February 5, 2008

Bob Herbert: Evidence, Schmevidence

In today's New York Times, Bob Herbert finally weighs in on the topic of race in politics. Curious what he's got to say on the subject? Me too. Here's the start of his column:

The Barack Obama forces don’t seem to understand that they’re sailing against the wind, that they’re not supposed to be able to capture the Democratic nomination for president.The fight for the nomination, one of the best political dramas in decades, has always resembled a contest between realists and dreamers. The realists will tell you that there is a quality of protesting too much in the ritual chant of “Yes, we can!” that erupts so frequently at Obama rallies.For months the realists have been arguing, in effect: No, he can’t.
That's curious. I've actually been following the election pretty closely, and I haven't heard anyone say anything to the effect of, "No he can't." What I have heard are discussions about his experience and his health care plan, and some other stuff. Anyway, let's read on:
The most forceful arguments of the realists tend to take place in private, and center on the aging elephant in the living room: race. Their contention is that the country has come a long, long way, but that it is not yet ready to cross the finish line by installing a black man in the White House.
Wait, wait, wait. Who's made that argument? Who? The "realists?" Name me one person--just one!--who's argued our country isn't ready for a black president. These arguments take place "in private" you say? Well, that's great. So you don't actually have to provide any evidence for that claim? Fine. You win, Bob Herbert.Herbert continues just making stuff up:
There are many variations on this theme. The realists (and they are not all Hillary Clinton supporters, by any means) will point out that there is still a great deal of racial prejudice in the U.S., and thus a substantial percentage of whites who will not vote for a black candidate for president under any circumstance.Senator Obama, they note, is also struggling in his quest for Hispanic votes.There are also many white Democrats who say they would vote for a black candidate but are afraid their vote would be futile this year because not enough other whites have shown a willingness to vote for Senator Obama. They point out that he has not won a majority of the white votes in any of the contests thus far.
I'll ask again: Who? "They, they, they." Who are these mysterious people making all these unheard argument? At the beginning of the election cycle pundits swore up and down that blacks would not vote for Obama because they didn't think he would have a chance. Now that that has turned out to be completely false, Herbert has hastily re-written this narrative to say that it is actually white liberals who won't vote for Obama because he doesn't have a shot. Evidence, please?The only factual support that Herbert lends is that Obama hasn't won the majority of the white vote in any of the earlier primaries. How damning: In a (basically) three-way race (up until now) he has yet to get the majority of whites. Not mentioned is that Obama almost definitely won a plurality of white voters in Iowa (who make up 95% of the HawkeyeState), beating Clinton and Edwards.Herbert goes on for a bit longer, continuing to refer to an inexplicable "they." Then there's this:
“I look at the numbers, and they tell me he can’t win,” said a Democratic analyst, who asked not to be identified.
Actually the numbers clearly say that Obama can win, but whatever. This unnamed "analyst" continues:
“But then I look at the polls and the enthusiasm he is generating, and he seems to be closing in on Hillary by the hour.”
Hold on one second. If he's talking about polls now, what the heck did he mean by "numbers" earlier? I honestly have no idea. No wonder he didn't want to be identified. (Also, why did Herbert quote this idiot? I'm sure he liked that the person didn't want to go on the record, because it seems to give support to the idea that there's some super-duper (get it?), top-secret whispering campaign about how an African American couldn't become president.)Herbert writes a little more about the generational divide (boring), and then concludes:
The advantage in this race is still substantially with Senator Clinton. [No it's really not.] The realists are not crazy, after all. [They're just a little racist] But neither are the dreamers. Winds change. If you’re sailing against the wind today, it may be different tomorrow. And there are few things more powerful than the winds of history.
Wow. That's deep.