Every week I listen to Meet The Press, generally via podcast (since MSNBC’s video sucks with no support for Macs), sometimes on KCBS. This week, Barak Obama was a guest, and he was as literate, intelligent and forthright as he always appears to be.
When he was first elected a couple years back, he appeared on Meet The Press and pledged to serve out his full six-year term as Illinois’ junior Senator.
On this appearance, when asked if that’s still the case, he said, forthrightly, that he’d undergone a change of mind, that his positive reception across America had caused him to rethink his pledge, that he’s now thinking of a run for the presidency.
He noted that he wasn’t announcing a run, only that he’d moved away from I’m not going to do it to I may think about doing it. That is, he can no longer say with full honesty, “I pledge to serve my full six year term as Senator”.
You’ve got to respect that. And I think it’s great. In all the times I’ve heard Obama speak, from his national introduction at the Democratic National Convention in 2004 to his appearance on Wait Wait, Don’t Tell Me!, I’ve always been extremely impressed by his ability to connect with an audience.
My mom thinks he’s great.
My girlfriend thinks he’s great.
I think he’s great.
And yet his chances of becoming president are slim. See, we live in a country that may not be ready to elect a black president. Or a woman president, or a Jewish president, while we’re at it.
But in particular, a black man.
If you ask, many white voters will probably say they won’t cast their vote based on the color of the candidate’s skin, but on the content of their character.
Privately, when they’re behind the curtain, ready to push the button, they may change their minds:
[A] Yale political economist found that white Republicans are 25 percentage points more likely to cross over and vote for the Democratic senatorial candidate when the GOP candidate is black.—New Media America, October 25
The study, found in The Quarterly Journal of Economics (available for free (with registration) from the National Bureau of Economic Research), also notes the expected corollary:
Democrats also desert their party when its candidate is black, Washington found. In House races, white Democrats are 38 percentage points less likely to vote Democratic if their candidate is black.—Washington Post, April 14
It’s not that the country is racist per se, but perhaps a perception that people think the other countries are racist. I wouldn’t mind having a black president, these folks might say to themselves, alone in the voting booth, but Germany? Iraq? China? France especially? They may not feel comfortable dealing with a black president. In the interest of international relations, I’ll vote for this white guy over here.
What’s a little bit of justification to assuage one’s racial guilt, eh?
This is all to say that I would love to see Obama run, and be elected, President of the United States. I’m just not sure the country’s ready to agree with me.
One of the talking heads on Meet the Press (along with my girlfriend) noted that Obama has the “hot hand” and that with his popularity as high as it is, it might be better to run in 2008 than wait until 2012 or later. The talking head also suggested that Hilary Clinton won’t run in 2008. In truth, I’m not sure she’s electable anyway.
I’d love if the country would surprise me and elect a black president. The country’s 230 years old with a huge minority population.
Frankly, we’re overdue. A man can dream, right?