If Obama Loses, Will White Racism Be the Reason?: Jacob Weisberg Thinks So

In an August 23rd, 2008 Slate essay, writer Jacob Weisberg says what a lot of us have been thinking (and fearing). If Obama loses the election, it will be because there are simply too many white people—particularly older white people—motivated by racial resentment, fear of black people, and outright ignorance and bigotry, who won’t vote for him. Period.

In other words, in a year that should be trending heavily Democratic, Obama may be having to overcome a racism deficit (5-10% or more who WON’T vote for him under any circumstances) that other “generic” Democrats (read white Democrats) would not encounter.

Put another way, race may be taking a substantial number of white voters off the table for Obama before the counting has even begun.

Money quote:

Many have discoursed on what an Obama victory could mean for America. We would finally be able to see our legacy of slavery, segregation, and racism in the rearview mirror. Our kids would grow up thinking of prejudice as a nonfactor in their lives. The rest of the world would embrace a less fearful and more open post-post-9/11 America. But does it not follow that an Obama defeat would signify the opposite? If Obama loses, our children will grow up thinking of equal opportunity as a myth. His defeat would say that when handed a perfect opportunity to put the worst part of our history behind us, we chose not to.

The full article is excellent—and troubling—and can be read in full here: http://www.slate.com/id/2198397/?from=rss

Weisberg’s thesis also echoes an excellent book that I recommend on race and the 1988 Dukakis-Bush election by Tali Mendelberg titled, The Race Card, which can be found at Amazon here:


About Santi Tafarella

I teach writing and literature at Antelope Valley College in California.
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7 Responses to If Obama Loses, Will White Racism Be the Reason?: Jacob Weisberg Thinks So

  1. Glen says:

    It couldn’t be because his political views are different from people who aren’t voting for him, could it? nahhhh…

    Let’s play the Race Card!

  2. harddriller says:

    I hope their is enough white racists to defeat this black racist.

  3. santitafarella says:


    You’ve distorted—deliberately?—the point entirely. Of course, the majority of whites not voting for Obama are doing so because they do not agree with his political positions—not because they are racists.

    But the question is: How many whites, who would otherwise consider voting for a white Democrat this year, WON’T be precisely BECAUSE Obama is black?

    Is it miniscule—2%—or substantial, something like 10%? It’s an empirical question.

    If the answer is closer to 10%, then Obama is having to fight against a rather difficult electoral “head wind” to win this election. It makes his route to victory that much more difficult than it might otherwise be.

  4. Rob Rumfelt says:

    I think we tend to read too much into things like this. Even were Obama to win, we would NOT be able to put our “legacy” in the rearview mirror. Racism will always exist as long as there are humans. To imagine otherwise is the utopian illusion.

  5. Tanilan says:

    Why is it every single time, Black people question reactions in this country, we are playing the race card? I questioned the OJ verdict…they said I was playing the race card. Rodney King got beat down by a bunch of cops, Black people got upset…we cried foul..but we were playing the race card. You have got to be kidding me.

    Harddriller and Glen you are so wrong! So wrong that its people like yourselves that keep this country from moving forward in a positive way!

    Stop sweeping the fact that racism still exists in this country under the rug! Because we can see the pile underneath it and it isn’t getting any smaller or better. You can ask me to forgive, but do not ask me to forget and not be cautious!

  6. RB says:

    Santita, you’ve overlooked something – the fact that votes cast for McCain due to racist feelings about Obama will likely be countered by an equal (and possibly greater) number of votes for Obama solely BECAUSE of his race.

    In other words, “the fact that he’s black” motivates voters not just against Obama, but also for him.

  7. virgomonkey says:

    Yeah, I keep getting told that my vote for Obama was because he was black. This is equally frustrating – frustrating for all Obama supporters!

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