their parents, who in these parts are mostly liberal, but most of us come up that way. I ask rhetorical questions a lot and encourage debate. I play Devil's Advocate and encourage them to state any opinion as long as it's civil, then to defend that opinion against challenge. I've always believed it's the best way to learn - been so since Socrates.

Many of my students are brighter than I am and tend to look at things new ways because their minds are acute and not cluttered up. I learn from them too. It's all very stimulating and I'll miss it when I retire.

I disclose my conservative bias early on because they'll learn it anyway since my columns are in the local newspapers every week. I withhold my opinion on any given topic until they've stated theirs and encourage them to challenge me. I'm not often disappointed.

Anonymous said...


This is a response to your comment about not influencing your students.

I'll have you know that when I attended your class, even before and after my peers stated their opinions, they were crushed down by your overbearing point of view. I mean, lets not forget how at the beginning of every class you made us watch VENT with Michelle Malkin.

Most kids older, and younger, than I was at that age, have very fragile self esteems and find it difficult to stand up for themselves in debate. Especially when conformity is encouraged in every day media and society. Your opinions and "challenges" the way I saw them when I was your student were almost suffocating, and you MUST know, being a teacher for so many years, that kids ages 11-14 are VERY easy to persuade to your side, despite having been brought up in a Liberal surrounding.

Teachers, I thought, were suppose to show little to NO bias during elections and other political matters. This being in place to encourage students to make their own opinions about things, to increase learning. Can you expect students to argue the WHOLE Democratic side with you? Most of them barely pay attention to that sort of thing, how can you say you give them a fair challenge when they barely know anything but what they hear at home and what you cram down their throats?

Not to mention, they'll be hated, as I was, for standing up to a teacher. In their eyes teachers are always suppose to "know everything" and never guide them astray. I'd take a long look at what you're doing to these kids before you launch an army of conservative teens, or maybe that's what you were planning all along?