I attended the Midwest Political Science Association conference in Chicago this last week. And got into a few interesting discussions about Obama that I’m pretty sure will translate into a research project. We know that implicitly racist ads move white voters further to the right. Check out the ad below:
Harold Ford lost in Tennessee a couple of years back because he didn’t respond to this, and this it turned (white) voters without a preference against him at the last second. We also know that when the covers are pulled off of these ads, when they are made explicit rather than implicit, the ads lose their affective power. (This is why Ford should have at the very least had a surrogate condemn the ads–he would have won going away .) (See The Race Card.)
But what is the effect of these ads on black voters?
Further, what is the effect of the charge of racism on black voters? I’d think that one result is that black voters would–depending on the source of the charge–move away from the candidate. I know a number of black voters who plan to vote for McCain if Clinton wins. I’ve thought about it myself, although Clinton’s recent promise to appoint a cabinet level person to deal with poverty (John Edwards?) has caused me to reconsider. Does this also make the black candidate (or the non-racist candidate) much better in their eyes, independent of his/her actual policies? Tavis Smiley left the Tom Joyner show today.
I’m reluctant to refer to Smiley as a casualty here, because he’s still getting paid, and also because he brought this on himself to a certain degree. Smiley’s criticism of Obama for skipping out on his State of the Black Union meeting sounds like the type of black broker criticism that we can do without. But Obama shouldn’t take our vote for granted, and he should still be subject to unrelenting scrutiny. If Tavis is the only one really doing it, I am not sure he should be criticised for it (and shouldn’t necessarily be criticized for not having a strong stomach).