The Invisible Web

Your Trip Into the Chapel Perilous

Will closet racism derail Obama?

Posted by invizweb on November 4, 2008

By Laura Smith-Spark (BBC News)

“Two decades ago, Douglas Wilder watched as a 9% lead in the polls in the race to be Virginia’s governor slipped to just one-tenth of 1% when the ballots were counted.

He still won the election – becoming the first African-American to be elected a US state governor – but the narrowness of his victory led analysts to speculate that he had been a victim of a white hesitancy to vote for a black man.

The theory goes that some white voters tell opinion pollsters they will vote for a black candidate – but then, in the privacy of the polling booth, put their cross against a white candidate’s name.

And the fear among some supporters is that this could happen to Barack Obama on 4 November, when the country votes for its next president.

The phenomenon is known as the Bradley, or Wilder effect.

Tom Bradley was an African-American mayor of Los Angeles who, running for California’s governorship in 1982, saw a sizeable eve-of-polling lead evaporate on election day, giving victory to his white rival, Republican George Deukmejian.

In 1989, the year Wilder became governor of Virginia, David Dinkins was elected the first African-American mayor of New York – but he also saw an 18-point lead in the polls shrink to a winning margin of just two points on the day.

Charles Henry, a California professor who was among the first to research the Bradley effect, says Mr Obama would need a double-digit lead to feel confident of victory.

Other pundits have suggested a six- to nine-point cushion may be sufficient. Mr Obama currently has a lead of about this size, according to most polls.

But Mr Wilder, now mayor of Richmond, Virginia, and a supporter of the Obama campaign, told the BBC News website that he believes racism will not have a major impact this time.

“Will there be some effect? Yes. Are there some people who just cannot bring themselves to vote for an African-American? Yes.”

But, he said: “America has grown, people have grown.”

Controversies over race have cast a shadow over this campaign.

Popular conservative talk-show host Rush Limbaugh has referred to Mr Obama as the “little black man-child” and Fox News has called his wife, Michelle Obama, his “baby-mama”.

One Republican senator described Mr Obama as “uppity”, a word formerly used to describe blacks who had ideas above their station.

Reports of racist jibes among audiences at some recent McCain rallies led John Lewis, a Democratic congressman from Georgia, to accuse Mr McCain and his running mate Sarah Palin of “sowing the seeds of hatred and division” – a charge they deny.”

Read more.

Unfortunately, the overseas Chinese news media, a traditionally ultra conservative group, has done well to sway my parents of “the dangers of voting Obama.”

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