“Playing the Race Card”

I’m sure I’m not the only one who is annoyed by the phrase, “playing the race card.” Today, the McCain campaign is accusing Barack Obama of using — what conventional wisdom calls — one of the most vile cards in the politics deck.

The idea of playing the race card is just a silly catch-all phrase that is designed to elicit some sort of negative response about the cardholder. Really, what does playing the race card mean? First of all, race is something that will be in this campaign no matter what. There have been 43 white male presidents in U.S. history. Here we have the first black major-party candidate with a real shot of becoming president, do you think that white males will just sit back and let that happen without reminding voters, “uh, excuse me, but he’s black.”

Of course not. There is too much history here. The unfinished business of slavery and its legacy continues to this very day because it was never dealt with fully, and Americans like to pretend that “we have moved beyond that.” So, until we actually deal with our history, race will be a part of the conversation.

Second, what journalists should be doing — instead of hyperventilating over who is “playing the race card” — is having real discussion about the content, or substance, of what is being called “playing the race card.” Most importantly, journalists should ask, who is actually benefiting from the focus of race in the campaign?

In this case, it’s the McCain campaign that will benefit. Their narrative so far about Obama (and amplified by the series of viral smear emails going around) has been all about Obama not being American enough, not patriotic enough, not putting his country first (see McCain’s new tagline), being the quintessential “other” (read: too black, or a Muslim which he is not — not that either of these should preclude one from becoming president).

And one last thing: the notion that the Obama campaign is playing the race card is just ridiculous. Why? Because, when you look at Obama, he is clearly black, or at least not white (though he is half, yet identifies as black; but more on identity/race/perception in the U.S. at some other time). So in a way, I guess Obama is a “walking race card.” Please. Look at history. It does not benefit him to be black when running for the presidency, and even if it did, he would maybe only be on equal ground with a white male at that point.

Late Update: I just want to re-emphasize the new McCain tagline, “COUNTRY FIRST” (refer to why a few paragraphs above), because there is a big kick-off (and free) “Country First” Concert tonight 8/1/08 in Panama City, Florida. This, combined with the negative ads this week, combined with the viral smear emails, is clearly the new unified message strategy. Everyone, repeat after me. The new tagline says it all. Check the screenshot below of the campaign website with the tagline blazed across the top.

"Obama is not quite American enough"

"Country First" -- read: "Obama is not quite American enough"

Later Update: The “Country First” Concert with John McCain last night only draws several hundred people, which is only a fraction of what country music star John Rich normally gets at his concerts — usually in the thousands — and remember, this concert was free.

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2 Comments

Filed under Media/Journalism, Politics, Race

2 responses to ““Playing the Race Card”

  1. cass

    hussein obama and your self accuses any one uttering a word or anything that might be interpreted as racist. Then hussein obama utters examples why his different from past presidents . if you are offended saying that hussein obama played the race card from the depts of the sewer then why not discuss his asssociations and experiences. Tony Rezko the money bag for obama and helped to buy his mansion in Chicago. Aiham Alsammarae former convicted minister for electricity in Irag ( $650 million bilked by him ) and helped Tony Rezko and supporter of hussein obama . Mr. Auchi the Irag billionaire banker and friend of Tony Rezko ( has met hussein obama twice ) Bill Ayers and wife and our domestic terrorists and close associate of obama. obama close association with king makers in Chicago politics and their organized kick backs etc. obama and Larry Sinclair homosexual and drug escapade in november 1999 in Chicago and what does he know about the gun down of Donald Young a homosexual choir director at Trinity Church. Rev. J. Wright and Farakahn and these are just the tip of a Big Wreck Train that is coming straight at the annointed messiah . Even if obamamakes it to the W.H. he will not be able to stop this colossal disaster to America s image and obama himself. God Bless America and God Damn liars and false prophets..Amen.

  2. notesandbeats

    Cass my friend- What you wrote (read: spouted) here is so clearly disorganized and all over the place, I’d have to hope that this is actually spam because it is so very hard to understand (note the sentence fragments, numerous spelling errors, and general ranting tone making little sense). But I’m willing to give you the benefit of the doubt. First of all, there is hypocrisy in the fact that you used the name “Hussein Obama” — which is fine btw — but in posting you chose not to use your own full name, first and last, and in doing so showed that you are scared to stand behind your own writing/thoughts. As I’ve said before:

    “Imagine if we could see all who post comments on the internet… people should have to stand behind what they say and show themselves. That begins with using full names when you post comments. I’m sure comments wouldn’t be so vile and uninformed.”

    Second, and lastly, since I just re-read what you wrote and have decided not to waste much more of my time, my main point is that Obama gains nothing from having race discussed in this campaign. It can only hurt him. McCain, on the other hand, has much to gain. I’m not calling anyone racists, I’m merely noting who benefits from the topic.

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